I can recall vividly the end of the show season back in November when I was eagerly awaiting a break from the travel, the chaos, the dirt, rain, heat, mud and meals eaten in “hospitality stalls.” Well, here I am at the end of January having gotten exactly what I asked for, and I am over it. I am ready for a horse show.
I miss the anticipation of the arrival, the craziness and exhilaration of watching amazing horses and riders compete. I even miss peeling hairspray off my fingers after doing show bun after show bun. The holidays were fun with family and friends, the weekly Barn Saturdays keep us connected, but it just isn’t a horse show. My non-horse friends can’t understand why I am excited to book hotels in Anderson, South Carolina in March. But for me that weekend is circled in red and highlighted on my calendar. That weekend is my New Year. From that weekend on, I can be sure that one or two weekends every month will involve the chance to see my daughter and her fellow teammates do what they love.
So often people post on social media that “it’s not about the ribbons” when referring to horse shows. It really isn’t. It is so much more. I love to stop at the barn before doing anything else when coming to a show. I like the flurry of the set up procedures in the stalls and tack rooms, those curtained hallways becoming a home away from home. I always feel a sense of pride sitting in those hallways that designate our barn. My daughter worked hard to reach the level she shows at, and I am proud to be associated with this barn family. I know others feel the same about their riders and their barns. It’s what makes barn families so cool.
I love coming to the showgrounds in the early morning to see trainers working their horses before the craziness of the show starts. Watching a trainer long line a horse in the early morning light is a sight to see, the calm concentration that will fade away when the first competitor hits the warm-up ring and the trainer changes focus from horse to rider.
I love horse show food. It is the one and only place where cheese fries can be eaten for breakfast and no one raises an eyebrow. I love the vendors that support the horse shows, giving me a chance to buy one more item with a Saddlebred on it – because one can never have enough. Watching the Academy classes is particularly enjoyable, since my daughter is not long out of those classes and many of our friends still ride there. You just can’t beat a lead line class for enthusiasm and joy.
Watching my own daughter show her beloved pony is the greatest combined ten minutes of any show. Her love for this sport and all it entails are what brought us here. Her desire to “ride a real horse” at 3 years old changed the trajectory of our lives in such an amazing way.
Finally, for horse folks, Saturday night at a horse show beats a Saturday night at any 5-star restaurant or nightclub. The horses are grand, the riders are formal and together they put on one heck of a show. Even leaving a show on Sunday morning, watching it all be torn down and gently stored in trucks and trailers is comforting, knowing it will be loaded right back up in a matter of days, not months.
This is life from March until November, and it is a great life. The craziness, excitement and chaos that comes with these horse show weekends is never more appreciated and longed for than in the dark, cold dreary days of January…but that highlighted, circled date on the calendar is a beacon of hope that it really is just around the corner. To all that appreciate this sport and all that comes with it? Best of luck, and bring on 2019!