By the time we trot down the centerline, says HN Contributor Katy Groesbeck, we’re golden. It’s the part that comes before that gives us ulcers.
I think almost anyone who is involved with horses has at some point or another been to a horse show and seen these great creatures at their best, gleaming and fit. Even the riders look pretty good usually: smiling (or was it a grimace?) and polished. I’ve had friends come along to shows to support me and they think it is just the most glorious thing ever to ride horses. Which it is…..
But man do things look different to those of us who are “in the know.” I’ve calculated it and I’m pretty confident in my science: For every five minutes that we spend in front of a judge and a crowd looking like stars, there are five days worth of dirt, bruises, starvation, exhaustion, and barn boogers (don’t even try to deny it) to go with it.
Not only is it a labor of love to get our horses to look and feel their best from day to day, but the time we spend getting to shows and being at shows can really take a toll on a person. The wake-up calls are painful enough as it is, and on top of that there’s usually some really fun job involving a hose and icy water not long after it. Then we spend all day primping and polishing and feeding and cleaning and riding and working and ──- huh, did I eat today? Eh, too late. Zzzzzzzzzzz.
I myself, like many these days, am a “budget show-goer.” My family and I save money on hotels and such by camping out and cooking at shows. We don’t have a living-quarters trailer (but I’m buying a winning lotto ticket today, don’t worry), but we do have a gooseneck with a comfy bed and several camping cots. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to get a real tackroom by our stalls, where we set up a tackroom shanty at night, and sometimes there are real showers, too! But oftentimes, showing means four or five days of sleeping in the trailer, “showering” at the washracks, and being in a general state of sleep-deprived grossness for the duration.
I remember, years ago, we traveled all day to get to a place we’d never been before, and of course it was pitch black by the time we got there. We managed to get our six-horse trailer stuck in more than one Vaseline-requiring position before safely making it to the facility’s “stabling:” DIY pipe stalls. And by DIY, I mean, “Well there’s a few panels over there, and a few more over there… I reckon you could get six stalls whipped together in no time.” Three hours and several curse words later, we had the horses tucked in and my parents and I retired to our trailer to eat and sleep for what remained of the night. Naturally, we had failed to make it to the grocery store BEFORE we got there, and getting back in the truck to look for food at that point was just asking for trouble. So we ate what provisions remained of our travel snack food: beef jerky and cottage cheese. I think I cried myself to sleep that night.
Another ill-fated night more recently, in which we pulled into a strange facility at 10 p.m. off a nine-hour haul, we got confused as to the appropriate entrance to the ranch. We had to make a U-turn, but of course the options for making such maneuvers in a 50-foot horse trailer are sometimes limited so we had to make the turn in a field. Seeing as it was so dark and we were about to attempt four-wheeling with our trailer, we decided we needed a spotter ahead of the truck. I drew the short straw.
After much grumbling and complaining, I finally got out and went pouncing about in the weeds in the headlights of the truck. Just as I turned my head to glare and yell at my mom, “There’s nothing out here!”, I fell waste deep in an (full) irrigation ditch. Go figure. And I wish I could say I saved the day–or night–but we ended up breaking the back window of the truck anyway not long after.
But you know, I think we can all agree that in the end it’s completely worth it. We wouldn’t be horse people if we were sane or normal anyway. And btw, for the record, my mom has since made up for the beef jerky and cottage cheese night. She now enjoys a somewhat famed reputation as a show-camp cook. If you are hungry, or maybe hungry, or look hungry, or maybe even thought of food once that day and are within a 10-mile radius, she will hunt you down and force feed you. Don’t worry, it’s always yummy.