From the Show Ring to the Cattle Pen.
It takes a special type of person to show horses. The type that know what it looks outside just before the sun rises; the type who know that all their hard work will either pay off in trophies and blue ribbons or be thrown in their face depending partly on luck, and partly on how evil your judges are; and often the type who have a larger-than-normal wallet.
I started showing horses when I was six. My parents had given me a large, draft mare named Annie and despite her immense size, she was nice enough to let me climb all over her. Annie grew with me; I taught her how to ride, and she taught me how to be an honest horse owner. Although Annie’s real job was pulling our wedding carriage for the business, I trained her in dressage and western disciplines.
I will never forget my first western pleasure show. I was 40lbs, shy, wide eyed, and riding a behemoth of a horse compared to all the other little girls. Annie was so wide that instead of having my legs at her side, I looked more like I was doing a split. To put it nicely, I was scoffed at by all the other riders, as well as their parents. “Who is this girl kidding?”, as they laughed. It made me feel like I was wrong to be there; as if I had no business in that show ring, and Annie would be shunned out one way or another. We knew what we were doing, though. While all those little girls, with their sparkly vests and matching saddle pads fought with their bouncy little ponies, Annie trotted right along. We brought home more blue ribbons than anyone else that day and I was so proud of my horse!
Addition to the Family
Annie got me through many, many show rings over the years and as we both got older, I decided that I wanted an additional horse. My parents breed Warmbloods but, personally, it is not the breed for me. Always being particularly drawn to quarter horses, I spent a few years keeping my eye out for the right one. I found him, unexpectedly, living at a friend’s barn to whom he had been sold by his previous owner. His name is “Show Me the Chick”, and I fell instantly in love with him.
Show Me, in his past, was an incredible, money generating, reining machine. He certainly has the bloodlines for it. Thus, everyone who knew him felt it necessary to tell me what an amazing horse I had on my hands. I would later find out that his previous owner sold him because he was shown year round, and shown hard, and this caused an injury to his tendons, rendering him less able to perform straight out. Subsequently, he has a lot of bad habits that are common among horses that don’t often see the light of day, such as cribbing. Show Me also boasts a large crack in his skull from where he had previously been whacked with, what I can only assume, was something like a 2 x 4. Although it doesn't cause him any residual pain now, it often hurts my heart to see it.
Show Me is what they call a “push button” horse. It is almost as if he enjoys his work! When I first brought him home, we got into the western pleasure circuit and I found that even though I had this amazing horse, who knew better what to do than I did, I was still getting marked down for my clothing, or our appearance. Finally, I had had enough of being judged on things other than our performance and I wanted to get out of the world of unnaturally slow lopes, fake tails, and flashy clothes. I wanted us to do something fun; something horses used to do, and enjoyed.
Recalling something someone had told me about a team penning club in Maine that Show Me used to ride in; I decided to check it out. It was a five hour drive both ways, so I loaded Show Me up into the trailer at 3AM and we took off to our first clinic. When we arrived, everyone recognized Show Me and again, told me what an amazing horse I now owned.
Six hours later, and I had decided that I never wanted to do anything else. Show Me’s energy in the cattle pen was so natural. If there ever was a whole bunch of happy horses, and helpful riders, it was this group. Penning cattle, roping cattle, ranch work, it was all so fulfilling, and there’s no required color scheme! It’s all a test of you and your horse’s true communication and ability; no false judging, no unnatural neck bending or painful movements for the horses. I had found my niche.
Annie and Show Me are my proudest accomplishments. Annie, I rose from a baby and taught her everything I learned. Show Me came to me knowing everything, except what it meant to be unconditionally loved. I showed him wide open, green pastures, trail riding, swimming, and a bucket of treats always full. All I want is to bring my horses as much pleasure as they bring me; to be fair to them.