It comes in the mail, that little folded flyer with a staple in the middle holding all the excitment you can fathom inside. I've been getting these since I was about 6 or 7, and they send a little thrill right through me every time.
I'm sure that the Horse Show staff dosen't know that these little scraps of paper hold a world of dreams. But they do- even today.
As a kid I would pull them from the mail and go immediatly to my secret stash- a can with pennies and dimes and some dollers to count up the entry fee. Sometimes I already had it, sometimes I would have to go door to door soliciting babysitting and ironing jobs.
I'd mark the date and start planning.
I'd have to wash and starch my jeans, polish my boots and the silver on my bridle. I'd have to clean my old saddle and wash the cinch and stretch it. A day before I would ride my horse into my backyard and wash him with head and shoulders shampoo ( cause no one would miss it), and I would take Whisk and scrub off every bit of tarweed from my bald faced horses head and legs.I'd use Baby No More Tears on his tangled mane and tail, and brush him until he shined. Because I didn't want him to go back into pasture I would keep him in my suburban back yard and I would sleep outside with him. I remember listening to him move around the back yard, hoping he wouldn't step on me in my sleeping bag in the night. But he didn't. Just about false dawn he'd lay down too, quite near me and strech out to sleep. I'd lay there awake and marvel that he trusted me enoguh to lay down to sleep.
At dawn we would get up and I would put my best pants and an ironed shirt of my brothers into a paper sack, tie my lunch into another sack and off I'd ride to the show. Sometimes the show was close- 5 miles or so. Some times it was closer to ten. Usually at the bottom of someone's pear orchard. There was usually a snack shack that sold hot dogs, REAL Frito boats and cold Coca Cola or Koolaid in paper cups.
We'd tie up to the pear trees to wait our turn in the ring.
The thrill of riding to the show through town on suburban streets! People would come out of their houses to watch a horse walk by. I liked waving at everyone.
I usually rode alone. Sometimes a friend and her mother would ride with me. I wish I had pictures of those early days, but my parents never went to the shows, so I had no one to take my picture.
Once when I won first place in a gymkahna show I rode home with my trophy, so proud. But no one except my loathsome step sister was home so she took a picture. I still have it around. My hair in a messy braid,I'm sunburned and freckled, but the proud look in my eye is there. I was wearing braces and full head gear that year, I was about eleven. I remember my sister taking the picture and then laughing " You have more metal in your mouth than your horse has in his,' she quipped. To this day I hate that picture.
But now I am grown and the dull scissors have been replaced by state of the art clippers. The horse shoer comes a few days before. My saddle is cleaned, and my headstall new. I have an array of outfits to match the weather and my mood, all hung neatly inside my house trailer. I have more than one hat. I have practiced and practiced and been learning new methods for a long time. One would think that the thrill is gone.
One would be wrong.
I still get the excited prickle up the back of my neck.. I still run to my 'Cococola money'stash to see how much I have saved. I still wash and brush and primp and preen, still look forward to showing off a bit, hoping to bring home the trophy.
And even though my horse is not in my backyard, I'll bet I won't sleep much tonight.
4 weeks ago