We’ve all had them. Those horse show days that seem never ending from the very start. The day that you cannot wait until it is over. The day you tell yourself over and over again why you are doing it.
I love horses. I love horses. I love horses.
This past weekend, I attended a qualifying horse show for the state 4-H horse show coming up in September along with my friends and fellow 4-H club members Meg and Elizabeth. In order to qualify for the state finals, there are several requirements to do throughout the year, one of which is attending a horse show that is a qualifying event. Only one class is required, so usually the qualifying show is just a quick in and out, and most of the time it is fairly simple to accomplish.
So Saturday morning, we came into the barn to get packed up and ready for the day. To start us off, my mare Giggles came in from the field with her right hind shoe gone. The show we were headed for was the last qualifying event in our district. We checked Giggles out, jogged her, and she was perfectly sound, just a pulled shoe. So we made the decision to scratch the pleasure horse division and just take her in showmanship, where I wouldn’t have to ride her.
Okay, minor mishap. She’d still get in and out of the ring, all good, easy peasy.
Meg gave her horse Snappy a bath, and then I gave Giggles a bath and wrapped her foot up. Then I bathed my pony Deno, as he is my backup for the state show (you still have to qualify your backup project horse.) Loading on the trailer was smooth sailing. Giggles, who is not always an easy loader, walked right on. It looked like the day would be alright after all!
The drive to the show in Front Royal was a bit longer than expected. We weren’t terribly late, but we weren’t making great time. We arrived at the show grounds and realized there are multiple entrances. We drove down a road that we thought was the way to get to parking (the GPS led us there) and then we reached a super narrow road, and it was super difficult to turn around. My incredibly skilled trailer-driving Mom was able to back up her huge gooseneck up a driveway up a hill in a super tight space. Unfortunately, this ate up another 20 minutes of time. A VDOT worker was driving by in his huge vehicle and he even told my Mom he was impressed!
So we finally made it to the correct entrance at the show. It was a long, narrow driveway up a hill. We were doing fine until the rear trailer tire got on the grass, and due to the wet conditions (it’s been raining like crazy here in Virginia for weeks!) we were stuck. That “oh crap” moment sunk in.
We are stuck.
On a hill.
With 3 horses in the trailer AND we are running late.
So the only way we can possibly go is backwards. Mom backs up, but the opening was narrow. The truck and trailer backed up right next to the fence and gets jammed. There is little room to navigate it out since we couldn’t get on the grass.
So sorry, the fence suffered a bit of injury, but STILL we are jammed in that spot.
Then we’re left with no choice but to get out and unload the horses. The Showmanship class was starting soon and we couldn’t miss it. It was the only class Giggles could go in! My Mom and I are holding horses and Meg goes to the tack room of the trailer to get Giggles’ bridle. She walks back looking a bit concerned. “Ummmm, Auntie Bud, I hate to say it but the door won’t open. It’s right up against the fence.”
NOOOO. We love horses. We love horses. We love horses.
We walked down and tried to figure out what to do. I gave my Mom a bit of a panicked, worried look. “Just need a bridle. For showmanship. C’mon,” she said. Here is one reason I love 4-H. EVERYBODY will gladly assist you, lend you a hand, an item, and be incredibly kind. A very kind lady lent us her bridle for Giggles to wear in showmanship. But then we realized another problem. Meg and Snappy were going to ride in the pleasure division, but we still can’t get to her saddle or bridle.
We met up with our friends Elizabeth, Katie, and Nicole and they immediately jumped in to help. One of many reasons we LOVE them. Meg and Snappy were going to have to jump into showmanship. They lent Snappy another bridle and away we went. We went up to the ring to watch the showmanship pattern (since we had no clue) and then we winged it. Giggles was pretty wild so that was probably interesting to watch!! Haha, she was not at all having it. But Meg did a great job with Snappy and their qualifying box was checked, as was Giggles’. But we still had yet another issue. My backup pony Deno would have to be ridden, and we had no saddle (ha and still no bridle.)
We love horses. We love horses. We love horses.
So our friends the Coopers, yet again saving the day jumped in to help us! Snappy’s borrowed bridle fit Deno like a glove, and the Coopers lent me Elizabeth’s 14” saddle (which did NOT fit me like a glove, but it worked and that’s all that mattered!) But we had yet another issue. Elizabeth’s stirrup leathers were WAY too short for me. So short I could not possibly ride with them. Jockey short! As I hand-grazed Giggles my Mom had Deno in tow and I saw them walking back and forth, and back and forth asking if anybody could lend spare stirrup leathers. She had no luck, since my class was pretty large and the majority of the people there were also riding in it.
