Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Maiden Voyage

Introducing Halo.
Zzzzt, Zzzzt, Zzzzt.  Wednesday morning arrived before I knew it, and I jumped out of bed on the search for my iPhone alarm.   Boy, I hate that sound.  But this morning it was a bit more welcomed, as I knew in just a few hours I'd be entering the show ring for the very first time aboard Halo.  Our maiden voyage into the show ring!  I got out of bed and slipped quietly through the room to the bathroom, trying not to wake Tami.  "Good morning," a smiling Tami greeted me.  She always has a smile.  Well, so much for being sneaky.   I washed up, carefully applied my makeup and then pulled my hair back into a show twist.  I pinned in the bow and tucked in my hair.  Then Tami helped ensure every little frizzy was sprayed or tucked in or pinned down.  With every hair and eyelash attended to perfection, I set about double checking my necessary apparel - show shirt, chaps, boots and hat.   I decided since I was in class #2, I would wear my western show pants and a t-shirt, I even put on my new Swarovski winged necklace  (in honor of Halo) so I'd have a few less items to pack and carry.

I loaded my show items into my car and double checked that I had everything again.  This time, I also tested my bluetooth ear piece, as well as buckled my spurs onto my western boots.  Even the concho on my white western show pad was double checked and tightened.  Yep, I think everything is here, everything is ready to rock.  I slammed the trunk, jumped into the drivers seat, and headed towards Shelbyville's downtown square for my morning latte fix.  As I ordered the large latte, I did wonder if caffeine was a good idea.  Maybe a Miller or shot of Jack would have been better choices in order to calm my nerves.  But I have to say, that latte was the best ever…smooth, yummy and frothy. Maybe nerves peak taste buds - but I quickly decided, this latte was the perfect choice.  And I enjoyed every sip, as I drove through town and up through the gates that lead onto the show grounds.  I waved at the security guards as I passed through the gates - and they tipped their hats and saluted as I passed through.  The same two guys who had been there all week - and so they start to recognize you after multiple days.  I guess I'm starting to be a regular.  Although it never hurts to stop to chat and offer a smile or two.  (Okay, I flirted with the gate guards…but at least they smile and wave and let me through each day! What else would you expect from me?)

Hannah's barn is 20 and 21 right inside the entry gates and across from the grassy area where the day-trailers park.  She has two full rows of stalls - that faced each other.  So, it is convenient to see all the way down the row to all the horses.  We parked our cars all along the edge of the stalls, keeping the center open for vehicles to still pass through as necessary.  As I pulled in, Halo was already in the cross ties and waiting for me.  My heart beat a few extra fast beats and I got excited again.  I parked and jumped out, and grabbed all my show garb.  I noticed one of the golf carts was getting loaded to go up to the warmup - and I hung my shirt bag, laid my show pad on the cart and tucked my boots and makeup on the cart seat.  I put my bluetooth in my hat box and tucked my iPhone in there too.  Okay - please - I hope I remembered EVERYTHING.  I then set about making sure my saddle and girth were put on the cart too.  While that seems like an easy task - when you look into Hannah's tack room you realize there are a dozen or more black saddle bags that all look the same.  I tried to get smart by tying a blue bow on my bags - and that has turned out to be a grand idea - and I can immediately see my saddle and bridle bag among the rest. (Besides the blue is my reminder to go for the blue ribbon - just in case I forget…LOL.)

So, with everything loaded on the golf cart, and with Halo already on the move towards the DQP under the hand of Bub - I jump into the passenger seat of the golf cart and got a ride up to the warm up with Van Barnes hanging off the back holding saddles while we drove.  We parked at the entrance, and proceed to move everything up the long dirt aisle and into the warmup.   When I walked into the warmup, I noticed that they had things set up differently than the last few years.  The DQP was set up on the far end of the warmup - so the horses had to be led across the entire area to that far end.  At first that seemed strange, but then I thought, it actually was a better place, and more out of the way than the near side.  Once Halo was through DQP and back to the area where Hannah had her tack set up along the wall - I watched as all his tack was put on and fit.  I have a new saddle and tack - I used it for the first time at the International on B and D.  But today it would be placed on my little boy for his first show ring appearance.  And, I must say - he looked so dapper!  What a pretty boy to start with - and then decked out to the max in this gorgeous tack - well - oh my my.  If nothing - he is going to be one the best looking in the ring. :)  Even Hannah said that I did an awesome job selecting the tack - that it was the prettiest she'd ever seen.  And she wasn't the only one who mentioned that about his saddle and bridle set.  I  looked so long for that exact set - and couldn't believe I got such a good deal and was able to have the bridle, reins and breast collar made to match by Dale Chavez.  Thanks honey for indulging me and making this little girl's dream come true once again.

