Thursday, August 30, 2018

Celebration 2018 - We’re bad guys. It’s what we do.

Riding at The Celebration in a horse’s 2 year old season is alot like the first single warning firework that goes up before the real fireworks start. It’s Class number two, the first morning of an eleven day extravaganza and there is only one optional tack class - not Western and English classes held separately.  It’s one.....and done. And, it’s over before anything really gets started. Lol. However, at least there is an opportunity to ride my crazy girl Miss Quinn, so of course I wanted to do it. Sign me up!  And, on registration Tuesday, the entry deadline, it was done.
Follow your dreams.

For the next two weeks between International and Celebration I doubted my decision. It’s such a prestigious show. Where the best of the best horses compete in that famous ring. Ugggghhh, it’s so desperately overwhelming and intimidating. More than once I considered pulling out. Scott kept reiterating how awesome Quinn was - to give her a chance.

She is the best horse I’ve ever owned. And, possibly the best horse that I’ve personally had the opportunity to ride. And she’s only two!  Joe has her going so well. Scott kept reminding me that she had two wins at the International. In those classes she’s already competed against many of the horses that would show up in my class at The Celebration. None of it convinced me. I knew all bets were off - The Celebration was a completely different animal. Finally Scott said, “ you know, you definitely won’t get a ribbon if you don’t show her. But....” (of course there is always a but.) “ But, your chances of getting a ribbon go up tremendously once you simply pass through the gate.”  Two thoughts went through my head. One - well, ain’t that the truth. Two - how silly am I being - it’s simply a 2yo horse, a single class and besides who would be there to see the second class the first morning anyways!?  I mean - really - why was I rethinking this. (Umm, cuz I could get no ribbon, or a low ribbon, or look stupid out there in a million different ways, or ....well, the list goes on.) But....What if?  What if she does well. What if the judges love her like I do. What if she gets a ribbon. Or miraculously would win. The “what if’s” can be very inspirational. I needed to follow my dreams.

If nothing else, I decided, I was gonna look good doing it in a pretty new jacket and enjoy the chance to ride my baby girl again. Yes. Yes. Yes. I will put myself out there - come what may. So I booked an early flight and went down the weekend before so I could practice a few times and at least go in with some resemblance of confidence to ride Quinn. At this point I’ve ridden Quinn 6 times in 8 months and have only shown her twice. Not a lot to prepare for the biggest show of the year. But here we are.

I practiced three times before showing. Once each morning, between rain showers. She looked good. Was working well. And my rides went well too. I completely adore her and we get along very well. Joe has made it extremely easy to ride behind him. So my confidence was up. Her saddle fit and we rigged a head stall out of pieces from two head stalls to get something that fit her tiny head. I ordered a small headstall that was pending shipment, so we made a backup plan.
Getting ready to go in our class. 

Fast forward to Wednesday morning.
I woke at 6am and got right to work. Getting ready is a whole activity onto itself. I won’t even confess to how many practice runs I did to make my bun just right the night before. Lol. I couldn’t sleep fearing I wouldn’t be able to get my bun right by myself in the morning. So I spent the wee hours bun practicing. (BTW Lindy, that trick you showed me to put the pony-tail holder over the bun works!)  Yes, I’m certified crazy.

I arrived at the show grounds at 8am, ready to go for the show that started at 9am. Quinn was in the cross ties and her shipping leggings were being unwrapped. I slipped her a mint and planted a kiss on her soft nose. Many clients were there getting ready too. Joe and Bailey have an air conditioned dressing room at their client suite. Which is totally awesome. And breakfast was available for all to get a bite that morning out on the deck sitting at tables under umbrellas.  That is - if you could eat anything with butterflies in your belly. Maybe after my ride.

Joe Lester Stables suite and deck ready for the party. 
Soon, it was show time. I got my chaps on and headed to the warmup ring to catch up with Quinn.  Joe was already warming her up and class #1 was entering the ring. I put in my earpiece and tested it with Joe. Then I climbed up into the saddle and took Quinn for a warmup ring spin. She felt good. Joe said she looked great - really great - way better than he expected on the hard surface. By the time I pulled back into the Joe Lester Stables corner and got my back number on, my class was lining up to go in.

