Saturday, February 27, 2010

Memory Lane Friday (a day late) - A Sporting Event

Okay, I'll play along; I like the idea of Memory Lane Fridays.

I was thinking about what I'd post yesterday and then the next thing I know, it's mid-day Saturday! Oops! Next week, I'll be sure to post (or try to post) on Friday evening after Livie has gone to bed. ;)

Let's see. There are a couple of sporting events that I was thinking about writing about, but I think I've narrowed it down to the one really FUN memory.

Back in the day, I used to be an avid equestrian. I really didn't care much about anything but riding . . . except for maybe photography, art class, and what book we'd get to read next in English. (I was . . . and still am . . . a big ol' bookworm.)

Anyway, while I attended Culver Girls Academy (CGA), I was on the Varsity Jumping Team. We usually had a blast going to various shows in the area. And we'd typically have the Culver Invitational Horse Show (a home show for us) in the spring, in the big outdoor arenas across the street from the riding hall. Riders from around the area (Indiana, Michigan, maybe Illinois, and perhaps other places) would participate in this show. And a horse show judge would come in to fulfill judging duties over the weekend for this show.

It's actually this show that I'm thinking about and fondly remembering - the May 1989 show during my senior year at Culver: just about a month before graduating. I'd actually been on the CGA Varsity Polo team this particular semester. But since I'd been on the Varsity Jumping Team since the spring semester of my freshman year, I had a tremendous urge to ride in Culver's Invitational Horse Show one final year. This would probably be my last big show before heading off to college and not being able to ride regularly, if at all.

So about a month or so before the show, I spoke to my polo coach and told her I was thinking about riding in the show; would she have a problem if I rode with the Varsity Jumpers for that week prior to the show, and then compete that whole weekend? I was so excited when she said go for it.

Meanwhile, I was still going to polo practice, having a blast picking up a new sport. After we tacked up our ponies and headed to the arena, I'd mount up and warm up without stirrups, picking up my stirrups only when we started scrimmaging.

See, I was riding as much as I could without stirrups to get my legs super tight, like steel. I knew I'd be riding in Adult Equitation classes for the first time, and I wanted to be ready.

Oh, a bit of an explanation for those of you who are not familiar with equestrian terms: riders in equitation classes are judged on their form (correct posture while mounted), and how they handle their horses (the more invisible your cues to your horse are, the better). Plus, since I'd already turned 18 in November of 1988, I was no longer able to ride in the Junior equitation classes - it would be Adult classes from here on out.

And of course, I was still practicing with the CGA Equestriennes (the CGA Honor Organization team that performs musical rides). These practices occurred after jumping and polo practices were over. So when I rode with the Equestriennes, I'd ride the whole practice without stirrups.

So after my "show preparation week" with the Varsity Jumpers, I was ready. And I was excited. I really enjoyed showing.

After a full morning of showing, it was now late Saturday afternoon - the first day of showing would be over within a few hours.

Finally, it was time to head into the ring for my first ever Adult Equitation class. I was riding Sir Ebon, a kinda fuzzy horse who was so incredibly smooth to ride - he had gaits that truly felt like you were on a rocking horse. Nice and smoooooth.

Once all the riders were in the ring, the judge had us go through our paces, including taking our feet out of the stirrups and crossing them over the the fronts of our saddle (so they wouldn't bang against our horses' sides each time they took a stride, and probably to ensure no one's feet "accidentally" went back into them prematurely). Since I'd been practicing so much without stirrups, this was a piece of cake. I could've gone on and on without stirrups, even smiling at the judge as Sir Ebon and I trotted past her, neither of us tired at all.

One of my riding instructors (Lt Michael Stahl) was standing by the ring, watching. At one point, he said, "You're doing well. Keep it up and you should place high!"

But, since riding without stirrups does take a lot of practice and is a lot of work to maintain, there is only so long a judge can have a class ride without them. So we eventually got our stirrups back.

Finally, after the judge had seen all she needed to see, all the riders lined up in the center of the ring, with our numbers (on our backs) facing the judge.