Hannah began to warm him up - but in short order, she was back to the team, and instructing his bit to be changed. So the search for the bit she wanted, and for screwdrivers to get the job done ensued.  With the bridle being new, the conchos were a bit tight and it took a bit of extra work to get the reins and bridle off and the new bit refit and the screws all tightened back up.   Hannah warmed him up more afterwards for a bit more and then I was directed up into the saddle.  The HP team set about getting my chaps zipped down, shoes wiped, Halo's mane, tail and face sprayed with Peppy - and our number put on.  It was like a busy bee-hive - and I was not the only horse going into class #2 from the barn.  So Hannah was busy warming up other horses and the team was busy putting the final touches on other riders.  Me, I pulled out into the warm up and took a test ride on Halo.  We had good sections and difficult corners - and I struggled a bit to get him to take a clean curve around the poles to make the oval.  Of course other horses were riding - and stopping and starting and oh my gosh - BUMPER CARS.   But, I pull over and out of the way of two riders, and get serious about getting a feel for this boy.  Would we have the bad ride, or the good ride. We are 50/50 this week so far - and I'm hoping this is the good variety today.  It has to be the good variety - I have to make it the good variety - my head has to be in this game - my hands have to do the right thing - my butt has to feel him, his steps, and I need to make the correction or know when to let him go.  I want so badly to make a good ride - to show off this pretty horse and all the work Hannah has put into him - put into bringing him back from his injury.  He's not where he should be yet - he's behind, but he's in a good place - and things could be so much worse.  From fracture to Celebration in just weeks.  Its a miracle.  And there sure is an angel watching over this little Halo - and her name is Hannah Pulvers.

Halo in his first show class EVER!  Check out his
pretty saddle and tack!  Pretty boy - Love.  XXOOXX.
Hannah is calling my name and signaling that I should turn on my bluetooth and we'd connect.  My phone rings, I reach up to click on the earpiece - and say "Hello, can you hear me".  "Yep" "Yep" - "Okay get him back out and let's see you go for a lap."  And, I pull back out, and ride him around the bumper ring - "Okay, slow down, that looks good, check him, slow, okay - don't worry it'll be much better once you get out there in the ring and you can ride forward without this crowd. Okay, come on back in, we'll get you ready to go - we're just a few minutes they are in the lineup now for the first class."   I pull back in and the busy bees are checking me over - a wipe, an spray and lots of well wishes and smiles.  I straighten my hat and someone notices my number isn't on - I reach back and feel it under my shirt - so I unzip, pull it out and rehang it on the outside of my shirt this time.  Jana rolls her eyes at me and smiles.  I know - right!?  I even roll my eyes at myself.  Breath.  Breath.  Try to relax so you can remember the ride - its our first.

Then the flurry of excitement comes over you - as you hear Hannah call your name and wave you over.  I step up by her and she grabs Halo and we walk in.  "Now remember to have FUN - this is all supposed to be fun!  I'll be right on the line with you the whole time," she says to me.  "Okay - go…".  I step up the steep ramp into Calsonic arena and head out into the ring. The 5 judges are all lined up facing the entrance and watch you as you enter and take the rail.  You can see their eyes follow you and turn to watch as you ride by.  He's doing great - a little check, but he feels like he is walking and moving forward nicely.  Yeah!   The footing is softer than I had expected it to be, and I can feel him dig in just a little as he goes along.  This footing can be very very hard - so this is welcoming.  And probably because its only class #2 - and class #1 was weaning in-hand - so the rail is all fresh uncharted footing.  Hannah comes back on - and compliments us on our entrance pass.  15 or so horses are in this class (I think - or roughly in the low teens) - and we stop along the far straight-away to allow the remaining horses to come in.  As they close the gate and start the class - the judges all walk to their appointed section of the arena - and the horses begin to move as the announcer asks for us to take the flat walk.  Hannah comes back online and coaches me through - check him, good, slower, good, good, you're doing it!  I'm so proud of you." - hey, I notice its all pretty positive - and to be honest, I feel a smile come across my face.  Yes, my serious riding face, cracked a smile.  I am doing it - and we are working and riding as a team.  Its more the good variety of us riding this week - and none of the bad variety.  Yeah!   I am on the rail, I have a pretty good spot - once or twice I have a horse pass me, but in spots that are not right in front of the judge.  But, more than anything - I'm so comfortable with this horse - I never feel as if he is scared or would do anything like shy or bolt - and it never crosses my mind that this little 2 year old - who's never been in a show ring ever before - is now riding in the biggest show of the year - and is being a perfect little angel.  I don't think our ride was flawless - but we had a clean ride - a good solid ride for a 2 year old - and I'm still IN the saddle. Oh, and I even smiled.

