ihsa · throwback thursday

Throwback Thursday: IHSA Showing

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┬átake 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”?

throwback thursday

Throwback Thursday: Sly

I think there are horses that you love, and there are horses you fall in love with.
This is Sly, aka “Sylvester Rap,” an Appendix that remains one of the most special horses I have ever encountered. By the time I met him, he had a long career behind him in nearly every discipline and was the consummate dressage schoolmaster. He had the chops and the gaits to go up to FEI level, but his heart was stronger than his body and he just couldn’t stay sound.
I leased Sly for two years and he taught me more than I can say. It was after he finally went irretrievably lame that I decided to adopt Tristan. I still worked on rehabbing Sly even as I started Tristan, and in the first few months when my relationship with Tris was still rocky, it was Sly’s shoulder I went to cry on.
Which is not to say that Sly could not be a mischievous, naughty, and spunky little brat. He was the horse that could buck for the joy of it – he could perform the most incredible acrobatics above ground while keeping you perfectly centered and balanced in the saddle – or he could buck to dump you. And when it was the latter, you were gone within a stride or two. End of story. He was the epitome of the push button horse whose buttons were very particular and very difficult to find.
He is unfortunately also my lesson in “better a day too early than a day too late.” He was let go too late, and the memory of watching him try to canter to the gate from his corner of the pasture, eyes still bright but body clearly failing by the day, still brings me to tears.
Even all these years later, I miss him.