I wasn’t always the saavy dressage rider that I am today (LMAO). I had to start somewhere. This story tells of one my “somewheres”.
Long ago and in the beginning of my foray into dressage, my girlfriend and I entered a large show with our two quarter horses. My horse at the time was old enough to both vote and drink but he was still sound enough and willing. We had both been to local shows and had decided to go to a big show, just for the heck of it and as something to do in the summer. Well not only did we pick a big show, we picked one with Olympic qualifying events. This show also offered training level classes as well as a dressage seat equitation class so we figured we’d enter into those.
In order to get better you must surround yourself with tougher competition, right?
From the beginning it proved an adventure. We packed up just about everything we owned for the trip which was long enough to warrant an overnight stop at a relatives farm. After we unloaded the horses from “the tampon” (our nickname for my long red horse trailer) we put the horses into stalls and made sure they were comfy cozy. But when we went to unhook the trailer, the landing gear ceased working and the wheel was stuck in the down position. We ended up having to remove the wheel and had to use a car jack to jack it up and down.
That should have been a sign for us, but in our excitement we were oblivious to the warning.
The next morning we jacked the trailer back onto the truck and loaded the horses up. My old truck did the best it could fully loaded with passengers, a heavy steel trailer, hay, two horses and equipment. When it had to pull up a steep hill I could swear I heard it cough. The day was going to be hot, and the trip to the show grounds found us switching the air conditioning on and off depending on whether we were going up hill or down.
We pulled into the show grounds and immediately realized that coming to this show may have been a mistake. The set up was spectacular with huge white tents next to multiple show rings. The barn was brand new and looked more like a palatial estate than a barn, and it came complete with a huge fountain in the entry.
My barns never had fountains.
Many of the people roaming around the grounds wore dresses and sported designer dogs and big floppy hats – the type you would see at Churchill Downs on Derby day. There were V.I.P. dining cafes and it was all topped off by the British announcer on the P.A. speaking the Kings English.
We had parked the trailer and settled the horses before we made our way to the secretaries stand to register and check in. The secretary had a line in front of her which had apparently made her cranky. Very cranky. When our turn finally came we approached the secretary who seemed to be a thousand years old. My girlfriend and her husband stepped up to the desk first.
The next part seemed to happen so quick. I’m not really sure of what was said but before I knew it there was yelling and lots of it on the part of the show secretary. My friends tried to talk to her and with the passing of some time and more yelling they were finally done. As they turned to leave my girlfriends husband decided to show his displeasure with the show secretary. Please understand that he was unfamiliar with the horsey set and protocol and so this woman meant nothing to him other than being rude to him. He decided to end their encounter by being rude back. Real rude.
So he turned to leave but instead bent over, backed up a step, artfully placed his buttocks on the secretaries desk and tooted the butt bugle. It was loud and it was bold and there was no mistaking what it was, and the secretary had a front row orchestra seat.
I had been looking down at my paperwork waiting for my turn when I heard it. I know I winced and thought “Please God, please don’t be what I think that is”.
But alas it was.
My friends dashed out in a hurry. I was still waiting to check in. I tried to pretend that I didn’t know them and I had not realized what had happened and that I hadn’t heard the butt bugle. But the jig was up when she saw I was from the same home town. I tried to smile awkwardly and was as friendly as I could manage.
Amazingly, the passage of gas seemed to have mellowed her some, and she finished my paperwork quickly and quietly. I’m astonished nothing more ever came of it.
This event also should have been a sign to me, but in my excitement I was oblivious to the warning.
I decided to do my best to preserve whatever dignity I had left from that point on, but that was not to be.
We returned to the trailer and began our routine to get ready. I was going to do my best to fit in so I wrapped ole quarter horse legs in brand spanking new white polo wraps and then began my warm up.
In retrospect it was like covering a car dent with a bumper sticker.
My girlfriend also started her warm up when we heard the familiar British voice on the PA announcing that due to the heat, jackets were waived. Cool.
Time for the first class. I went trotting in, all happy and focused, ready to give a spiffy halt at X. Instead, I was met with a whistle. I hadn’t expected it, and just sort of continued on to X and halted all snazzy like. I bowed, and again a whistle.
I looked to the judge hut and saw an elder man lift to his feet. Then he began to yell at me with a thick German accent. I couldn’t understand what he was saying and watched him then walk annoyingly over, scolding me to take the wraps off my horse.
(Looking back, it would have been the perfect moment for comedian Bill Engvill to tell me “Here’s your sign”.)
I exited the ring and someone took the horses wraps off. I regrouped as best I could and came trotting in again, red faced, and managed to pull off an almost snazzy halt at X.
The rest of the test was uneventful, and I plodded through, looking no where near as glamorous as any other horse on the property.
Truly, I was the red dot on a black wall.
Next, my girlfriend. She came trotting in all snazzy and focused ready to give a spiffy halt at X. She too was met with a whistle. She too had no idea why.
She looked to the judge hut and once more an elder man lifted to his feet. Then he began to yell at her in a thick German accent. She couldn’t understand what he was saying and we watched him walk annoying over, scolding her to take off the stock tie, that when jackets are waived, you must also take off your stock tie.
(Bill Engvill now gives out “sign” number two)
She exited the ring and someone took her stock tie. She regrouped as best she could and came trotting in again, red faced, and managed to pull off an almost snazzy halt at X. The rest of her test was uneventful too.
The class over it was clear neither one of us were going to place. Nope, not among all the fancy schmancy horses in this fancy schmancy show. We were truly two red dots on a black wall.
After she was done we just kind of looked at each other and busted out laughing. In the absence of dignity, there was still humor.
We entered the next class and at some point each of us went off course. And of course, once more the whistle blew.
I had the feeling that if the judge could he’d run us off the show grounds.
Except for both of us going off course, the rest of our tests were uneventful. Neither of us placed.
In the dressage seat equitation there were only the two of us in the class. The poor judge had the choice of me or her. You could tell it killed him to have to place either of us first. I ended up in first and won a trophy dressage whip. Months later, a fancy schmancy glossy booklet got mailed to me, and there inside was my name printed as the big bad winner of the equitation class. It felt absurd.
As we walked back to the trailer I turned to her and said “Okay, this is our story. We came here and it was a big class. We did good and held our own. In the eq class we got first and second out of ten. In the other tests we scored high 50’s and low 60‘s. Deal?” She turned and said “Deal”.
We bummed around for a few hours and then packed all our crap back up, looking again like the Beverly Hillbillies as we pulled out after once more jacking up the trailer to hook it up.
Two red dots on a black wall.
(Or would that be two dressage rednecks on a black wall? Here’s our sign!)
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