Sunday, September 14, 2014

Meanwhile Back in Wisconsin

My blogging has traditionally focused on my experiences with my horse competition down south - but many of you have asked me about my showing in Wisconsin.  So, I wanted to add a post about my northern exploits.   This is actually a good year to include this - as it was my first year keeping Bourbon at home and showing him, along with Diva, here as AOT for the season.  Plus, yesterday was our last show of the season, so the timing is good too.  Here is where my blog post enters.

The buzzer went off at 5:30am, and I rolled over.  Too early.  So, I waited for Scott to hit the snooze, and snuggled in for 10 more minutes.  We got a cold front a day ago, putting us down in the 40s, so I didn't want to face that yet.  It had been cold washing horses last night - and I had blanketed them to ward off the shivering.  Poor things.  But by the time I had tucked them in for the night at 9pm, they were mostly dry and very toasty under their blankets.  The buzzer went off again, and I flung my legs over the edge of the bed and stretched.  Okay - let's go.

Make up, jeans, WWHA sweatshirt, and a latte later - I was lacing up my riding boots and heading for the barn in the dark.  I flipped on the light switch and saw Diva blink off the assault of first light and she nickered at me.  I think she was saying what I was thinking - TOO EARLY!   But, B & D needed show ribbons and their legs wrapped so we could get loaded and outta here.  It was after 7:30 by the time I was completely loaded-up and rolling down the drive with the trailer rocking behind me.  Darn, I won't get there until almost 9am.  Our show starts at 11am.  And, I like to take my time with unloading, setting up and getting them all warmed up.  My goal is to be onsite by 8am so its a relaxing start to the day - versus a frenzy.  Oh, well, not this time.  I'll be fine.  As I drove the hour and 20 minutes to the show, I started to relax.  The dark sky started to lighten and blue, and the clouds went from dark and stormy, to white and fluffy.  The drive includes a ride through a wind-turbine farm - and with the beautiful skies and green rolling farm fields as a backdrop to those huge rotating blades - it was actually a very striking and awesome view!  How pretty our Wisconsin countryside is - I thought.  A pretty start to a pretty day!

In Wisconsin we have 5 one-day shows hosted by the Wisconsin Walking Horse Association (WWHA) that is associated with WHOA.  Our membership is about 50-60 families, and we've been seeing a rebound of entries at our shows the past few years - with more than 20 horses per show.  This is up from a few years ago - where we were in the low teens if we were lucky.  However much like the rest of the industry low - we're still a far cry from having 100+ family memberships and classes that had over 20 horses in a single class that had to be split - that was maybe 12-15 years ago.  In 2014, the blessing that we have been sent is a HUGE up-tick in our youth riders.  The youth classes for the first time are the largest of our shows - seeing as many as 6-7 entries!  As long as I've been a member - we never had that many youth all at the same time.  So, the club is all-a-flutter about this fresh interest of new riders and new families - its good news for the future of our club!

As I pulled up with the trailer, many folks were already setting up and many YOUTH were also there!  Members installing water buckets in stalls, tossing hay, warming up horses, arranging tack, and the normal activities of pre-show activity.  In the arena, there were a few people bringing in the sound system and setting up the center ring.  And I spotted, our mainstay, Carol Olp, our 'most excellent' of show managers, who was busy lovingly setting up the awards table with ribbons, trophies and all kinds of gifts she has hand-selected for the 1st place horses.  I saw a stack of blue 2-gallon water buckets and thought what a nice prize.  Carol always picks out things you can use. I yelled good morning to Carol and asked where my stalls were located.  She pointed down the row - and said names were on the stalls.  Okay - good!

