Have you ever been sure of something? Really, deeply sure, with your heart and your soul and not just your head? It's a dangerous thing, to feel that way about a horse. But when I looked at Billy, I knew. It took a little while, but when I looked at Midgey, I knew.
And when I looked at Goya, a few hours old, wet and wobbly-legged, I knew.
My mom's fantastic new horse, Wheatley, landed from Holland on Wednesday. If you don't know how importing horses from Europe works, they all spend two-or-so days in quarantine, and then are released completely (if they're geldings, which Wheatley is), or moved onto CEM quarantine (for mares and stallions). Wheatley's blood work was processed a little more slowly, with the inclement weather in the Midwest, but he was finally bust loose midday Saturday, and the haulers called to tell me I'd see them at midnight.
I'm sitting at home in my PJs at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, crawling out of my skin, because 4-6 inches of snow is dumping on Northern Virginia today. I made it to the barn, but turned right back around, choosing instead to be stuck at home with office work.
Unpleasant precipitation aside, winter storms are a real threat to horses and horse businesses, and we take them very seriously. Here are some of the things we do at Sprieser Sporthorse to prepare, and weather, the weather.
I'm a big believer in down time for the horses. Whenever I can, usually once mid-summer and once late fall, I like to give my personal FEI (or nearly-FEI) horses six weeks of "fluffing," as I call it, where we spend a lot of time in the snaffle walking and trotting and cantering around on circles, punctuated by days of just hacking around. It's good for their minds as well as their bodies, and I'm always so impressed by how great they feel when I pick them back up and put them back to work on Week 7.
A few days into the show I observed to someone that it didn't feel like a championship. Other than the big fancy indoor ring decorations, and the super-snazzy high-tech judges' booths, this could have been any other big-deal horse show.
I joked that it was because, unlike other national and international championships I've attended, this is not a show filled with people who hate each other. (And I think that's really not actually a joke.)
There are many good qualities required to be declared a "good rider." A solid seat, quiet hands, lots of know-how and experience. But to be a good show rider, you need one other thing—the ability to roll with the punches. Because if you can't, not only will you not win much, but you'll also stroke out. Showing horses is barely-organized chaos under the best of times.
I have quoted this clever one-liner I read somewhere about horse showing before, and I'll use it again: Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.
While it was a gorgeous, sunny day in Lexington, Ky., today, for Fender and I, it rained.
After our Regional Finals performances—where Fender was World Champion of the World in our warm-up class and then super-exhausted for his Finals—I was determined to not spend my best horse in the locker room, to come into the National Finals Championship class with lots of energy.
In spite of an absolutely TERRIFYING drive over the mountains of West Virginia (during which Billy and Fender were absolute princes, such great little soldiers, plus OMG I love my Jamco trailer), we are safely tucked into the inaugural USDF Finals. We arrived in Kentucky just as the sun was setting, and also as the rainstorm moved in, and of course the first thing that happened was that we expected some signage telling us where to go.
Monday morning post-Regional finals, in years past, has been a day traditionally spent recuperating in the fetal position. But not this year.
Firstly, I had to return to the barn early to unlock the truck, which I had locked the night before with the keys—and all of my, Allison's and Molly's stuff—on the inside. Doh.
But more importantly, this year's competition season is not ended by the Regional finals. This year we have a National finals, which both Fender and Kristin on Billy have qualified for, and so in two weeks we're off to Kentucky for one more show.