This Was the Trifecta of Show Weekends

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Since horse racing took center stage this past weekend with the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby, it seems appropriate to share my show news in racing terms.  Sadly, I did not have a trifecta bid on the Derby, but if I had, I’d be $1700 richer today.  But, in terms of success, I’d say that this past weekend’s show outcome is just as exciting…at least in my mind.

Ike’s behavior was stellar.

I can honestly say that Ike continues to amaze me with his show demeanor.  After so many years of hanging my head in shame after Cigar would exhibit his wild side, it is nice to have a horse who is easy to handle.  There is no stress during trailer loading.  The trailer does not rock from side-to-side because we are trying to escape as the trailer rolls down the road.  I love that I can braid Ike in under 1 1/2 hours (yes, that is how long it would take to braid Cigar).  In fact, I can now have presentable braids in about 30 minutes using bands.  I love that although he gets rattled by the large tractors, he does try his best to focus and continue to work.  Ike is usually not bothered by the disobedience of other horses in warmup.  He is an amazing partner for this dressage adventure.

The show was well run; the weather was perfect.

The show was hosted by the Central Chapter of the Virginia Dressage Association.  They should be commended for pulling together a show that offered a pleasant atmosphere, friendly volunteers, great ribbons and prizes, and timely classes and scoring.  There is nothing worse than waiting over 2 hours to find out how you did in a class.  Kudos to the stewards, scribes, runners and scorers that kept the wait to a minimum.  Mother Nature also was cooperative and gave us perfect spring weather for the entire weekend.  We were due since the week before had been drenched with almost 6 inches of rain.

Ike has the best fan club.

There is no way I could write this and not thank everyone who helped to make this weekend as memorable as it was.  My husband is my rock that helps keep me from going off the deep end with nervousness.  Ms. C was there to school us on Saturday.  My show buddy Ms. D made hanging out in the barn so much more fun.  And I must sincerely thank all my friends and family who made the trip to the show grounds to sit in the stands and cheer for us.  I’m pretty sure Ike had the biggest fan base at the show; he especially appreciated his junior fans who brought him apple slices.

Our scores were our best EVER!

I am still in a bit of shock.  There I said it.  I have never had show success like this.  I might not ever have it again, but for this one weekend, all the stars and planets aligned to give us our best scores ever at Training and First Levels.  I kept staring at the score sheets in disbelief fully expecting to hear that my scores were for someone else.  My hands shook as I was handed my test sheet and ribbon from the smiling volunteer.

Ike came home with two blue ribbons for his Training Level tests (both were Test 2) with scores of 71.607% and 71.071%.  Mom came home with two hand painted, commemorative wine glasses.  How awesome is that?

ribbon and wineglass

He also has a red ribbon and a yellow ribbon for his First Level tests with scores of 68.108% and 68.103%(Test 2 and Test 1, respectively) .

The most surprising was that Ike also received the High Point Training Level Award for the weekend.  What?!  That never happens.  Never, ever.  I think I am most excited about our First Level scores since we’d only ever tried First 1 last fall at a schooling show.  It was perhaps a bit ballsy to sign up for two First Level tests at our first show of the season, but what did we have to lose?  If we can survive a clinic with 200 auditors, we can try a test with a few spectators, a judge, and a scribe.

So there you have it.  Our first show of the season is behind us.  Now we need to forge ahead, master sit trot, conquer First Level Test 3, and continue the journey for our Bronze Medal.  Hope you stick around, it is just starting to get interesting!

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Help Wanted

help wanted

The sign is perpetually up for every horse organization, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  There is always something that needs to be done or that we’d like to have done, but the question remains, “Who is going to do it?!”  We all look around the room at each other, names are bantered about, and then reluctantly, one of those present in the room agrees to take on the task on top of everything else they’ve agreed to do.  The Pareto Principle is in full bloom; the principle that says that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people.

Yes, yes, everyone knows all about the frontline volunteers at the shows.  The scribes, the runners, the stewards, and even the scorers who are tucked away in some windowless room.  We need those volunteers for certain, but I am going to ask that you consider volunteering on the other side of the organization as well.  If you are a competitor who maintains a busy show schedule, then this will be right up your alley.  You can get in your volunteer time in the dead of winter when the rings are frozen or at night after dinner when your horse(s) are tucked away for the evening.

How you ask?  I will share with you how your talents can shine at both the local and state levels.

I’ve just completed my first year and beginning my second year as a chapter representative for the Virginia Dressage Association.   When I began my dressage obsession, I had no clue about the intensive volunteer need for the sport.  I have a new found respect for those people who work tirelessly year round to keep the organization running smoothly.  The Board (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and all the chapter representatives) meets via conference call once a month.  Don’t worry, the calls start at 8:00 p.m., so most horse tasks for the day are done.

