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    Getting Back in the Show Ring

    I’ve been waiting a LONG time for this! I haven’t been in the show ring since since I was 10 years old. Back then I was riding Western and let’s just say that my prior show experience was not stellar. If you can imagine all manner of mishaps (loose girth, saddle drifting sideways, pony rearing up and generally freaking out) you get an idea of what my prior show days were like. Somehow I still managed to come home with a few fifth place pink ribbons, which I am convinced were awarded out of sheer sympathy and perhaps a nod to my girlish grit, if nothing else!

    Nevertheless, I could not shake the dream of one day learning to show jump. I took the first step toward that dream in my late twenties, when I started in formal lessons. I bought a show horse who I thought would be my show jumping partner (that’s a whole other story, and most definitely its own post in terms of lessons learned!) And then, the biggest blessing of my life arrived with the birth of my children. For all of the best reasons, horses were on the back burner for a very long time.

    So here I am in midlife, still as obsessed as ever with this dream of mine. And I’m thrilled to be closer to it than ever. I’ve been back in lessons for a year now. I started at the foundation and decided to just approach it all with a ‘beginners mind’. And while I’m not ready for show jumping just yet, it’s time to get back in the show ring with the walk/trot classes!

    First Hunter Schooling Show

    And so, on a beautiful September morning, we arrived at the barn before the sun came up to load the horses and hit the road. And we were off! I was still pinching myself. No matter that I was barely awake, having only slept for three hours out of sheer excitement, I was loving every part of this experience already!

    Following the horse trailer on the way to the show

    Once we arrived at the show facility, we unloaded the horses, tack, and all the things. We had three horses in our group and it was so nice to have a stall area where we could hang out together. The lesson horse I was riding, Soco, is a total pro. He unloaded and got busy munching hay in his stall. He was completely unfazed with this new environment. Exactly what I needed for my first time out!

    Morning Warm Up

    After the horses were settled in, we walked out to get a look at the arena where we would be doing our morning schooling. I was really surprised to find I wasn’t nervous. I think I was just so happy to be there and I had zero expectations for myself other than enjoying the experience.

    Next it was time to get a little schooling in before the start of the show. One of the horses in our group was a younger mare, Rosie, who was also getting her first show experience. With all of his show miles, Soco was a great partner for me, and a great teacher to Rosie.

    I had so much fun with Soco. The whole time, I couldn’t stop smiling. All I could think of while I was riding was “I can’t believe I’m really here!!” It was such a joy to stay present in the moment, and take in the beautiful fall day we had been blessed with.

    Hurry Up and Wait

    When we had finished schooling, it was time to get ready. We changed out the horse’s tack, changed into our show clothes and got our numbers tied on. Then we made our way over the to the arena for the start of the show! I had decided to do several walk/trot classes, (walk/trot under saddle, equitation over poles, and walk/trot equitation.) I’ll save the canter classes for my next time out!

    Do you know the scene from the move Elf where Will Farrell’s character is singing this? “I’m singing in a store, I’m in a store and I’m singing?” Ok, well, that was me, in my head, while I waiting for my class to start. Except my tune was “I’m singing, at a horse show, I’m at a horse show and I’m singing…” (All the while, trying to keep my face looking serious.) Good thing I kept that to myself. Let’s just say, I was very happy to be there!

    It’s Time!

    Once it was time to go in, things started moving quickly. My classes were mostly back to back, and the show organizers did a great job keeping everyone moving efficiently from one class to another. Even though my pole class was super basic, and I had practiced the courtesy circle both directions, I did have to take a minute to get my bearings before I entered the arena. When I finally got in there though, it all just flowed!

    I was both shocked and absolutely thrilled to place in all of my classes. Even more shocked to place first in the poles! And yes, even at my age, I still really like the ribbons! Especially when they are blue and red! I’m so thankful to Soco for giving me such an amazing experience and grateful to my trainer for helping me grow as a rider! It was truly the best day!