Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The 2015 International Wrap-up

 Diva from our photo shoot this week.
Thanks to Jennifer Barr for
capturing this moment.
So, its a wrap on another year, the fifth time I’ve ventured into middle Tennessee to compete at the WHOA Colt and Pleasure Walking Horse International.   And, the fifth year of my blogging, with over 50 blog stories posted, hundreds of followers and thousands of views.  I promised at the beginning to take you with me and relay the stories, good or bad - success or defeat.  That has been hard at times, especially in the defeat, when I’d just prefer to quench my sorrows in a nice big margarita.  But, that’s a different story.  Most of all I’ve enjoyed hearing from all of you through it all - cheers, congrats, concerns and more.  So, thanks to all of you for being with me through it all.... so far.  And I hope you stay with me as my journey continues.

As I exited the ring on Diva from my very last class of the 2015 International with my yellow 3rd place championship ribbon, it was a little bitter sweet.  I was exhausted, but I was sad that it was over.  I scooted off of Diva and gave her a pat - I was fairly sure, she was happy it was over.  She was tired too, and it was a long, hard week for her - 15 hours in the trailer, stitches in her tongue, and a good girth rub to show for it all.  Poor girl.  Although, she’s a trouper, and her tail swung back and forth as we walked back to the stalls.

It’s been a great week - and I am very proud my horses have received a ribbon in every class.  The final tally for my show string - a first, 2 reserves, five 3rds, a 4th and a 6th.   What’s even better is that Halo is doing well, I have a great photo shoot of B and D,   and I had a great timing seeing Carlan and the girls, Tami, Jane, Hannah...and the entire HP team.  I’ve also met a few new people - many on the same type of journey as me - learning, competing and trying to improve their riding acumen.  And, I’ve certainly learned a few new things about my horses, my riding and about myself. 

Wisconsin competitors,
Eileen and Bruce hang by the stalls.
Once Diva and I reached the stalls, it was pack-up time.  Carlan, Emily and Katie helped me organize, pack up what we could and get things that were not needed put in the truck or trailer.  I’ll leave before 6am tomorrow - so I only want to be wrapping legs and grabbing water buckets and fans in the morning.   In no time, we were done, and headed off to have dinner.  Mexican.  Again.  Of course.   After dinner (and the most fab guacamole), there were many hugs and good-byes.  I headed back to Miller on my way back to the hotel to check water and tuck in B and D for the night.  Once at the hotel, I spent some time packing my bags and after a quick shower I jumped into bed for a fast sleep.

Diva resting in her stall.
Bzzzz.  Bzzzz. Bzzzz.  4am came quickly.  By 5am I was leaving the hotel and heading back to Miller.  By 6am the trailer was hooked up, fans and buckets packed, legs wrapped, and horses loaded.  I walked the perimeter of the trailer and truck to double check tires, and jumped in and started the truck. I rode down the white fence-lined Miller driveway, and glanced back once before I pulled out and turned right to head to the freeway and back to Wisconsin.   Ten hours later, I turned left into my driveway and drove along the corn field to my home.  It always feels good to be home.  Fashion was waiting in the paddock, and greeted Diva and Bourbon as I pulled them off the trailer.  Scott drove down to the barn on the four-wheeler with a smile on his face.  He greeted me with a hug - and it felt good.   We spent the evening recounting my rides and I needed to describe every detail of Halo’s win. I showed him the winner circle photo and medallion, and a smile spread across his face and he looked at me - we smiled at each other.  All I could think was that I was a lucky girl to have him support me in this dream.  Thanks babe.  I love you.

Next stop will hopefully be the Celebration.  I’ll stay in touch with Hannah over the next few weeks to see if Halo continues to do well.  Fingers crossed.  

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Unanimous Win for Halo

Maybe its best to have no expectations.  Then you can’t be disappointed.  When it came to Halo, I was simply excited to see him this week, and get a few rides in on him.  We had no plans to show.  It’s been a very busy week for Hannah, as she has 22 horses at the show - but I’ve been hoping to ride Halo once she’s done working the horses that will be shown each day.  On Thursday, Hannah set a noon sharp appointment for Halo and me -  no matter what - we’re to ride at high noon.  Yippee!!!!  I can’t wait.

Bourbon gets a slurpee at center
ring during warm-up time.
That morning, I quickly got to work riding Bourbon as soon as we could get into the ring.  This way he’d be worked, bathed, and his tack all set for tonight, before I went to ride Halo. That way I could focus and enjoy it - instead of stress about getting through it and onto getting ready for the evening competition sessions.  I got B into the ring and rode.  And then quickly ran down to the wash stand to give him a good show bath.  I kept checking my iPhone for the time...and I figured I’d be right to the minute for getting back to ride Halo at noon.  At 11:52 Hannah texted me - “you comin?”....arrghhh, I’ve got to squeegee off B and get him back to his stall.  I hung up the sprayer, squirted Show Sheen all over B, and ran a wet wash cloth over his ears and nose.  There, that should be good.  I tied up his tail, and unknotted the lead rope.  We walked back to his stall and I hung up his halter and lead and headed back to the coliseum.  

Hannah was already sitting on Halo, and ready to go.  I looked down at my phone -  it was 11:59, and then it clicked 12:00.  Whew.  Perfect.  I watched as Hannah rode. Halo looked good.  He was reaching and striding and best of all, he was shaking with his stride.  In fact, he looked very relaxed - comfortable and happy.  It made me so happy to see him his way and I got this overwhelming sense of relief, like weight lifting off my shoulders.  Like windows opening and fresh air coming in.  I watched as he floated around the ring.  And my heart floated too.  He has such a pretty way of going - its light and smooth.  So different than B, who’s big and freight-train like.  Which is great for me - as I get to learn another different ride and keep learning more.