I’m also gearing up for my first full term as my chapter’s secretary.  I pinch hit for the end of last year after our secretary moved out of state.  Our meetings are once a month also in the evening to accommodate those who work, go to school, and have families to feed.  It is a smaller chapter, so there are times we do struggle to fill the empty spots and most of us tend to wear more than one hat.

Are you a type-A personality with good organizational skills?  Then we want you to help organize clinics – potential clinicians need to be contacted (this is your chance to get your favorite clinician lined up), a host facility found, rider application reviewed, schedules made, travel arrangements completed…You can also consider being the membership chairperson and keep all the member information organized.

Are you a people person and can you herd cats?  Volunteer Coordinator is right up your alley!   Help rally the troops to fill all those vital positions at the shows and clinics.  Don’t limit yourself to just club members.  I found that horse friends from other disciplines were more than willing to help out in a pinch.  Sometimes they became dressage devotees after spending the day watching talented horses and riders perform their tests.

Are you a legal type?  You can put that legal mind to work to draft contracts for judges, clinicians, and venues.  You can review insurance documents (sadly, no show or clinic can be held without it these days) to insure that the club has adequate coverage.  How about helping your club become a 501(c)3 organization or updating their bylaws?

Can you summarize the conversations of 10 people all talking at the same time?  Come be a secretary with me!  You attend monthly meetings and then type up the meeting notes for the newsletter.  You will need to summon all those skills you learned in elementary school on how to write a summary.

Do you have marketing skills?  Licensed shows and the big regional competitions are not inexpensive endeavors.  Show fees just scratch the surface at covering the costs.  Sponsorships help clubs make a profit for all their hard work.  There are all the usual suspects of big equine supply companies, but don’t be afraid to approach non-traditional sponsors.  But many local businesses that you frequent will sponsor a class.  VADA was able to get Lladro (http://www.lladro.com/) to sponsor some FEI high point awards at our fall show last year.  All it takes is the time to write the emails or make the phone calls.

Do you like to be in the driver’s seat?  How about being the President of your club?  You can help revitalize the club and decide where the group should be headed for the future.

Are you an English major with wicked good language skills?  Newsletter editor is the position for you.   Or if you prefer something without a monthly deadline, how about updating the club’s handbook?  You know you like looking for misspellings and typos…just admit it.

Are you a good writer?  The newsletter isn’t going to write itself. 🙂  Consider writing a witty piece about your horse or share some show results with fellow club members.  We can all find our tiny voice inside that has something to say.  (Some of us have voices that are a bit more boisterous than others.)

Can you balance your checkbook to the penny every month?  Then you are the chosen one to manage the club’s money as the treasurer.  You can also insure that your club doesn’t end up on the wrong side of the IRS.

Are you the hostess with the “mostest”?  That annual club awards banquet needs you to insure that we have more than 20 bags of chips and a 2 liter of soda as refreshments.

Calling all shoppers!  Clubs need someone to select the ribbons and prizes for shows and year-end awards.  You can spend hours browsing online to find the best deal and the coolest stuff that club members will squeal over when they receive it.  Best of all, you get to spend money that isn’t coming out of your pocket.

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Phew!  Who knew that there was so much to do to keep an all volunteer organization running smoothly.  Like I said, I honestly had no idea when I began my dressage hobby in 2005 that things could be so involved.  I was too worried about understanding what a half halt was and not knocking over the arena rails.  I have come to believe that it is our obligation as competitors and enthusiasts to give back to the sport we love.  We would not have places to go and things to do without dedicated volunteers.  Even events like the World Equestrian Games rely on volunteers to pull off the biggest equestrian event on the planet.  Equestrian sports can’t grow without people stepping up to keep things running.  So the only question that remains is, what will you do for the sport that you love?

So What About Day Two of the Show?

Photo from day one...

Photo from day one…

Well, sigh.  We ended up scratching our rides.  Disappointing for sure, but definitely the right thing to do.

Sunday did not start quite as early as Saturday.  My first ride was to be at 10:23.  I hopped on about 90 minutes early just in case Ike needed the time to stand and soak in the atmosphere again.  He did take notice at the very large, very yellow horse trailer as it pulled into the show grounds.  Heck, everyone couldn’t help but notice the Big Bird yellow trailer.  Warmup seemed to be going well until I asked for canter.  My girlfriend who was watching and helping me called me over.  “Did you feel that?”  “Maybe.”  Dare I say that I’m not always the quickest to feel any abnormal movement.  She and my husband noticed that Ike’s right hind was not moving as it should.  My husband said it looked like he was stiff legging it.  Hmm, not good.  Ms. L felt the leg and nothing was screaming, “here is where the pain is!”

Well, crap.  Came back for the second day with high hopes of bettering my Saturday scores, but it was not to be.  Better to stop than to make a small problem worse because of my greediness for a few extra percentage points.  Ike went home, ate some oats sprinkled with bute and was turned out with his buddies for the afternoon.

