Saturday, August 27, 2016

I did not scratch

What I did: Centerline Events at HITS on the Hudson 3, a benefit for the Mitchell Equine Retirement Farm

What I wore: Charles Owen Ayr-8 black micro-suede helmet, heavy-duty hairnet, rhinestone-decorated black crocheted hair-bun-cover, white Ariat or Goode Rider performance-fabric show shirt, stock-tie (not pre-tied), turquoise pin that had been my mother's or that antique blue glass horse pin that had been a gift from my mother, new navy Pikeur show jacket that I tried on at the show and when it fit me perfectly I had to buy it, white full-seat Pikeur breeches, new white leather belt that I had custom-made because even your grandpa doesn’t wear a white leather belt anymore, custom Vogel dress boots, Prince of Wales spurs with new straps because the old ones were about to break, sunscreen, no watch because it’s being repaired, and no glasses because I’ve misplaced the ones I normally wear to ride in and my new ones slide down my nose.

What I did beforehand: bought bagels so no one would starve in my absence, reassured my dog Captain because he really hates it when we get out a suitcase and start packing; fed the cat; downloaded Nell Irvin Painter’s “The History of White People” to my phone.

Who went with me: 269 other riders, and 359 horses (minus those horses who were scratched from the show at the last minute), including Hado. 

How I got there: in the fall of 1998, I decided to take care of some unfinished business. At the time, the plan was to learn to ride and get it out of my system. It isn't out of my system yet.

Why I went to this show: my brother (who plays at least two instruments serviceably well) once told me that when you start a new musical instrument, you are ready to play in front of people as soon as you know a song.

Where I sat: in a custom-embroidered black Sports Director Chair by Picnic Time from Wayfair dot com or on a black Devouxcoux single-flap dressage saddle.

Things that were sad: I was unexpectedly nervous. 

Things that were funny: this was my fourth rated dressage show with Hado, and I’m still tickled when other competitors wish me luck. I try to say, “Have fun!” more than, “Good luck!” Because I think the whole idea of luck is weird, and but so I can’t always control what comes flying out of my mouth at a show; after all, I’m on a horse, I'm on a real, live horse. I might say, “Have luck!” or “Good fun!” 

There’s a little bit of space around the outside of the show rings where you ride in and wait for the judges to ring a bell or blow a whistle letting you know they are ready for you. One of the rings at this show had to use an old fashioned horn, the kind where the judge or the scribe had to squeeze the bulb. To me, there is no better signal to Bring On The Clowns! 

Every horse is different; some are excited to be at a show, while others need to be inspired to temporarily abandon their general mega-chill attitude. Hado is usually of the latter category (although he has been known to spontaneously and without warning bounce up and down in the show ring). Despite his normally calm demeanor, Hado has a secret vice, which is to stand quietly and look completely mellow while invisibly persuading other horses to run and jump and leap into the air. Sometimes we walk around the paddocks at our home barn and one horse after another lifts its head and gallops towards us, while Hado walks along lazily, perhaps expressing some false-innocent surprise as a horse comes storming in and snorting at us. 

Our last class of the show, on Sunday, we were headed into the ring and passed the competitor who did her test before us just outside the ring. Her horse shot sideways, and Hado cantered off. Because he can be lazy, I decided to make him keep cantering all the way to the end before trotting. I was about to congratulate myself for being in charge of the situation when I met the competitor who did her test before us again, as she was exiting the ring a second time. They had, it seemed, shot sideways and jumped back into the show ring. 

Things that were not funny: she looked fairly irritated and understandably discombobulated, and I asked, “Did you just jump back in?” 
And she gave me a sharp, “Yes.”
I apologized. And I tried not to laugh.

What it is: a standard dressage arena at a competition in the United States is 20m by 60m, with a very low, white perimeter fence, and letters marking various spots 12m apart. A rider enters at A, and the judge typically sits at C. When I am going right in the ring, I can read my initials in order.  

Who should see it: we’d had a good round Sunday morning, and I thought about being finished at that point. Sunday afternoon at a three day show gets pretty quiet as competitors pack up and leave and tired riders scratch their last classes. I knew Hado was tired, and I was tired, but I also knew that we need the practice. So I did not scratch.

Thanks to Hado's enthusiasm about scaring another horse, we had an 8 for our entrance and opening halt at X and a 68% for the test. Maybe that sounds like a C- in school, but it was good enough for third place.

What I saw at home: the Bacon Provider was bottling our third batch of home-brewed beer (the first was a delicious success, the second a complete failure). We named it “Brexit,” in honor of recent events, and used an old English IPA recipe The Graduate unearthed. 

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