I had a lot of firsts this past year. I had my first rounds of chemo; my first major surgery; my first time walking with and without a walker; and my first time getting tattoos for radiation. The list could go on and on. But no one would want to read that. However, so far this past year my favorite first was the first time I was able to ride in a horse show with Joe.
I haven’t been in a show since July of 2013. I couldn’t ride, let alone show, after my knee surgery. By the time I was ready to get back into the ring, my lungs had other plans. Thankfully Joe showed up at the right time: when I was finally able to start riding again. It’s funny how things work out.
The plan at this weekend’s show was that my trainer would ride Joe in the 2’6” division, which included the hunter classic and a couple other things. In non-horse show terms, she would jump him in a couple classes and then do the walk, trot, canter flat classes. I would ride in the pleasure classes later in the day. I had planned to get to the show later in the morning. I wanted to rest before my classes. I asked a friend to film Joe jumping since I knew I would have to conserve my energy. However, as I was trying to rest at home I was getting restless.
We decided to head to the show. Luckily we got there in time to watch my trainer ride Joe in all their classes. I was so excited to see them strut their stuff. After a jumping class most people just clap and I was that person yelling. Maybe that’s why everyone kept staring at our section. When they announced that Joe won the Hunter Classic we all were cheering and screaming. Every time they announced that he placed in something we all were yelling. The funniest was when they announced his show name, which is DiMaggio. If you know sports or baseball, it’s a very famous name. However, his name went from DiMaggio to Dihaggia. I couldn’t stop laughing when they said my trainer’s name and then Dihaggia. By the last time someone from our barn yelled, “ IT’S DIMAGGIO!!” I quickly yelled after, “ That wasn’t me!”
After watching those classes we had lunch. We watched more of the show and began waiting. It’s always the same at every show: hurry up and then wait. We waited and waited and waited. As more and more horses were in the ring jumping and schooling I knew it was going to be a long afternoon. Fortunately I was used to waiting around and hanging out. Spending time in the hospital or waiting for various appointments helps with that. Finally it was time to start getting ready.
I got Joe ready and had lots of help from the other girls from the barn where we ride together. Both my trainers told me they would strategically place themselves at both ends of the ring to help me. As soon as I got on Joe and walked into the ring with the 13 other people, I saw his eyes get wider and wider. If you have ever met Joe you know his eyes are huge. When I saw the white in his eyes I knew he was going to be up. Plus my trainer warned me that he was moving quicker than I what I was used to. We started with a simple walk around the ring to get use to it before the judging began. It wasn’t until we walked by the one end and someone cheered, that we had our first, “Oh shit!” moment. Joe spooked at something and I knew it would be an interesting ride.
I was signed up to do three classes, which included walking, trotting, and cantering. In all three classes Joe decided to crow hop, which is like a small buck. I knew as soon as he threw the first one, it was going to be one hell of a ride. The best was when I was near people who knew me that he started crow hopping to the point that everyone thought, “That’s it. She is done and she’s going to fall off.” Well I am a happy to report that I did not fall off, thank God. I am not sure what happened but I was able to keep it together and stay on. Each time we went into the middle of the ring when they announced who won, all I thought was, “thank God we survived!” In the final class there was a part where you could do two jumps. I decided to do the walk, trot, canter part and watch the other people jump. There was no way I was asking him to jump after the shit he just pulled while we were trying to do the basic stuff.
Some people would have walked out of the ring crying or would have been really pissed off at what had just happened. I walked out of the ring saying, “well we certainly were a shit show today and that happens.” There were so many elements that were out of my control. Joe isn’t used to riding in an indoor ring with lots of other horses. He is still getting used to his new lifestyle and me. He had a lot of energy and did not like it when other riders got too close to him and broke our personal space bubble.
What I learned is that I am very similar to Joe. I don’t like being surrounded by lots of people I do not know. If you break my personal space bubble or are too much in my face, I will turn on you quickly. Instead of a crow hop I usually just snap. I don’t like loud noises or people who are obnoxiously loud. We both were nervous and we didn’t know what to expect. We can’t control everything that happens to us in our lives but we can control how we react to them. Instead of freaking out at what was happening to me in the ring, I kept calm and just moved forward. I went to the show for experience in the ring. I learn something each time I get in the saddle. At the end of the day, Joe was just being Joe and he still was a champion, literally. I have the ribbons to prove it. Life is a journey and sometimes we have to learn to just enjoy the ride. Even if sometimes it’s a lot more bouncy than we anticipated.