I headed back to the show to see if any extra volunteer bodies were needed.  I first caught up with some of my dressage buddies that I honestly don’t get to spend enough time with on a regular basis.  We all lead hectic lives complicated by our equine friends, not that we complain, but it does seem to limit social time.  I also watched some fun musical freestyles and did some shopping.  [Time for some boasting…]  My dressage chapter might not be the biggest one around, but we do put on a hell of a good licensed show.  We run the weekend as two one-day shows so people can get their two scores from two different shows and two different judges in one weekend if their rides go well.  We have cool prizes, a used tack sale, equine rescue booths, and have awesome vendors who bring must-have items for competitors and volunteers.  I voluntarily opened my wallet multiple times.

I then helped out at the awards table and bided my time until the worst job of the show was needed:  the show ground clean up crew.  Everyone is tired.  Everyone wants to go home, but someone has to break down the rings and load them on the trailers, take down the tents, pack up the ribbons and extra prizes, and show supplies and decorations.  Those 10-gallon buckets filled with stone that hold the signs aren’t going to march themselves back to storage.  Someone has to clean up the cigarette butts that someone thoughtlessly tossed in the grass.  Then all that stuff has to be hauled to storage and squirreled away until next year.  Why is it we forget to pack the cold beer to swill when all this is said and done?  It is exhausting, but each year we seem to learn a little something that makes the clean up just a wee bit easier.

The day didn’t turnout how I planned, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.  Great friends, gorgeous horses, and a sunny fall day.  Can’t ask for much more than that.

Alison

p.s. The vet comes Thursday to check out the big man.  He didn’t appear to be in any discomfort today.  I will pop on him tomorrow to gage where we are.  Keeping my fingers crossed that it is just something minor.

 

The Marshmallow Fluff Separation

010I’d like to share with you my story of the jar of marshmallow fluff.  You know the stuff, that small jar of white, sticky goodness that only ever was used for Thanksgiving dinner when I was a child.  My mother would mash yams with butter and brown sugar, then top them with apple pie filling, and then marshmallow fluff.  Completely healthy right?  Well we never seemed to use the whole jar, so the partially used jar would go live in the back of the pantry.  Now my mother’s pantry is as deep as a normal closet, so neglected food items have a tendency to hang out in the dark recesses and never see the light of day again.

One night in the fall of 2003, I decided to cook dinner for my parents.  I opened the pantry to see what was available……..that turned into a treasure hunt to see what canned item was the oldest.  The winner was clearly the bulging can of chicken ala king from 1978 (the year we moved into the house).  Anyone hungry for some botulism with a side of rice?

Anyway, I also came across the forgotten jar of marshmallow fluff dated 1984.  Do you know what happens to 19-year-old fluff?  It separates into two distinct layers:  the corn syrup layer and the layer of unidentified white stuff.  Yum.  Too bad that this predated the days of smart phones or there would be a photo to share.

Now for the $1000 question:  Why am I sharing the marshmallow fluff separation story?  Well, let me tell you why.  I got off my sorry butt and on Tuesday night, attended the monthly meeting for my local dressage chapter.  We are a small group, but there are some very dedicated people who keep things running.  And there are suckers like me that volunteer to be acting secretary because I felt guilty that I’d been so lazy for the past couple of years.  While at the meeting, I heard a story that saddened me.  It involved some members who were supposed to be working together, but things spiraled the wrong way, plans fell apart and the two factions separated…just like the marshmallow fluff.  Unfortunately, no amount of stirring was going to correct things in time for the group activity.  What a shame.  In smaller organizations, the breakdown of communication and teamwork can really hurt the organization as a whole.  I was not involved, so I know none of the specifics.  I just hope that going forward that everyone can put those feelings aside and remember why we joined this organization: our love of horses and the sport of dressage.

Equestrian sports might be a multi-million dollar industry, but there would be no shows without volunteers.  From the small local shows to the World Equestrian  Games, volunteers keep the show wheels turning.  There has to be someone to set up the show grounds, to beg companies to donate prizes and sponsor the classes, to keep the riders in the warm up ring up-to-date on their classes, or to sit for hours on end writing down the judge’s scores and comments.  Let’s give a big round of applause for the folks who are on the cross country course at each of the jumps rain or shine, those who are the runners or gate keepers, and those who sit in a windowless room calculating the scores as quickly as possible.  I coordinated volunteers for four years – it can be like herding cats – challenging, frustrating, and rewarding all at the same time.  There is no better feeling than when the show is over and all the ribbons have been handed out, to hear a thank you from a competitor for an enjoyable day.  That is what keeps you motivated to do it again and again.

So the next time you are at odds with another member of your association, take a moment, breathe deeply, and ask yourself, “Do you want to be one of the layers of the old marshmallow fluff or a well-blended jar of sugary goodness?”

Alison

p.s. Ike and I have our lesson tomorrow…work and weather played havoc with our riding this week and delayed our weekly tune up.