Meg caught the eye of a girl sitting down to eat lunch next to a saddle. She handed Snappy to me and darted over to her. The way she presented her request was quite amusing. “Ummm, so my friend over here is borrowing a really little girl’s saddle since our trailer is stuck and we have no access to the tack room, and the stirrup leathers are way too short, as you can see she’s pretty tall. Would you mind if we borrowed your leathers for the senior equitation on the flat?” The girl generously lent us her leathers and we were on our way! My Mom and Katie worked to wedge the adult sized stirrup leathers into the tiny gap of the stirrup bars on the little saddle. Katie grabbed a stray jump cup and used the pin to widen the opening. “You are a WARRIOR PRINCESS! You don’t mess around!!” My mom said laughing. So that became Katie and Nicole’s nicknames. The Warrior Princesses!
We thought “hallelujah” because we were SO CLOSE to being done…. But yet we were still so far!
Of course Deno being the perfect pony he is was a super star and we successfully made it in and out of the sloppy, soupy arena. I was so proud of him, he has not been in much work lately and he cantered his chubby body around the ring like the gentleman he is.
After that we thought we were in the clear. Now our only obstacle (or so we thought), was getting the trailer out. But oh wait. Jumping the truck. In the hurry to get to the showmanship class, my Mom accidentally left on the truck’s lights. As you could probably guess it was dead.
We love horses. We love horses. We love horses.
My Mom had Giggles, Meg had Snappy, and I had Deno. We were grazing them while Elizabeth waited with her horse Cimmie for their last couple classes. All of a sudden it began to MONSOON. A torrential downpour. The wind picked up like crazy. My Mom yelled to Meg and I, “To the trailer!!” Meg and Snappy disappeared behind the other side of the show stalls and trailers, while my Mom and I were struggling to keep Giggles and Deno from going crazy. (At the same time tents were blowing away and people were trying to take them down.) Mom, Giggles, Deno, and I were not going to make it back in one piece all the way to the trailer. So multiple horses, including Cimmie, Deno, and Giggles, were all squished under the roof attached to the show stalls on a concrete slab.
All I was thinking was, WHERE ARE MEG AND SNAPPY?!?!!!
Suddenly through the sheets of rain I could see Snappy lightly jogging, pretty much leading Meg! They cautiously walked down a steep hill/ditch thing to get to us. Then we all waited for the monsoon-like weather to pass. We were SO close to being done.
We love horses. We love horses. We love horses.
Once the crazy weather passed classes resumed. But we ended up not being able to wait because the realization sank in that the trailer needed to come out soon since people needed to leave and we were blocking them in! We went down to the road and booted up the horses. Nicole brought down her car to jump-start the dually. But miraculously it didn’t end up needing a jump. Things were looking up!! While Meg held Snappy and I did double duty with Giggles and Deno, Nicole and my Mom skillfully got the trailer out after a bit. Nicole the Warrior Princess saved us again! All I can say is we would not have survived without them and the help of our fellow 4-Hers!!
Thankfully the drive home was smooth and easy, with a pit stop to Sheetz since we hadn’t had time to eat all day! When we got home, the only further mishap that occurred was Giggles’ OTHER hind shoe was loose, and needed to be pulled. So within a couple minutes it was pulled and wrapped, we cared for the horses, unpacked, and cleaned. The long, crazy day was over. At 10 p.m. we arrived home, exhausted. (After a trip to McDonalds 😉 ) I crawled into bed, getting some sleep to get ready to go to the barn in the morning.
But this crazy day was a day every single horse person has. Lots of mishaps. Lots of dumb luck. Lots of suckiness. But one thing was truly special. Well, two things.
1. The MEMORIES. What funny stories it gave us!! All the way home, (well, even while all this was happening), we laughed and laughed. And,
2. The most important. What a wonderful community we have. I cannot say enough good things about the Virginia 4-H Horse Program. I am so grateful to all the fellow 4-Hers and their help and generosity. And to Elizabeth and the Warrior Princesses!! We couldn’t have made it without you all. And the horses were such troopers! We are so incredibly blessed. Sometimes it forces us to remind ourselves why we do all this.
And it’s because we really, really love horses.