Lauren entered the show ring for her first time in the spring of 1999. She was riding the small Shetland pony pictured above named Buckwheat. As you can see from the picture it was not a classic horse show outfit but one hastily put together from what we had and what we were able to borrow.
Prior to my divorce, Ally had been taking riding lessons a prestigious hunter/jumper barn in Melbourne, Florida. After the divorce, we did not have the money to continue training at that barn. Instead, so that we all could ride I had purchased my first Florida horse, a beautiful black Thoroughbred cross mare named Silver. I never knew why she was called that. Her papers went back to Man O’War so that was good enough for me. We kept her at a county park which had boarding facilities. Both Ally and Lauren started taking lessons with the resident trainer, Renee. As a county facility this was not where the big hunter/jumper riders boarded their horses, but it had inexpensive stalls, multiple arenas, miles of trails to ride and cross-section of clientele.
When the first horse show was scheduled that spring, we got caught up in the excitement and both girls wanted to take part. Trainer Renee said young Lauren could use her pony. Now take a good look at the picture. One stirrup is literally tied on with hay string. Lauren’s jacket is miles too big. True horse show buffs out there know she did not have on the right riding pants, she wasn’t sporting jodhpurs or the required garters. Her helmet was too big and her hair was a mess. These all could be deductions from the judge’s score card.
Lauren got ready to go in the ring that day, to do a “walk only” class, meaning, all she had to do was walk her pony around, change directions when asked and line-up to be judged. Actually, that is a lot for a young rider and it takes a good and patient pony to not go too fast (child falls off) or too slow (doesn’t move) neither of which will earn the blue ribbon. Jordyn is not ready for a “walk only” class yet-or I don’t have the right pony so Lauren, at age six, was doing well.
As she entered the ring, I spotted Ally’s old trainer, Richard, from the high-dollar barn, sending three riders into the ring on little, fancy Welsh ponies. They were all dressed appropriately, had ribbons in their hair, new tack and jackets that fit. I figured Lauren was going to be a little disappointed with the outcome of the class.
The group was put through their paces. Lauren had her “game face” on and was working hard to execute exactly what the judge asked the group to do. The high-dollar ponies seemed a little more excitable and their little riders were having some issues getting them to stop, turn or just walk on.
The placings were announced and Lauren won the class. It was her first horse show and very first blue ribbon. She had beaten all of Richard’s riders. Ally and I also rode that day. We all had fun, picked up some ribbons and caught the show bug. We all wanted to do more.
The best part of the day was when the trainer, Richard, came and asked if he could buy Lauren’s ride of the day, Buckwheat. He told me he had cash, right now, sell the pony and he would take it home. Obviously, he wasn’t my pony to sell and Renee wasn’t interested. I was amazed at his offer. I guess Richard’s ponies were not earning the ribbons and Lauren’s pony did. He must have figured he could clip and braid and make Buckwheat into a fancy pony. At least one guaranteed to win for his demanding clients.
Since that day, Lauren and I have been in the same situation where we brought our horses to compete with well-bred “fancy” horses. We have gotten better tack, learned to dress the part and tried to understand the rules of what the judge is looking for in each class. We have never boarded at the prestigious barn. My little place in Wharton is not in anyone’s category of fancy. But it has worked for us. Pretty well, in fact.
Tomorrow, after a five month hiatus, Lauren and Mickey will be back in the show ring. I don’t know what will happen, if the little bay horse has recovered his health enough to be competitive with “fancy” horses. But I got to tell you my money is on that same determined little girl who entered the ring and won a walk class on a pony named Buckwheat a long time ago.