Oh, Texas… this wasn’t my first time taking a trip to the hellish landscapes of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but I’m sort of hoping it’ll be my last. #TOOHOT #TOOHUMID #NOTHANKS
Plans for this trip have been in the makings for many months now—since back when I was grooming for TrainerA at KW. The idea was to take three of TrainerA’s 4-H students down to the APHA Youth World Show to give them (and their parents) an idea of what it would take to compete at a higher level. They’re a great group of girls/moms, so when TrainerA invited me along I figured why not?
I was traveling with limited luggage space, so I went back and forth about whether or not I should bring my camera with me, but I’m glad I did. My ISO doesn’t go high enough and my junky old camera’s too slow to take a lot of great action shots in an indoor arena, but I got a lot of great photos of Paint Horse faces (and learned a lot about how to edit out noise in the process).
The horses were BEAUTIFUL. When it came down to it, though, the APHA Youth World Show was… well, just another show—albeit with a far away venue, more expensive classes, and a higher caliber of competitors. I felt like, with the right horse and more practice, any of the 4-H girls could have competed, and I think it was good for them to see that it was a very obtainable goal for them.
My time at the show as great. Back at the Airbnb, though, I felt awkward. I was too old to watch YouTube videos or splash around in the pool with the teens, but I didn’t have anything to add to the adult conversations about step up horses and the cost of brand new show outfits, either. I was stuck between two groups that I could overhear, but that weren’t meant for me. Most of the time I wrote instead.
On our last night at the Airbnb everyone gathered together for a powwow about their plans for the next few show seasons. TrainerA gave the girls a speech about putting in the work that would need to happen to get them to Pinto Worlds in the next two years. I was excited for them, but sad at the same time. Their goals weren’t my goals; the journey they were about to take wasn’t a path that I could walk with them.
The next day we went up to Pilot Point, an area about an hour north of our Airbnb where all of the big name pleasure trainers have their farms, and spent a whole day going from tack shop to tack shop. I loved it. The stores were huge and had a ridiculous selection to pick from. I made me realize that Texas really is a western riding mecca—and that I’d love to find the English equivalent somewhere in the United States.
The money was hard, though. I had to be careful how much I spent on meals, which didn’t leave room for any splurges. While the girls picked up new tack, accessories, and outfits, thoughts of my bone dry bank accounts held me back. The only superfluous item I came back with was a mew custom halter for Raglan, and even that I had to justify by reminding myself that I was using all of my accrued sick leave to pay for part of the trip to Texas. I walked out of store after store with empty hands to match my empty wallet.
I booked my flight through a budget airline, which saved me $150 but also left me in Dallas for an extra day. I parted company from the rest of the group at the last gas station before the airport. While they filled up the rental car, I walked to a Starbucks to kill time before I checked into my hostel.
As I sat alone, sipping my refresher and looking down at my planner, I felt strangely numb about my time in Texas. I reflected back over the trip while I swirled the ice around in my drink, my mood pensive.
I felt like I was trying to be part of a family that I didn’t belong in. I wondered whether or not there was a place for me in my lesson program anymore; we have very few students that are interested in jumping, let alone penniless twenty-somethings. I want so badly to experience the feeling of having a large “show family”—but maybe the emotions that I’m pining for aren’t realistic, anyways.
Either way, I feel better now that I’m back home, so maybe that was just the Lone Star State talking.