Pony Tails and Pony Tales
I’m not actively competing at the moment (due to the fact that me and beast are still mastering the basics of walk, trot, WHOA, and 20 meter circles which don’t resemble wobbly eggs), but that doesn’t stop me from attending shows. As the editor of the newsletter for my local horse club, I try to show up at most of the shows for at least a little while to shoot some photos and gather some dirt for the next issues. This past weekend was no exception.
My club, the Southern Eventing and Dressage Association (aka SEDA, www.sedariders.org), puts on an annual show just for our junior riders. This show is always a good time for everyone from ponies to parents, even though the heat index frequently flirts with triple digits (this is South Louisiana in June, after all!). This year followed suit, and I had a lot of fun making my way around the show grounds.
By now I’m a familiar sight to the humans, although the horses still sometimes use me and my camera as an excuse to practice their ‘fight or flight or …can I eat it?’ instinct. You just never know with horses! I really enjoy capturing those moments when I can take advantage of the long lens and catch people when they don’t know they are being watched. Cameras make people self conscious (myself included, especially when covered in horse slobber and sweat soaked) so there is just something nice about those natural moments that present themselves. I don’t even pretend to be a photographer of any merit, but the beauty of digital photography is that you can take a thousand photos and delete 997 of them! Mostly, I just enjoy the camaraderie of hanging out with a nice group of people and snap a few photos in the process.
I digress … back to the show! There was a great turnout for the event because it’s always popular with the kids. SEDA makes every effort to create a show that is a positive experience for even the tiniest of tots. As one of our Board members said to me, “If you can’t get your feet wet and learn how to show here, where can you?” Therefore, it’s pretty low key and very supportive of everyone’s efforts. Nearly every participant goes home with a ribbon or prize for something.
Generous sponsors really step up and provide some great prizes. There are prizes for the best score on a pony, the best score on a plain bay or a horse of a different color or a mare. There’s a “Poise Under Pressure” prize for the child who dealt with ‘adverse circumstances’ (i.e., that bucking or recalcitrant pony that was perfect in the warm up but not so much in the arena). We even offer a prize for the Perfect Parent … it is the parents, after all, who sacrifice so much to bring the kids to these events and their lessons. All the leadline participants go home with an enormous ribbon – I mean, really, how can you place those adorable kids anything BUT first?
It’s really a great time watching the kids get excited about polishing their ponies, and memorizing their tests and patterns. Watching the nerves before doing their first test or round of jumping offers me some confidence – heck, if they can do it, I should be able to, too, right? Of course, sometimes it’s just as funny watching the parents – I think they often are more nervous than their kids. I watched a few swarms of family descend around a tot or two to offer water, polish boots and offer last minute hugs and pats before sending them on their own out into the arena. It’s really precious.
The show wouldn’t be complete without a round of games. This year, we offered egg and spoon, ride-a-buck, water glass, and an unmounted water balloon toss. It’s been a long time since I laughed that hard – it was hysterical. Herding cats comes to mind. The ride-a-buck was priceless – competitors were required to ride bareback, and I think this was a novelty for a few participants. I’m guessing a couple of those ponies had less than smooth trots! One little girl was so funny; she was determined to hang onto that dollar even if it meant she was laying on her pony’s neck with her buck under her knee nearly at the pony’s flank. She lost it at the last minute, but certainly gave it a good try! They finished with the water balloon toss which I think they all wanted to lose because it was so hot!
All in all, it was a great event and I’d encourage any club that doesn’t do it already to organize something like this. Yes, it’s a big undertaking, but those smiles are priceless!
I’m so grateful to belong to a group like this which is so supportive of the efforts of the young riders, and, generally speaking, of each other, too.