Today Ike had a day of rest and reflection (why do we keep trying to take the reins from mom and act like a racehorse?), and I went to a local horse show to support one of my young rider friends. She has had some unfortunate struggles with her quarter horse, but after almost a year of rehab and steadfast devotion, they are back on track. No one deserves it more and I was glad to get to see them in action. Although it was not a rated show, she still took the time to braid, had her horse impeccably groomed, and tack cleaned. She was also well prepared and collected two blues and a red ribbon while I watched.
So now I must vent about some of the others I saw at the show…I cringed, averted my eyes and had to walk away a few times to keep my mouth from saying something that it shouldn’t. The sad part is that most of the poor behavior and decisions were by the people who should know better…”adults” and “trainers.” I will share my observations here because I won’t be able to sleep if I can’t get the images out of my head.
1) Yes, I do understand that it was cold last night so a full bath was not in the cards and that coats are getting shaggy as the winter coat comes in, but is it too much to ask that you at least comb your horse’s mane and tail??? I saw some Bob Marley wannabes, knots that could tie an aircraft carrier to the dock, and a lot of unkempt bridle paths. Please teach your children and students that having a well-groomed horse to present in the ring demonstrates respect for the judge.
2) Part Two of show ring preparation – Clean your tack, wipe your boots, and tuck in your shirt. Most everyone who knows me would agree that I’m a stickler for clean tack. And if I am getting ready to be seen in public? Extra scrubbing and wiping. I’m a big fan of disposable boot wipes. Very portable and do a decent job at removing dust and slobber. The untucked shirt just looks slovenly. Period. Does it need any further explanation?
3) One of my biggest cringe moments came as I watched a “trainer” school a horse. Can someone please explain to me how constant yanks on the reins while digging the rowels (big ones) of your spurs into the horse’s sides non-stop is supposed to bring out the best in your horse? I don’t recall reading that particular training method in any of my books or equine periodicals. Riding is supposed to be a partnership with mutual respect. Leaving hairless, red spur marks means you are not holding up your end of the deal.
4) Please learn schooling ring etiqutte: pass left shoulder to left shoulder unless one horse is traveling at a faster gait and then yield the rail to them, if you must stop and have a conversation with someone then leave the ring or get off the rail, and the biggie – if you screw up and make a mistake, which we all have, then learn to use the words, “I’m sorry.” My young rider friend was almost unseated by an adult who could not control her horse and ran into my friend’s horse; the sad part was that this adult said nothing. Yes, it is sad that basic manners aren’t used.
5) Be a good sport when you don’t win. The sour pusses of some of the adults were enough to turn your stomach. The silver lining? It was heartening to watch the younger competitors clap for each other as the class was placed. There is dim hope.
Now don’t think that this show was all ungroomed, ill-mannered individuals. There were just as many well turned out pairs with supportive parents and trainers. It is a true pleasure to watch a youngster on their steadfast, been-there-done-that mount enjoying their time with their horse. They might not be the flashiest pair, but there is a true partnership and love between the two. You see it on the child’s face when they pat their horse as they collect their ribbon (never mind what color it is) and that is what this sport is all about.