Packers Gone Wild
Outfit for B.
Next it was my turn.  I climbed up into the saddle as Hannah lowered the stirrups.  Then I moved him off. It took me a few minutes to get a feel for him, but all of a sudden I felt it. I glanced up and over to Hannah for confirmation and she said there, there, you got it.  She coached me a bit, and I could feel when I fell in and out of his gait.  Soon, I was more “in” then “out” - and could make a decent pass.  Funnnnnnn!  He’s really fun to ride - he feels completely different than he looks.  And, very different than B or D.  So I tried to memorize this feel and recreate the good moments.  But, before I felt like I had even gotten started, my ride was over.  When I pulled into the center near Hannah, we talked for awhile, and she asked if she could show him tonight.  What?  Really?!  She had wanted to surprise me - but she really felt it would be good to get him out in the ring, and that he was doing well.  Of course, I said YES!  

The rest of the afternoon was busy getting all my show prep accomplished.  Which outfit to wear, changing bits, wiping saddles, changing conchos.  My class with B was the 4th or 5th of the night - and Halo would be ridden much later.   I pulled on my new yellow and green western shirt - my Packer’s gone wild look, like a good Wisconsin girl should wear!  Bourbon wore a matching golden saddle pad.  Once the DQP was open, I pulled out B and got my way through and onto the warmup to saddle up and get ready.  I was warming up B and walking around when they called my class up next.  As I was resting near the entrance, Tami walked over and asked me if I was going to put on my western hat or go in the ring in my baseball cap. I reached up, and sure enough, I had my baseball cap still on. We laughed, and I scurried over to my tack cart.  But, I didn’t even have my hat box there - darn it was in the trailer.  Margo Urad ran out the door and in a minute was back and I was putting on my hat.  The prior class was just coming out, and so I was just fine.  Always a new way to find stress at the show.  LOL.  

B moved toward the ring and we picked up our gait and rode into the ring for our class.  He felt good and I could feel him roll in the front.  And, his ears snapped forward as we approached the rail and the straight away in front of the first judge.  I sat back and enjoyed the ride.  It was fun to hear a few cheers from the stands from some of he folks from Wisconsin, and I smiled at them as I came through the curve where they were sitting.  It was a fun class, we were in a fun crazy outfit, and B seemed like he was enjoying it too.  We lined up and backed well when the judge walked down the line.  The wait for the results is always the longest - but when they called the cards, number 434 was called for the reserve!  A second reserve for B at the show - so proud of him.  As I exited I pat B’s neck and let him know I was proud of him.  Wow!  What a great show for B so far....2 reserves!  I broke down his tack, rolled the cart back to our stall area and put B back in his stall - he was then happy too!  

Halo in the Winners Circle after Hannah's ride
 - joined by the gang from HP Stables.  So exciting!
The next few hours rolled by extremely slowly.  I watched classes, and exhaustion started to set in.  I wish I had a nice place to lie down and take a nap...but I didn’t want to go back to the hotel - since Halo was riding tonight too!  So, I carried on - and the sweet tea helped!  I walked out to see how Halo was doing, and watch him get warmed up and ready to go for his class.  When his class came, a whole entourage from Hannah’s barn joined me to watch the class from the rail.  As the class unfolded, you could see Hannah was working to maintain Halo in his gait for such a long class.  But he  looked awesome as he passed in front of us, or as you watched him pass through the curve on the far end.  I was getting excited, he looked really good.  And, everyone was commenting how great he looked, and looking at me to see what I was thinking. My heart was beating - maybe so loud everyone heard it.  LOL.  And as the class went on, I started to think he could place really really well - could he even win this class?  I pushed the thought out of my mind - no expectations, remember.  But certainly, he made a great showing...and that alone pleased me.  

The prize is a winners photo and frame
along with the 1st place medallion!
I held my breath as they lined up and the cards were turned in.  Then they called Number 133 for the win - Hannah Pulvers and Joooooseee’sss Haaaaaaloooo!  (I love how Tommy Hall makes the horses names sound so exciting!)   Hannah pulled out of the lineup and was taking her pass over to the winners circle with Halo.  There was screaming and yelling and cheering - and most of it coming from me.  The entire HP gang were all cheering and looking at me and yelling for me to run out there and greet Hannah in the winners circle.  My feet couldn’t run fast enough. As I headed out, I caught up to Jason who was already on his way to help Hannah - and as I passed him, I said this one was mine, and he started laughing at me.  I met Hannah and Halo as they arrived, and Hannah had a tear in her eye.  Yes, it was a tear jerker of a win!  And all the work, and hope and belief all met us at this particular moment. Yippee!  I reached up to give Hannah a hug and kiss, and then I got a high-five from Marty Barr, the photographer, who smiled at me, cuz he knew this one was a long time in the process.  I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, and my little feet were doing a little dance in my flip-flops.  And they danced right back and into the winners circle for the team photo.  Everyone was giving me hugs, and congratulations.  It felt good - so many people have been so supportive of Halo and me.  And none more than Hannah.  Believe.  And here we are - I can’t believe it.  I watched as they walked Halo back to the DQP and then back to his stall.  I smiled as I watched his skinny little butt and tail swooshing along.  What a pretty boy!  Another proud moment of the night.  Both my boys with great ribbons tonight!   

All I could think of next was calling Scott - but no answer.  I dialed again - no answer/it buzzed busy.  I texted him “Halo Unanimous Win!”  Finally I called and I got him - he thought I was kidding.  Nope, I wasn’t...and we talked and laughed. Hannah walked by, and I handed the phone to her too.  It was a great moment.  And, my flip flops were still dancing, all the way back to my hotel, into shower and eventually right into bed that night.  Sweet Halo dreams tonight!