After a 20-year hiatus from the horse world, Theresa Nielsen and her invisible gremlin-fearing thoroughbred prepare to take on the world (or at least a bunch of kids) at a local schooling show.
As an adult amateur returning to the horse world, I seem to continually find myself in situations that are both humbling and rewarding at the same time.
Take the schooling show as an example. You remember those? Yeah, me too. As a kid I excelled in them. Hunter under Saddle, Hunt Seat Equitation, Hunter over Fences… all in my age divisions with children my own age. Yesterday was our second schooling show after a 20 year break from riding and showing. (I lease a spooky, challenging OTTB mare and now ride in a dressage saddle.)
The day starts as we (hubby and I, along with my trainer) pull up to the show grounds with our new three-horse trailer. I’m quite excited as we unload my lease horse, and another barn mate’s horse and walk them into their day stalls. We have stalls next to each other and help each other get situated before we check in at the show office. She’s showing in the English 12 and under classes; I (at 38 years old) am showing in the English 18 and older classes.
We groom and saddle up, and head on over to the show ring. At the entry gate I get to looking around at the other riders. This is where the humility sets in. I’m a good 20 years older than the next oldest rider. Yep, I think I’m older than the judge, too. No worries–we’re just here to get back into the sport, and get the horse used to showing so that we can eventually start going to the dressage shows, and ribbons don’t matter to women my age anyways.
Our class is called and we enter the show ring. It’s a walk/ trot equitation class. There are seven in the class. My horse is brilliant. The only grey horse in the ring, the only rider in a dressage saddle. My competitive alter ego rears its middle aged head. We stand out, we’re going to get noticed, we’re going for the blue, baby! We’re in sync, my mare has a collected trot, and I can feel my equitation is spot on. I’m about to show these kiddos a thing or two about riding….
And then, out of nowhere, she spooks, rears and turns 180 degrees in the show ring. I can ride these out, I’m not scared or worried, but I can see that 1st place ribbon slip from my grasp. I can feel the rider behind us smirk. We line up in front of the judge. He doesn’t even look at us, he’s seen all he needs to see.
As we exit with our 2nd place ribbon, I congratulate the winner. She smiles back, a huge, “I won, I won!” kind of smile. I know that feeling, I’ve experienced it too, 20 years ago. You go girl, enjoy that blue… because we’ll be back for it next month!