Sunday, March 18, 2007

New Zealand Horse of the Year Show Weekend

Sunday March 18 2007

Saturday about 2 dozen endurance riders mounted up and headed over to the main jumping stadium at 1 PM for awards and a bit of a closing ceremony. They all entered the stadium to the always-played tune “Stand Up For The Champions” (the same tune that Namibia played over and over when Steph was there last year - it's a catchy tune that sticks in your head) and trotted around the big jumps as the announcer talked about the endurance ride. Then all the riders lined up in front, and the BC winner was announced – the gorgeous chestnut Highlander ridden by Lois! The team placings were announced (winners were the Kiwis), and everybody had a good trot ‘round the stadium again.

The group of us got some lunch and sat in the beer tent; Paco and the Raven (who came along to enjoy the festivities) got on well. Paco said the chef d’equipe of Spain thinks that Ravens are good luck (well of course!), so Paco figures the Raven helped him win his medal. Paco wants a Raven if I ever stumble upon one again (don’t think they are made anymore). I said I’d bring the Raven to Spain… because it looks like I may be going to Spain for a ride this summer.

Then we had a day to play at the showgrounds with the thousands of other people here. It appeared to be a very successful and popular 54th Horse of the Year show. My eyeballs were popping out all over the place at the magnificent horses walking all around me. You know how I always want to touch things, well, I wanted to reach out and touch all of them that walked by me! But I figured that wouldn't go over so well.

There was so much to see! Some fantastic dressage, more jumping, driving classes, and those oh-so-fun mounted games (I want to do this!) on crazy ponies. We missed the cross-country, but we stumbled upon trick riders in the main arena - these guys and girls were crazy! A path was roped off outside of the jumps, and these trick horses sprinted flat out around this path while the riders flipped over both sides, upside down, hanging off the side, 2 riders at once, one backwards, one upside down. When the riders would be waiting to take off, the horses couldn’t stand still; they’d be wheeling and rearing and spinning and leaping, till they shot forward, heading for that first corner, ears flat back, racehorse-sprinting, leaning into the turns (usually with a rider hanging backwards off the side), dirt clods flying up in the air. Texas cowboy music was playing in the background, like the Yippee-Ay-A song, and the announcer was hollering into the microphone like it was an old Wild West Show. He said the horses were headed for the meat market before they were saved and recruited for this trick riding. One of the girls fell off when her saddle slipped - she ran after the horse and he was resaddled (while another horse and rider sprinted around), and she jumped right back on and did her death-defying hang off the side of the runaway horse (saddle firmly in place this time). They were pretty excited horses – they'd rear and bounce on their hind legs till they were turned loose to run, and when they’d sprint the circle path, instead of making the fourth turn to go round again, they’d go straight ahead and crash into their waiting buddies. One especially hyped up horse, leaping and spinning, made his way to the front of the crowd, and suddenly calmed down to do his trick: he went down on his knee and rolled over and played dead. The rider climbed all over him, laid down and rested on him; 3 young girls from the audience were brought out and sat on him; the rider laid out full length on top of him, and the horse never twitched, till he was asked to get up, at which point the rider jumped on, and he amped right back up and took off like a shot, tearing around the ring again. Crazy horses and riders! My favorite was Charlie, who had some draft horse in him – he ran as hard and as fast as he could, but it wasn’t such a fast death sprint. Charlie was more my speed – maybe I could have stayed on Charlie’s back! The Raven had a great time watching them.

Sunday was more entertainment, the same classes, different classes, and the exciting Mounted Games; and then there were Clydesdale riding classes, pulling classes, show classes. Stand on one corner, and watch big warmblood jumpers on one side and pony jumpers on the other; draft horses pulling sleds on the other and paint show classes on the other.

There were also shops of everything Horse you could imagine or want: riding clothes, raingear, hats, helmets, Zilco tack, show gear, saddles, hoof products, vitamins, feeds, magazines, leg boots, cool vests, horse blankets, Dick Wicks (I am not making this up - they make magnetic blankets), photos, paintings, drawings, tea samples, elecric fences, trailers, adopt-a-grayhound, solutions and advice for your problem horses...

Seeing all this magnificent horseflesh, and missing Stormy, I naturally wondered about shipping him on over to New Zealand next year and entering him in and winning some of these classes. He already knows how to wear the ribbons he'd win, as he's carried trail marking ribbons before and thinks he looks pretty cool with them fluttering off his neck and breast collar. Now we'd just have to pick the classes we'd want to win.

Hmm, wouldn’t that be a kick if Stormy and I could look as good as some of these great horses doing dressage... Stormy can bow his neck real good, that's half the battle, right? Although I think he'd have to do a little more than eat with his neck bowed in the arena. I think we'd both have to work too much for dressage - Stormy’s dreadfully lazy (he’s convinced he’s retired from everything but eating), and I just stink as a correct rider. Plus, to think of the years and years of walking and trotting and cantering in an arena… nope, couldn’t do it (me or Stormy). I’ll just enjoy watching it and appreciate the years the riders and horses have put in. Maybe we could enter the Clydesdale riding classes... Stormy's not quite as tall, but after a good summer and spring, he can easily match their roundness. The Clydesdales were about Stormy's speed - slow motion. But that was only because they're big, and Stormy's slow because he's lazy. High stepping, the big draft horses leisurely wound figure 8's around cones and turned wide corners through ground poles. Stormy would make the same big slow and wide turns because he's lethargic. The Clydesdales did have beautiful big feathery legs, which Stormy doesn't have. I know Stormy could win all the halter classes - he's obviously The Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet. He knows how to pose (for a camera), and he actually does know how to stand still. But, on second thought, he HATES to be groomed, and all those horses looked shiny and polished, and not one extra long winter hair on them. And on third thought, those horses looked very trim. Stormy wouldn't be able to suck his gut in. Guess we'll skip the halter classes too.

Those Mounted Games (the most popular event on Friday) looked the most fun! I'd have to get a pony for that, because Stormy would just refuse. I don't think he can sprint anymore, and he sure can't turn on a dime. I don't know if I could stay in the saddle myself, leaning halfway out of it to pop a balloon or spear a bucket or ring at a gallop, but one day I want to give it a try! I'll just leave Stormy at home wearing his Most Beatiful Horse on the Planet ribbons in his unkempt mane, bowing his neck to eat another bale of hay.

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