Friday, October 12, 2012


As the blood ran from my finger and dripped on my newly polished show boots, I thought to myself that the gods were against me from making it into the show ring that day.

The day had started out okay.   Although a dressage rider typically, I am between two levels, so I decided to attend a local hunter show so my horse would remember show rings were not scary.   My classes were in the afternoon so I was able to leisurely hook up my trailer and head to the show grounds.  My only issue was that I had recently torn the cartilage in my knee so getting on my horse was a bit tricky – but I knew I could get some help so I wasn’t too worried.  So hobbling on my crutches, I signed up for my two classes and headed back to the trailer.  

After pulling my trusty horse Golly out of the trailer, I gave him his final beauty treatments and saddled him up.  It was then that I realized I had forgotten my stock tie.   This wouldn’t be a big deal except that with the temperatures hitting the 90’s for the first time that year I had decided to just wear a plain sleeveless t-shirt under my jacket so the stock tie was essential to hide the casual attire.  

Ah well… a quick phone call to my husband solved the problem.   He would run it by the show grounds on his way to another errand.  Day saved!  Or so I thought….

With one problem solved I turned to getting dressed as much as I could while waiting for the stock tie.  I usually have problems getting the zipper up on my boots.   I was pleasantly surprised when they quickly zipped up and didn’t even feel tight!  My glee quickly ended though when I realized the zipper was split wide open to the back!  Not only was the zipper shot, the zip was all the way to the top so I couldn’t get the boot off without somehow jimmying the zipper back down to the bottom.   

That’s when I got the dumb idea to try to use safety pins to hold the back of the boot closed.  While maneuvering the pin into the zipper, I stabbed my finger and must have hit a nice vein.  Blood shot out from the finger and splattered on my shiny black boots.  Safety pins did not seem to be the answer.  After cleaning the blood from my boots, I pried them off my legs and then just sat on the edge of the trailer laughing at my predicament.  Surely I was not meant to enter this show.  I should just go home and consider it “one of those days”.

Nope – my hard head prevailed.   Barefoot and with my crutches I hobbled over to my neighboring trailer, and asked “Hey, you don’t happen to have any black duct tape, do you?”  Looking up from his sandwich with a look of “hey weirdo”… he responded, “Nope.. no duct tape.”

Hobbling to the trailer on the other side, I asked again, “Hey, you don’t happen to have any black duct tape?”   Success!  While it was not much they had probably just enough to patch my boots back together.   Shoving my foot back into the boot I eagerly starting taping up the back only to find that duct tape does not stick to newly greased boots.  Another setback.

My friendly neighbors, noticing that I was taping up my boots – or at least failing at taping up my boots – came to my rescue again.  “Hey, I think I have an extra pair of boots if you want borrow them.”   Thankful, but not hopeful, I returned, “That would be great but my one calf is huge due to a horse kick so I need a 17” calf.  No chance of you having that!”

“Hah,  you would be surprised.  My calves are even bigger and I had these custom altered – they may work.”  Digging back behind a pile of long unused tack, she pulls out a moldy pair of boots.  “They are dirty but if you are willing to clean them you can give them a try.”

Still not hopeful I headed back to my trailer only to realize that they are going to require boot pulls which I don’t  have.  But I DO have two hoof picks which handily hook into the loops and ease the boots onto my calves.  They fit like they were built for me!   Yes!

Two seconds later my hopes are dashed again as I stand up and realize the sole of the boot is not at all attached to the boot.  But wait!   I still have some duct tape.   A few quick additions of duct tape and I have a nearly custom pair of boots.   Ten minutes later with some saddle soap, which I just happened to have in the trailer, and elbow grease they actually look pretty good! 

I’d love to say that I sailed into the sunset with champion ribbons but that would too good of an ending.  However, I did get into my classes and placed a respectable fourth out of ten horses.  Not bad for a short warmup and shoot.. I didn’t even think I’d make it into the class!  Crutches, missing apparel, split boots, borrowed boots, repaired boots.   I had hit them all.

Later when I got home I realized that it was tenacity that got me through the day.  I could have given up at any point in the day but each time a stumbling block arose I found some way around it.

Much of horse training requires tenacity.   I don’t have the fanciest horse.  I am fairly certain he was an Amish cart horse in his first life.  He was not built to be light on his feet or to dance under a rider.  Despite this I decided to turn him into a dressage horse.  Probably not the best move but with a full-time job and three active kids I needed a horse that I could ride safely whether I rode him every day or two weeks passed.   He fit the bill.

My instructor repeatedly told me that I needed a new horse if I was going to get anywhere with dressage.  This horse was not going to get me there.  I knew however that my horse was going to keep me safe and I just kept plugging at it.  Four years into this dressage experiment, my instructor is singing a different tune.  We both agree he is still not built to do the job I chose for him.  However, he is a pleasant steady horse that understands his job and tries hard and more amateur riders need a good safe horse like him.

Dressage is meant to be a life long pursuit of the pyramid of training.   Its not meant to be a quick rise to the top.   It requires tenacity of both horse and rider.    Steadily plug away at the obstacles put in front of you – whether they are confirmation or equipment obstacles – or whatever personal obstacles you have – keep plugging – tenacity will get you there. 

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