We do the flat walk, the running walk - and the reverse is called.  Back to the flat walk, the running
In Class #2 at the Celebration.
 Yes, I am smiling!
Halo looks like he's having fun too.
walk.  But, as soon as we begin the running walk, the announcer calls for a halt.  A halt?  Okay, so I stop.  "Go at ease - rider has asked to be excused," says the announcer.  And, I look up for the first time and look behind me to see a rider off her horse and the gate being opened.   I coo'd to Halo, and tell him he's a good boy.  And he just stands there and looks around as if this is all part of a normal day.  I smile.  Yeah - I have a calm one!  Then the announcer starts the class again - calling for the flat walk, running walk and flat walk again.  And all too soon, our class is over and we are called to the line-up.  Hannah had been taking to me the entire time - and in her parting words she says - "Okay, go find yourself a good place in the line-up and ready him early when you see the judges coming for the back…so you get a head start at that."  And with a click, she's gone.  Which of course leaves me wondering - hmmm, where exactly is the "good" place in the line up?  I make a split second decision - and decide its the middle.  So I pick that center destination - the half way point in the curve and head Halo to that location.  And then I realize, I don't think I have tried to back him before.  I'm sure this will be interesting.  LOL.   As the judges come down the lineup, I pick up my reins and say a quick prayer as they are backing the horse two horses away from me.  Halo's ears flick back towards me - good, he's listening for my instruction.  By the time the judges get to me, I pull and attempt a back - and tug a few more times….to which Halo amiably backs a step.  I ask him 2 more times, even though the judges are past me and moving down the line up - and then I step him back into the line.

As I exhale for probably the first time - I realize I'm soaked to the skin - and I can feel sweat trickle down the back of my knee and a few other unmentionable places.  I look over to my left and the rider next to me says what I'm thinking - its HOT and I'm sweating!  I smile and we make a little small talk.  I really hadn't noticed how hot it was until that very second.  And then it seemed to be unbearably hot.  And the wait for the results unbearably long.  But soon the announcer comes on - names all the ribbon and trophy sponsors - and provides instructions on who should go where when the winning numbers are called.  The winning horse was the girl to my left who I had been chatting with - and as she pulled out, I thought to myself - I guess THAT was the "good" place on the line-up - I was off by one slot. LOL.   Then the 2nd place was the women to my right.  I guess THAT wasn't too bad of a spot on the line-up either - again, off by 1 slot. LOL.  The ribbons kept being called, and after 6 and 7, I thought perhaps our ride wasn't as good as I had thought it felt.  But then #341, Jose's Halo for the 8th ribbon was called, and I pulled out of the line up and to the left.  Well, let me correct that, I asked for Halo to pull out - but he kinda just liked it there, so I squeezed, and he took a step - but really didn't care if he stayed or went.  So, I gave him another little kick and and he started to move forward.  But truly, I may think back one day and wish to have this moment back.  The one where the horse doesn't bolt for the exit.  He just didn't even know that we were leaving.  and he could care less.  So, I coaxed him most of the way - and eventually, he moved forward to the ribbon person to get our ribbon (with no issues), and then out the door.

Me, I was so happy we got recognized.  It was a big class - and just like our spot in the line-up - we were right about in the middle.  More than anything - we got in that ring, we had a good ride, and we got a Celebration ribbon - woot woot!   For a 2 year old - we can chalk it up to a perfect ride with no shying or other misbehaving.   Later that day I checked the judges cards - and one judge had even placed him 5th - which was nice validation.   He's a good horse - he's busting with potential.  And, I'm so pleased with his performance - and our performance as a team on our maiden voyage in the show ring.

Now that my class is over - (actually, my Celebration is over - as I'm 1-and-done - as I only had this 1 class that I'll ride in this year).  It is kind of like the little firework that they shoot up into the sky - the little one that signals that the fireworks are going to begin.  My Celebration is that first little firework.  But for me - there aren't anymore fireworks that follow.  Just that one little one - right at the start.  :)   AND, we got a ribbon.  I walked back and gave Halo a hug and a pretty yellow apple from the big bowl Hannah had out in her client suite.  He didn't know what to make of that at first - but after I bit into it, and offered him a little piece, the sweetness won him over, and he took little bites until it was gone.  I'll probably wish for this day back too - when he's gentle and takes little bites of apples as opposed to grabbing it out of my hand.  The more time I spend with this boy, the more I'm falling for him.  He's really sweet, so pretty and so likable in every way.  I really think we'll make a great team.  And once he's back and strong and we get everything behind us from his summer fracture….I can't wait to see what he's capable of accomplishing - especially under Hannah's tutelage.  For now, I just can't resist giving him a hug.  And, he even leans in and takes that like a champ too.

I spent the rest of the morning watching the other classes, cheering on other riders from HP stables, as well as Carlan and Emily.  In fact Emily wore one of my show tops - and she made it look so good!  There are such great horses at the Celebration - amazing horses - I swear every year they get so much better and more talented. If that is even possible!   So, watching in the warm-up, and in the show ring is just an experience in learning.

I'll share more in my wrap-up blog next.

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