Back at the start of fall Trainer A took a position as coach of the University of Washington’s western equestrian team. The team competes in special shows organized by the IHSA where riders are required to compete on mounts they’ve never ridden before—so riders draw from a pool of horses in the morning, watch the horses get warmed up by their owners, and then have a brief chance to ask questions before they mount up and are sent into their classes.
It’s an awesome (and unconventional) idea, so when Trainer A announced that the last collegiate show of the season was happening in Lynden and she needed warm up riders, I jumped on the opportunity. I would’ve loved to take Ezhno if he was sound, but Belle the Pony loves horse shows and was more than happy to be my partner in crime for the weekend.
So the Show Buddy and I woke up at a ridiculously early hour on Saturday morning and trekked up north to the same place we competed in November! We found the horses chilling in their stalls at the fair grounds, had the horses tacked up, and then grabbed Belle and Boston so that we could ride in the over fences warm up.
We accidentally went into the arena when the jumps were set for the open division (2’9″ is SCARY), then ducked out until the jumps were lowered. Boston was entered in intermediate (2’6″) and the Show Buddy has only jumped him a couple of times, so she was nervous to warm him up over them, but they sailed over the red jump with the brick wall without any problems. Unfortunately, Boston made a solid decision throughout the day that the pink jump was the spawn of Satan, so…
The Pony was in novice (2’3″), so we made it through our warm up with only a bit of trouble at the oxer (I lost my guts at the last second, she almost stopped at the base and then jumped anyways LOL).
From there the classes kicked off! It was a lot of fun to answer questions about the Pony’s quirks and all of the riders that drew the Pony were ridiculously friendly and enamored with her tiny cuteness. Plus I was super proud of the Pony because she did a great job of taking care of all of them, even if they hadn’t jumped in a few months or were super nervous.
Since Boston and Belle were used in the jumping portion of the day, that left Ivy and Coda for the flat classes. I tucked Belle away in her stall and then went back out to the arena to watch the Show Buddy ride Ivy in the warm up, plus check out the other horses. It was really interesting to see the variety of horses that had been donated to the show, and by the end of the first day of the competition the Show Buddy and I had picked out at least two horses each that we wanted to take home with us.
After an awesome dinner and a night spent talking with the Show Buddy, we were pulling back into the fair grounds for western day! There was a mix up about the warm up time, so the Show Buddy and I got there just in time to rush in and mount up (after a frantic change of tack, since they’d managed to mix up saddles on almost all of our horses). The Pony and I walked/jogged/loped our way around the arena while people cooed over how cute she looked from the bleachers.
The western classes were organized so that the competitors participated in a standard rail class, then lined up at the end to perform a pattern. The patterns for the advanced riders were complex, requiring counter canter circles, halt to canter transitions, and no stirrup work. It didn’t matter, though, because our horses were kicking ass and taking names on Sunday; every time we sent a horse into the arena, their rider came out with a first place ribbon!
Unfortunately, we only had the chance to get through the first five or six classes of the day before the snow outside started piling up. People started to get nervous and soon we were milling about in the warm up arena, waiting for news on whether or not the show was going to be cancelled while the staff rushed to get through all of the classes that affected regional placings.
Once they officially called it, chaos erupted. Stalls were stripped, ponies were untacked, and equipment was hauled out through the snow to the trailers. I came outside to find my tiny car entrenched in snow and all of the trailer doors frozen shut. Then Trainer A had to fight with her truck’s four wheel drive and we all had a moment of horror when we finally got the trailer opened and realized that snow had gotten into the trailer through the windows.
It was all a bit of a nightmare, but we got the horses out safely and, despite the ups and downs, I had a fun time and wouldn’t hesitate to go to one of these IHSA shows again—so long as it’s not in Lynden in the depths of winter! ❄