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March 9, 2011

Celebration

The riders of StoneHaven celebrate a successful 2010 show season: (from left) Samantha Howell, Rachel Buckley, Morgan Bessette, trainer Tara Valade, Melissa Woolpert and Karen Clark. Photo by Elizabeth Howell.

It’s been a busy month of business travel, which has taken me away from visiting with all of you—I hate it when that happens! On the horse side of life, we had our Vermont Hunter Jumper annual awards banquet last month. It gave us a good excuse to get dressed up in the middle of the winter and celebrate the 2010 horse show season.

I’m sure many of you across the country plan or attend similar functions. It’s always an interesting experience to see horse people clean, sans helmet and wearing dress-up clothes. There’s that awkward moment when you try to figure out, “Is that….?” Because without the helmet and breeches, who knows?

The kids and juniors were decked out. The little kids were adorable in dresses that would make any flower girl envious. There was lots of spinning, ringlet curls and Shirley Temples for everyone.

The juniors made my heart ache. These were the riders that I’d watched all summer long. I’d seen them nail a course with confidence. I’d seen them goof off with their horses and barn mates at horse shows. And I’d seen them exhausted at the end of a long show day. I was not prepared to see them in make-up, high heels and short dresses looking well beyond their teen years!

Why the heartache? Look at them! When do the twirly dresses turn into form-fitting above-the-knee dresses? Breeches, jackets and helmets offer parents some protection from the reality that these children are galloping toward adulthood at a pace more terrifying than a Level 5 jumper.

The evening was full of tricolored ribbons, perpetual trophies and the horse show of the year award going to our very own Missy Ann Stables. One horse show dad narrowed down more than 1,200 photo submissions to create an amazing 15-minute video composed of 300 still shots and short video clips that captivated us all with memorable images of the 2010 show season. There were many laughs and not a few tears.

The evening ended with dancing, which was cut short by a horrendous winter storm that had most of us calling for an early night.

As I looked at these beautiful girls (and far too few handsome gentlemen), I was careful to enjoy the moment and appreciate the fact that although she is expensive, this journey that Samantha is on is wonderful and fun and amazing and will be over all too soon.  I am grateful to be along for the ride. Even if I am just paying the bill.

Elizabeth Howell grew up riding on the hunter/jumper circuit in Massachusetts. Now she is a horse show mom. She holds a day job at The Emily Post Institute and slings horse manure on the weekends. Her website is www.sheridesIpay.com.

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