The next 2 hours were spent unloading, setting up, warming up and filling out entry forms.  For me it was 2 classes for Bourbon - Trail Pleasure - one English, one Western.  And 2 classes for Diva - Trail Pleasure English - a Ladies and an AOT class.  I turned around twice, and the announcer came on with 10 minute 'til showtime warning, and the DQP station opened.  I ran back to my trailer, and put on my Saddleseat suit and derby.  I decided the black wool suit was the way to go today - to stay warm on this cool Fall day that may only reach the low 60s.  (Ah, yes, Fall has come to Wisconsin.)  Then I ran to my horse stalls, grabbed my number and hooked it on my back, and grabbed Diva's bridle.  I walked into her stall, and put her bridle on.  Her ears were back, and I looked at her.  OMG - Diva is NOT my first ride this morning - I guess that was why her ears were back.  I laughed at myself.  See I need more time in the morning!  So I pulled her bridle off, pulled the number off my back, and exchanged it for Bourbon's.  Rewind and redo - ok, let's try this again.  Bourbon greeted me at the door and leaned forward to help me get his bridle on - as if he knew he had to help me more than usual this morning too. LOL.   Then off to DQP and then to put B's english saddle on.   By the time I buckled the girth, they were calling my class….and I literally swung my leg over and rode into the ring.  

B didn't seem to mind the order of business - as he hates the wait more than anything - so I think he was happy to get riding right away. In Wisconsin the rings are sand, and the sand is often deep.  Not the best footing for walkers, so you have to drive them a bit more than footing in Tennessee rings.  I never really paid much attention to this, until I started experiencing the footing in TN.  But we don't have the luxury of those made-for-purpose rings in WI - and most of our arenas are designed for quarter horse and western reining.  So, we make due.  I knew from my warm-up that B would struggle in the sand - he's so big and sinks in even more.  But, he surprised me - or maybe he wanted to 'show off" today - and started to shake and drive - all on a loose rein.  I've been working on "trusting" and "letting go" more on the reins - and that practice was being put to work in the show ring.  My hope is always that B doesn't trip - LOL.  Trust trust trust.  He delivered a good clean ride and I could feel he was up in the chest and rolling in the shoulders.   I pulled into the lineup along with Amanda and Gale - and we all smiled at each other.  The honorable judge Joe Cambell asked us each to back and then turned in his card. #366 was called to the blue - Watchin For The Storm.  I rode over to get the ribbon, a blue bucket (yeah) :), and to get a photo taken.

Then, off with B's saddle, back through DQP check, and then a quick exchange of B for D and back to DQP with Diva.  I'm here alone - so its me, myself and I, and a charitable WWHA member or two, who offers to hold a horse for me while I'm tacking, or to untie a tail I forgot to untie before I jumped into my saddle.   Oh, believe me, there have been more than one ride with a knotted tail.  Showing two horses alone can be a frenzy - but a girl's gotta do, what a girl's gotta do.  And I want to show, so that's what this girl's gotta do.  Due to the fact that we have small classes, cancelled classes and a schedule with only a few classes in between - things can get a little crazy once the show starts.  

Next up is Diva - she wins the blue in the Ladies, her first class of the day.  And, that makes me realize that class #13 could mean a full season in Wisconsin where Diva goes all year undefeated.  I don't believe I've ever had that happen before - and so as I check her through DQP for her last class of the season, I think, why is it class 13.  Really?  13!  Okay - don't freak yourself out.  LOL.  As I saddle her up, I gave her a pat and whispered to her to do a good job - and that this was the last time she'd be shown this year - so let's go for it. ;)   She looked at me and I think she understood - or maybe she just figured she'd indulge me a little with those sweet eyes.   Diva is so much fun to ride - she's smooth, she
Diva has been #972 since I got her
and started showing her as a 2 year old.
shakes and you get a view of all that beautiful black mane flying all over the place, and she hits this consistent and beautiful rhythm. Today she didn't disappoint - and she went in and did her job.  And, because it was our last ride of the season - despite the "undefeated" being on the line - I went in and completely enjoyed my ride on her.  I love this mare - and this was one of those rides, where you have heightened awareness, and swear you'll remember every step for a long time afterwards.  When Bob Rodenkirk announced #972 to the win - I smiled.  What a cherry on top of this season - for this fabulously loved mare.  We went over to collect our blue and get a photo taken - I don't think Diva put her ears forward - darn - but I look forward to getting that special moment photo anyways.  