Joe had me hold back and he guided me in last, as the gate closed behind us.  And, we were off. The arena felt huge and there were many people moving about and taking their seats. FLAT WALK. The surface was freshly graded.  It was wet in spots. Quinn tried to turn her head to take a look around at this huge arena. I placed my leg against her and kissed. I picked a spot a bit off the rail to ride. She went right to work. What a good girl. Only two years old and riding in this huge ring like a boss. Joe began talking me through the curve - right hand, left leg, good. Easy. Good Renee. RUNNING WALK. Just go a bit faster you’re already a good speed.  Good. There. Good. REVERSE. Quinn turned around well and got right back to shaking the second way of the ring.  I watched her crazy head shake. I tried to ride with her stride. I pushed her to stride deeper through the curves. I corrected and collected. I let her go.  RUNNING WALK. I can hear her evenly timed foot fall. I can feel the rhythm of her whole body shaking. And it’s line up time. Joe talks me into the line up, compliments our ride and chats with me as we wait for the results. Quinn backs nicely for the judges and stands like an angel in the lineup. I compliment Joe on that. He must have worked with her since July 4th when she walked in circles.  Now, she stood like a perfect little angel, waiting patiently.
Pretty lil Quinn getting her show bath.

The announcer came on to tie the class. Pitch Perfect takes the blue. She had won the 2yo class at the July 4th show too. She’s a big, pretty black horse. Then 2nd, 3rd, 4th are called. None of them Quinn. Joe sighs in my earpiece. 5th then 6th are called and still not Quinn. Joe sighs again and says well there was something the judges didn’t like about her. Renee you rode well, you guys did a good job. I’m proud of you. 7th. 8th. Still not Quinn. My heart sinks. Oh my baby girl did so well. I think there were eleven horses in the class. Only ten ribbons. Will she be the only one to not get a ribbon?  She was such a good girl. She felt good. Joe kept saying she looked good, that we did well. She shook her little head so hard. I’m getting this sinking sinking sinking feeling. Awwww. My baby girl.  More importantly all of Joe’s and Bailey’s hard work. I screwed up something. 9th is called. And finally it is us. I step out and ride over to collect our ribbon.  Happy that I’m getting a ribbon, but knowing we were at the bottom of the judges cards.  Disappointed 😔 for my girl. She’s so talented.

Maggie greets me at the gate with a smile and Quinn is whisked away by the team once I exit. I’m left there to collect my hat box and turn my chaps up to keep them clean. I fold up my ribbon and head off to walk back to the JLS suite.  Tami greets me outside the warm up. She said she heard my placement and asks what happened?  I said nothing bad happened. No big mistake. Actually, she was a good girl. I thought my ride was good. Joe said we looked good and he was surprised with the placement. She gives me a hug. I smile. I dust myself off. We’re gotham girls. We’re bad guys. It’s what we do. We gotta pick up our sledgehammer, learn and come back swinging next time.

Us time after our class later in the week.
She’s so sweet. Could have stayed forever. 
Sometimes Celebration feels like the roller derby of hard knocks. Pow. Bam. Kapow.  All the best of the best horses come together for a showoff.  Horses that win all season are now in one class together and they all can’t win.  I had many people, some I didn’t know, come up to me to say they thought we looked great. Most said we were in their top 4 favorites. The five judges tied her 5th 6th 6th 7th and 9th.  I was sent a few videos of our class. I watched critically - and thought she looked great. And .... all the other horses looked great too. No wonder the cards were all over the place. In fact, the following Tuesday night the 2yo open class was held and the order of the placements was completely different.  Lower tied horses from my class were placing in the top 3 and past winner was fourth. Quinn wasn’t in that class but it sure would have been interesting to see how she would have faired with the judges under the direction of Bailey or Joe. I’m sure much better.  And most exciting, was that Bailey won the open class on a spectacular colt, Habanero Picante.  Congrats lady!

While it’s more fun to blog successes, I have promised to blog it all. Thank you to all my family and friends who’ve supported me though all the highs and lows. To a great barn family who cheers loud and raucously no matter what placement is called. You are simply the best. And to the judges.... you’ve just inspired Harley Quinn to bring on the crazy and make sure to impress you next time around. Thanks Joe and Bailey for having Quinn ready. You know I adore our crazy, spectacular and talented girl more every day.

