by Annette Dashofy
Most of my teenage years were spent around a barn. Typical of lots of young girls, I loved horses. When I was little, I would gallop around the house on all fours and whinny at my mom. As I grew older, I would gallop around outside, pretending my legs were a horse and the rest of my body was me RIDING said horse. Finally, I convinced my folks to get me the real thing. We lived on a farm. The excuse of having nowhere to keep one just didn’t work after age eight or so.
I joined 4H and showed at the fair and a few other horse shows. But I never really found my niche. Game classes like barrels and pole bending required a love for speed. I tended to prefer poking along at a more leisurely pace. But the classes to which I was drawn—western pleasure and equitation—required a lot of training and grooming and clipping and polishing… In other words, they were way too much like work. So I shifted to trail riding. Haul the horse to a park or just jump on its back and head into the woods. No hoof polish required.
However, I had friends who showed. Some showed in games, some in pleasure. And they were good at it. I enjoyed the horse show atmosphere, so I would tag along and play groom, holding the horse, watering the horse, dusting off boots after the rider mounted, just prior to entering the ring. I’d found my niche! Horse show gofer!
After twenty-five years of owning horse, we decided to give it up. I’d list our reasons, but it would take up too much space. Suffice it to say it was time. For some reason, when I no longer owned a horse, many of my friends who did drifted away. And so, for over ten years, I did not attend a horse show.
Until this weekend.
My friend, Jessi, who trains Thoroughbreds at the track and who has patiently answered my questions about racing and life on the backside of Mountaineer for my writing endeavors, has become a horseshow mom. Sunday was their third show. (Note: I was supposed to go with them to a show a couple of weeks ago, but THIS came up and kept me at home). It was a fun show with peewee classes and game classes. No serious pleasure or equitation classes at this one. Jessi’s son Dylan rode Nappy pony leadline in the only real equitation class held and came away with a third place ribbon!
He also won a second in Egg and Spoon, which had also been one of my favorites way back when. You hold a spoon with an egg balanced in it and the last one to lose their egg wins.
Between classes, I held Nappy, who smiled for the camera.
Jessi’s youngest Mallory wants to show, too, but is just a tad too little (read: uncooperative) yet. But she’s cute as a bug and enjoyed sitting on Nappy. That’s big sister, Lauren peering over Nappy’s rump.
Lauren needs a slightly bigger mount, but still had fun running Nappy in some of the game classes. He looks like he’s really flying here. Aren’t camera angles wonderfully deceptive things? Truthfully, for as short as his legs are, the pony does have some speed.
To make my return to the horse show life even more joyful, I ran into an old friend there. “Old” as in “have known her a long time.” Karen, who was one of my friends who ran games, is now bringing her kids to horse shows. And she also brought the grandson of the mare she used to ride when we were younger.
Karen’s sister, Mary, was there, too. We used to all trail ride together. It was a blast to see them again after all these years.
So perhaps the adage about not being able to go home again doesn’t apply to all things. It definitely doesn’t apply to horse shows.
And just as proof that I DID actually ride in western pleasure, here are a couple of old photos of my late, great mare, Jenny, with me at a show more years ago than I care to count.