I did a year of IHSA showing in college – my senior year. Long story short, I had stopped riding through high school and into college, and started riding again during my year abroad in France. When I returned stateside, I joined the college team and went headlong back into horse obsession.
|Coach telling me…something that did not penetrate into my brain. Borrowed coat, non-ASTM helmet, and oh God I still have such clear memories of how tight that stupid ass collar on the borrowed show shirt was. Owwwwwwwww.|
I was our stalwart walk-trot rider, because while I had a decent amount of riding experience I had zero polish and more importantly, zero show record. When you sign up for IHSA, there are formulas you can use to place riders in certain categories. Having a rider in each category is how teams gain points to win at shows.
|Coach giving me last-minute instructions and adjusting my stirrups, team captain doing…something helpful. Please note my rubber riding boots. I still have those around somewhere.|
My college’s team was so tiny we almost never filled our classes, so it was good for us to have a walk-trot rider, and if you’ve learned anything about me through this blog it should be that I have zero ego about these things. I was also not jumping at the time after a very bad fall in France, so being the baby steps flat rider suited me to the ground.
|Clearly I screwed up something, and I am trying to explain myself, and Coach is just giving up on me. Pretty standard conversation between us at IHSA shows.|
I really loved it, actually. I mean, it sucked in a lot of ways – I am not and never will be a hunter rider, and the whole show scene was not my thing. Because of our location way the hell up in Vermont we had to leave for shows at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. I remember distinctly sitting in the team van at 3:30 am one Sunday, shivering and miserable, and looking out the window to see someone doing the walk of shame back to their dorm room, still drunk. Clearly she had had a better Saturday night than I had, in bed at 8:00 pm to get at least a few hours of sleep.
|Seriously you guys I am not a hunter. Even that saintly pony is unimpressed.|
I took my riding seriously, and fell in love with dressage while riding for the team, but I did not take showing seriously, to the dismay of Coach. I actually at one point informed her cheerily that I was aiming for fifth place at a particular show, because I hadn’t earned that color ribbon yet. I thought she was actually going to murder me. In public. With witnesses. (That was neither the first nor the last time she felt that way about me, I bet.)
|HUNTER HUNTER HUNTER. Jesus that poor pony.|
But I loved the people, and I loved being back with the horses. It saved my sanity through my spring finals, and it put me directly on the path toward getting Tristan, and for that I am grateful. The year after I graduated, I worked in the area and served as a sort of assistant coach for the team, by which I do not mean that I had any actual horse expertise, but rather that I traveled a lot with the team and schlepped and generally helped out. I loved that. It was a good way to stay connected and keep learning even after I graduated.
|Damn straight that saintly pony put me in second place. I pointed up to WTC at that show, too.|
Did you do IHSA? Any seminal memories? Do you think it contributed to your development as a rider, or was mostly just “meh”?