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.


  1. As I read this, I felt I was there! I'm remembering all the shows we did in Tennessee and how exciting it was. And sometimes we wondered, too, what the judges were thinking! It's always a great experience, though. Congrats for getting to Celebration!