As I untacked Diva for the DQP recheck - a gentleman from one of the new families come over and said that he had pointed to my horse and told his daughter, that's the kind of walking horse you want to have someday.  I smiled and told him, with this win, she was undefeated for the season - and he congratulated me.  I'm so proud of her.  She is a likable horse and does have many fans.  For me, she is one of those lifetime horses people talk about having.  And I cherish my relationship with her - the blue ribbons are the icing on top.  

At this point of the day, I get to relax - as I have no classes between 13 and 32.  So, I spent time chatting with folks, watching the other classes - especially those great YOUTH classes, and checking on B & D for water and such.   We have a great group of members - and I have to say its been so much fun to meet new folks who are just getting started and sharing information.  Many folks asked about Halo - and the Celebration.  Many talked to me about my blog and thanked me for doing it.   So, here I am - doing more of it.  :)

Class 32 is right after a 20-minute break - so I headed for the trailer to get my Western on during the break.  By the time I was heading to get B - they were already starting the 1st class after the break.  Whoops - time flies!   There is only this class and one more before mine, and I'm not through DQP.  So, I rush to bridle up B and scoot to the DQP.  Once again, by the time I get the saddle pad and blanket situated right, and the saddle on…the class before mine is in the line-up.  Yikes!  I grab the breast collar and have to make a split-second decision to put it on or not - ON!  This is my last class - we are going all the way - no skimping.   The other class is coming out - and I have yet to get into the saddle.  I check the blanked, the saddle and breast collar and all is in order…and walk over to the mounting block.  OMG - I need to get my chaps zipped too.  The Donze's come to my rescue!  THANK-YOU!!!!  And, they not only put my chaps down - ziiiip, ziiiip - but also ask if they should untie B's tail.  DUH!  YES!  THANK-YOU.  

I look up and Gale is through the gate and on the rail.  I reach back to make sure I have my number on, I tap down my hat, and arrange my reins in one hand.  By the time Gale has reached the far side of the ring, I have slipped through the gate and picked up B.  Now, B likes western - he likes going 1-handed. Me, not as much - as I'm still getting use to this level of "trust." But, Bourbon is bringing me along, and I keep leaning back on all the historical guidance I've been given when I use to have him down with Hannah Pulvers.  So, I put my hand down on his neck, and I squeeze him up - and he jumps into it.  And, once he starts rolling with his shoulders, and shaking in B's way of going…I breath relief that he'll do okay once again in this sand.  Other than getting surprised with a 'halt' both ways of the ring by the judge - we have a good ride and I line up happy that B did well.  No trips - and he was moving well the entire time - despite that sand depth.  I wave over to Gale in the lineup - who is a ridiculous 20-25' away. LOL.  The two of us might as well use the whole ring.  So, judge Cambell had to walk between us to ask us to back.  When the cards are in, B gets the blue - and I end my day with a full-house of blue ribbons.  Very proud of my babies.

Once the show wraps up the membership breaks out the food for a pot-luck.  We have been having pot luck dinners after all our shows thanks to Terre Huebner, who has been a diligent organizer and communicator for all of us to bring a dish to pass.  Its a great time to relax and get to know new members, and catch up with members who I've known for years.  Our DQP and judge join us - which gives us all an opportunity to thank them for making the trip from Tennessee to Wisconsin - an extra thanks is in order, since we treated their long commute with our cool 60 degree weather!  THANKS again to judge Joe Cambell, and DQP Lonnie Messick.     

So, that's the season wrap up - and a bit about WWHA and our Wisconsin shows.  I'm feeling a little melancholy about it - the last show is always bittersweet.  Now, all that's left is cleaning out the trailer, packing up the tack and show clothes for the winter - and scoring and submitting points for the year-end awards banquet.   Thanks to those who have worked so hard all year behind the scenes to make the show season possible - Carol Olp, Lynn Beres, Bob Rodenkirk, Wally Huebner, Donell Schetter, Charlotte McMahon  - as well as the show committee.  And, I know by naming some folks - I've risked missing someone - so you too!  :)   And thanks to everyone who worked so hard all year to ready and bring your horses to show!  I've enjoyed the whole year of fun, laughter and competition.  We are lucky to be part of the wonderful walking horses we all love.