Joe - I'm looking forward to an opportunity to rev up our Harley at least one more time this season.  :)

Quinn's pre-Celebration Scoop ad.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Gotham Siren takes on the 40th International

What a week the 40th International was! I was remiss in posting updates so instead I’m doing a highlights blog. And, I’m going to do it Jimmy Fallon thank you notes style. So, here goes.
Joe provides instruction to me and Quinn
Notice how he can’t help but pet her. 😘

Thank you for setting us up with Chris and his terrific camper!  Staying on the grounds, literally 50 feet from my horses, was ideal. Not to mention that having an air conditioned nap getaway, meal haven and dressing room space was a luxury. While I did lock myself out the first morning in my pajamas (no not my Victoria Secrets...whew!), I also made many new friends (especially Gordon and Lindy) in the process - who came to my rescue and made sure I had my morning latte. Having a camper is the way to go. Reservation 2019; done!

Thank you Katie, Jer and baby Gavin for keeping me company all week. Your excitement to attend your first International was contagious. Plus, I cannot thank you enough for the photo and video documentary of our week full of fun activities, horse shopping and rides. The fact that Gavin slept all night was unbelievable. What a great little travel buddy he is.... simply an angel. Now I hope you find the show horse of YOUR dreams! We certainly found you a few amazing prospects for your consideration. 🐴😀♥️
My two blue ribbon girls!  Double love. ♥️♥️

Thank you my special friends Jane and Tami. Both of you are my lifeline and support as I chase my dreams. I’m not sure how I’d make all of this happen without either of you. Jane for your endless kindness and friendship, along with the reoccurring B&B stay and storage space - you’re my home and family away from home. ;)  And Tami you’re my AOT stall neighbor and show confidant - in and out of the show ring.  What amazing women and dear friends you are. 
Katie, Jerry and baby Gavin chillaxin by the stalls
and our magic 🌴 palm tree. 

Thank you
... to all the new friends I made. My show apparel sales began as a way for me to sell a few of my shirts in order to get something new. But what it has really become is an amazing way to meet so many wonder people who are on the same journey as me. I have enjoyed helping you find the perfect new outfit or complementary piece AND learning about you and your horses!  I have many new memories and Facebook friends because of this week. 😉

Thank you
.... to the entire WHOA staff, the judges and all the generous sponsors that make the show possible. From entry booth - to ribbons and floral rings - to a magnificent winners circle, you’ve outdone yourselves once again. And, we all continue to pray for a swift recovery for Lonnie. He gave his all to judging and we wish him a quick recovery. 

Quinn in the winners circle. She went two for two with
Joe and me each riding a class. Thanks team JLS!
Thank you
.... to Marty And Jennifer Barr. You never cease to amaze me with your photo talent. You’ve captured all my babies on film - and now have brought me unbelievable photos of Quinn. There are more than a few “money shots” in the bunch. Marty I think I might agree that this just may be the best shoot yet. I will treasure them all. Having these photos of her will help keep her close to me even though I’m in Wisconsin and she’s with Joe in Tennessee. So for me they are much, much more than a picture. They are the piece of her that I have - while she’s so far away. 
Diva finally gets a blue after 7 years of trying.
Love both my blue ribbon girls this week. 

Thank you the team at Joe Lester Stables. Chris. Maggie. Ashlyn. The three of you keep everything humming like clock work. Not only did you make sure Quinn was ready for her classes but also for her practice rides and photo shoot. Including a dress change in between. I’m not sure how you do it. Being there before we all arrive, until the last class is over and we’ve all left to go to bed. You are so appreciated!

Thank you Joe Lester and Bailey Momb. You two make a terrific team and it shows in what you put in the ring. Talented horses. And, more importantly - happy horses. I can’t thank you enough for putting me with Quinn. I love everything about her. She’s just the perfect horse for me. I’m tickled pink with her two blue wins this week - including my very first victory lap aboard her!  What a thrill of a memory. Chills (and happy tears). But most of all thank you for caring for her, taking your time with her as she learns, and for the natural horsemanship you display every single day. She’s turning out wonderfully and I know it’s because of your gentle hand.  I also want to thank you for the time you take with me to get me prepared for my rides so I can show Quinn to her full potential. Hugs to both of you.  
D waaaaiting in her stall. 😂 

Finally, Thank you
.... to my hubby for encouraging me to follow my crazy dreams. And, for kicking me in the butt when I doubt myself. Lol. I love you to pieces. 

Quinn, Diva and Bourbon I’m so proud of all of you. And Halo we hope you will get back in the ring. 

Now....I prepare myself for the Celebration. I’m so excited. I ride for all those who never thought they could or would. Keep dreaming because we can and will.  ♦️♦️♦️🐴❤️❤️❤️