I loved this blog by Diane Wilson’s husband, a behind the scenes look from a spouse (a supportive spouse-what a rare bird). Thought you all would enjoy his perspective as well!
7 trips, two flats, and a drag
Nov 23rd, last show of the year, and it is a bitter cold, rainy, early morning at the Center. We have a tab at the Life is Good Cafe and I am running hot chocolate like a drug smuggler working on commission. You’ve see pictures of the trading floor of the stock market, with all of the guys jumping up and down holding papers overhead? That’s me, trying to place my order for hot chocolate behind a bundled lady in line in front of me, making small talk at the counter. The cold weather is a welcome change from the heat I keep telling myself, and a sign of the holiday season, but such arguments only make sense when holding a hot chocolate to complete the picture.
As the last show of the season, there was particular emphasis on equestrian fashion. As they say, it’s not just how good you do, it’s how good you look doing it. Lots had gotten gussied up for the occasion. Some were braided, many had glossy hoofs – you could tell they really got dressed up. Many wore “coolers” over their back ends while awaiting their turn in the ring. Some of them were – i am gonna say “fashion risks”. And I heard a bit of nickering in the warm up area too, so I am probably not the only one thinking it.
My favorite place to watch at the horse show is next to the steward’s stand. They act as kind of the air traffic controller of the ring, directing traffic in and out, announcing and dictating the action. “In the ring, number 619, class 64, low hunter young adult – judge this is your class.”. Delta heavy Six One Niner, I have you on approach, proceed to heading one eight four, level and wait for instruction. “Posting trot, turn at the walk, align your numbers to the outside, line up with your backs to the judge” It’s practically the same job.
Stewards have walkie talkies to communicate with the judge and stewards at other rings. Is Dev with you? I have priority. He just left me, heading over to you. Roger that. Every now and then someone will drive up in a cart, approach the steward’s stand to air a dispute in person. This is great theater. There are gestures, body language, sometimes raised voices, intonation, and sometimes people stand up or sit down dramatically. There is a whole range of human emotion that can’t be expressed with numbers over a walkie talkie which is suddenly released. An argument ensues, with someone when you know is just gonna cart away in a minute anyway, and it quickly concludes. It serves the same purpose as the firey halftime speech – it gets the blood boiling so you can finish strong.
My favorite part is when the steward has to lay down the smack on the riders. Things like: “If you trot into the ring, you are done, I will shut you down!” and “Dev you are on deck, Lindsey you are in the hole, Sara you follow Lindsey. ” Once I saw the steward put every single rider in the hole in succession – some of them multiple times. But there was no idle ring, so I guess it works!
My favorite thing I have ever heard a steward say was in response to a rider who asked him, “How long do I have?” to which he responded “Seven trips, two flats, and a drag” which is code for “I have no clue how long you have”. But it had a lyrical quality to it, and if I had a guitar with me and knew how to play it, I just might’ve strummed up the tune of George Thorogood’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” right then and there. My version might’ve gone “Seven Trippps, two flaaaaats, and one beeeeeeeer!” because, well years of singing along with that song have worn a groove at that particular point. I don’t know why it hasn’t been declared the official anthem of Texas yet, but it’s a wrong I hope to right sometime in my lifetime. But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, at the steward stand.
The other reason I am fond of it, is that’s where they give out the ribbons and prizes. The last weekend of the season we did really well, winning champion of the division both days, in a field of 8 and 7. So that’s a pretty good haul of ribbons, and since I’ve been doing this a while, I’ve found a good way to carry all those ribbons while keeping my hands free by clipping them to my pockets. And it ‘s a good thing, because this time the prizes for first place were potted pink flowers, which took both hands to cradle them to my chest. So can you imagine the scene as I tried to carry all this back to the stall? There I’d be, wearing my cowboy boots and dungarees, shuffling down the aisle, literally dripping with machismo and rugged individualism, calling out to the missus, “Darlin’! Darlin’! They decorated me like a Christmas tree!”
I have to say though, it has been a really successful season. We’ve achieved goals I didn’t even know we had. What’s a circuit champion? Well, it means you get “this”. Oh cool, I like being circuit champion. That’s the best kind of goal, the kind that chases you instead of the other way around. In fact, we’ve had such a successful year, I had to fight the urge to start trash talking. Not that I am a big trash-talker, but I am a guy, and well, that trait is part of the equation. “In your face! Um, Diverse Luke” or, “You call that a change? My grandmother moves better than that!” I restrained myself of course. I didn’t want to inspire a new GHHJA rule against taunting, and anyway, I’m not sure the horses would even understand they got served.
I know it’s not gonna always be like that of course, and I have to admit I’ve grown fond of some of the members in our division, and I even recognize some of them, and sometimes when the steward announces who is in the ring, I can say “I knew that.” So all in all, good year, I could get used to this.