Hang out around equestrians or really anyone that spends their time caring for animals of the livestock variety and you will realize we all share a masochistic streak. There’s no other explanation for the manual labor and financial decisions we make in order to keep large ungrateful, animals with a death wish alive and healthy. You are a hopeless deviant if you not only care for these animals, but occasionally expect them to perform for you. What was I thinking when I decided to pack three horses and Offspring up for a three day event in 98 degree weather in a swamp? I wasn’t thinking. I temporarily lost my grip on reality, and channeled my inner Daenerys Targaryen as part Khaleesi, part Mother of Dragons.
Offspring had been begging for a camping trip in the trailer because apparently camping was the theme for last week at daycare. They drew pictures and made “camping” crafts so he was “chomping at the bit” (little horse idiom for ya) to experience the real thing. The rain in Texas had prevented me from working my horses, but I was dying to get out to a show, and I ignored every gut feeling telling me this was a bad idea. Darling Husband, Offspring, and I are headed to Tennessee next week with five horses in tow for a four day trail riding adventure in the mountains (gut feeling is already telling me this is not a good idea), and since Johnny Cash would be accompanying us on that trip, nothing other than pure insanity told me he should accompany the two other horses, Offspring, and I on our first show in over a month.
Going into this show I already knew placing would be next to impossible for my motley crew. For one, they barely had two weeks worth of maintenance rides in the last month and a half. They are still new at this whole eventing thing, and there were over nineteen people listed in my division coming from “eventing barns” riding horses that were all experienced at levels three to four levels above my “greenies.” There were upper level dressage horses riding the goldilocks test with my horses, and by upper level, I mean Prix St. Georges the first level for international competition. I just don’t own horses capable of that level of movement, with years of work and conditioning they may, MAY reach 2nd or 3rd level dressage. Let’s face it, with everything else we have going on, I don’t prioritize the time to dedicate to obtaining those levels anyway.
It was an exhausting weekend. With some highs, many frustrations, some lows, but ultimately I walked away having learned valuable lessons. Here are just a few in no particular order.
- You will never experience a more satisfying shower, than one from an ice cold water hose in the dark while standing naked in the box of your horse trailer at 11:30pm after a full day of competition in 98 degree heat and ensuring three horses and your Offspring are comfortably settled for the night.
- No matter how much whining, complaining, and boredom your child expresses during the camping experience, they will one eighty degree change their mind when you suggest their father come pick them up a day early to enjoy first world luxuries like A/C and Netflix.
- It is entirely possible to drink gallons of water/coffee/beer and only have to urinate once a day in 98 heat.
- Three kids will happily camp out on the floor of your trailer tack room for hours to fight over one working tablet, eat a thousand snacks, and drink gallons of capris sun. (DQ brought her kids to the show as well, if you are wondering where I picked up the extra 2 kids)
- Whatever toys your children brought, none of them will be as exciting as the random items they will pull out of your tack room and spread all around the campsite for you to randomly find days later.
- You cannot have a well organized tack room with children in tow. Find a new dream/hobby, and make sure you have extras of everything.
- If one horse begins to misbehave, all of the others will follow suit. Removing the miscreant to a stall half way across the venue will only buy you a few hours of reprieve.
- You can’t stop a freight train, and your cross country time penalties for going too fast will reflect that.
- Don’t expect the the RV hook-ups to have a compatible plug to your horse trailer or any store within an hour radius to have a converter plug. It’s advisable to bring along a few miles of extension cord to reach the nearest building just in case.
- At an outdoor Texas show, the water hose is your best friend.
- No matter how much you may regret chopping your hair short when looking at pictures, you will be grateful for the lack of mane and the ability to rinse it with cool water any time you are near a water hose in 98 eight degree heat.
- Consider putting ice in your morning coffee before taking it on a two mile cross country course walk.
- No matter how absurd or hot a pair of Galway/Country muck boots look with shorts in near triple digit temps, you will wish you were wearing a pair while trekking that two mile cross country course walk through a field with 3 inches of standing water and knee high grass.
- Check and re-check your dressage test the night before. Even if the event has one test listed when you sign up for the show a month prior, someone will ultimately make a last minute decision to change it to the exact test the level above you is riding.
- You can pull off your shiny, skin tight, patriotic western pleasure show shirt for your dressage test, and you will receive sincere compliments on it. Maybe you will become a trend setter and find another fashion forward competitor at your next show.
- No matter what your ride time, the show staff will be over it by the time lower levels run, so be prepared for your times to be at least a half hour earlier than assigned.
- Keeping up with Offspring while competing two horses, and ensuring your tag along horse isn’t losing his mind makes the entire show experience a thousand times more challenging, but nothing will lift a low mood after a bad ride like your Offspring declaring they are having a wonderful time with your miserable, grumpy butt and they want to do this more. Bonus when they throw an “I love you, Mommy” in there.
- Horse people understand free range parenting, and when your four year old wanders away from their chaperones, random strangers will come find you on course based off of your child’s description of what your horse looks like. (Thankfully I’m the only person riding Appaloosas. God help them if I had been on a bay!)
Equestrian memories are short. No matter how harrowing the experience, we can be expected to enthusiastically sign-up for the next round of torture. So I’ll add two more horses to the string, two more days, and 780 miles one way for the next equestrian adventure. I mean really how much harder could it be?