It seemed like we were there forever. Finally, after what felt like HOURS (but was only a few minutes - 5-10, tops), the announcer stated over the loudspeaker that we had the results. A lot of times, horse shows will have ribbons for 1st through 6th places. I've occasionally seen bigger shows having ribbons through 8th place. This show had ribbons through 6th. And a person (one of the horse show volunteers) with all six ribbons was standing near the middle of the ring, ready to pass them out to the riders who earned them.

And then the announcer started with 6th place, stating something to the effect of "In 6th place, number __(whatever it was)" and then saying that rider's name. That rider walked up to the volunteer, received his or her ribbon, and exited the ring.

Then 5th place . . . I think I was holding my breath, waiting to hear my number. When the number was announced . . . it was somebody else's.

Waiting for the 4th place announcement . . . more breath holding, and more disappointment that it wasn't me.

When it came to the 3rd place announcement, I was thinking that it was altogether possible that I was in the top three, especially since Lt. Stahl had thought I was doing well enough to place high.

But when they announced the 3rd place rider, it still wasn't me. I took a deep breath, trying to hold back disappointment, and telling myself not to worry about it. That I'd be in other non-equitation classes at this show, other types of classes where I usually performed much better.

So now it was time for the red ribbon - 2nd place. I held my breath, looking at the volunteer with the red 2nd place ribbon and that blue ribbon I wanted so badly. The volunteer was a fellow Culver student; if I remember correctly, I think it was Rosann, a fellow Equestriennes teammate and good friend. She was standing there looking at us, a bunch of riders still left, but only two ribbons remained . . .

. . . and then I couldn't believe it! 2nd place was announced and it still wasn't my number. Suddenly, just before the announcer said the rider's name, I had a panicked butterfly sensation in my stomach! What the heck WAS my number?! I suddenly couldn't remember! Was it me? No, it wasn't. Was it?

Nope. During my momentary confusion, the announcer said someone else's name.

And then I was really disappointed.

But then the 1st place number was called while I once again held my breath, feeling that familiar disappointment again, and wishing it were just all over already . . . and when the number was announced, it was the number I'd kept repeating over and over in my head! It was my number! But I was so surprised, I didn't move at first, not sure if it had really been my number.

Then I heard the announcer say my name, and I was filled with relief and disbelief! I just couldn't believe I'd won! First of all, wow! I'd won an equitation class! That rarely happened (I usually did well in other types of classes). And secondly, it was my first Adult Equitation class! Double wow!

The Varsity Jumping coach, Capt. Chris Kerner, a long time instructor of mine while I was at Culver, was sitting near the gate with the biggest grin I'd ever seen as I rode past. Another instructor, Ms. Leslie Gordon (the Equestriennes and JV Jumping coach), saw his big ol' smile, teasing him about it. And Capt. Kerner's response? "Well, what else would you do if your kid was the best!" That kind of compliment meant as much as the blue ribbon.

I was so excited about this win; it seemed like an unlikely victory and I really appreciated it. After this first day of showing was over, and I'd cared for Sir Ebon and returned him to his stall, I was walking back to my dorm in the twilight. It was during this walk while I was replaying the events of the day, that I came upon one of my English instructors, Mr. Wiley. He saw me in my riding clothes, and asked how I was doing at the show. I was so excited that I just blabbed on and on about the day. He laughed, smiled big, and congratulated me on how well I'd done. I think he must've been surprised because I was usually much more reserved during class, not getting quite so animated, even if we were talking about a book or story I really loved.

As we said our "I'll see you on Monday in class" and goodbyes, I enjoyed the remaining walk back to my dorm, that wonderful spring evening after an exciting day.

(Oh, and by the way . . . I think I still have that blue ribbon somewhere, tucked away with other very important mementos. LOL!)


varunner said...

I debated quite a bit about writing about my first event I ever did (on Chico). But decided to save that for another time :-) Love this story - so rich and full of detail! I still have a few of my old show prizes around too...and even an old graded dressage test.

Andrea Devenow said...

Sir Ebon was my horse (well, my mom's actually!). We donated him to Culver when we could no longer afford to have horses. He, to this day, is still one of my most magnificent memories of childhood. I was with her when we bought him, brought him home, and of course every day when she rode him. I had so hoped that that he would one day be mine, and it was devastating when we had to let him go. I can't even believe that you shared this blog. Thank you...thank you!!!

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