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Intercollegiate Dressage (IDA) Show St Andrews Equestrian Center October 26th and 27th - Part One

St. Andrews Equestrian CenterI've been to many shows over the years but no matter how many, the preparations the night before are always stressful. Getting ready for my first Intercollegiate Dressage show, as a coach, at St. Andrews Equestrian Center, was no different. And this show lasted two days so it included an overnight in a hotel. So with my list in hand, I hurried around packing and checking I had everything I needed.

The St. Andrews Equestrian Center is almost three hours from my house and we needed to be there by 9 am for the coaches' meeting. I like to give myself extra time, just in case, and I had also offered to car-pool and pick up some of the team on the way. It made more sense for us to travel together. So with my case packed and the alarm set for 4 am I bid my husband and daughter goodnight. They were acting as if I was going away for six months, not for just one night. As I lie in bed at 9 pm I realized I had never been away from them before. I would like to say I didn't want to leave them but that wouldn't be true. I was excited for a girls weekend filled with horses!

I struggled to fall asleep and as is always the case when I have to be up early, my night was restless. Tossing and turning and constantly checking on the time to make sure I hadn't slept in. I was, of course, hard and fast asleep though when the alarm finally went off.

The house was cold and quiet as I tip-toed around, even the dog didn't stir. I fixed some coffee, pulled on my clothes, and loaded up the car. Apparently my list wasn't complete as I set off three times before returning for things I had forgotten. One time almost knocking myself unconscious on the trunk of the car. They say things happen in threes so I was confident that the worse was over and the weekend was going to be a great success.

I never look forward to getting up early but once I am up, dressed, and have at least a mouth full of coffee in me I am ready to go. There is something so very special about being awake when everyone else is still asleep. It feels kind of clandestine. As if I'm sneaking around somewhere I shouldn't be.

The roads were almost deserted and I thought I knew where I was going but the GPS on my phone had other plans. It brought me off of I77 earlier than I expected and instead of a straight shot along W. T. Harris, it wound me around narrow country roads. I was so sure I was going in the wrong direction I pulled over at one point to check my final destination. Satisfied I was still on the right track I continued and arrived at the CVS on North Tryon just before 5:30 a.m.

A few minutes later everyone else arrived. I was so glad I'd decided to take my van rather than José's truck as we loaded in bags, show clothes, chairs, and a cooler. Blair rode shotgun and Taylor and Iman settled in the back. The sky was still pitch black and the air chilly cold. We headed to I485 and were on our way.

After a short while, we left the freeway and began a long trek down a desolate highway 218. Note to self: never travel along this road in the wee small hours if a bathroom break will be required. Eventually, we made it to Polkton and turned onto Route 74. A smooth, modern, four-lane highway we headed east and watched as the skies slowly illuminated with fresh morning light. The beginning of a brand new day.

Taylor and Iman had slept most of the way and were just stirring as we approached Laurinburg in Scotland County. A fitting name I thought seeing as the college we were heading to was called St. Andrews. A quick peek at the town's website proved that the area had in fact been settled by Scottish immigrants back in the 1800s.

We were all very impressed with the wide, sweeping, tree-lined drive that led to the beautiful, modern barn, acres and acres of pastures, and a multitude of indoor and outdoor riding areas. We had plenty of time to spare. We strolled around exploring until the 9:00 a.m. coaches' meeting.

Part Two to follow soon.

Just about everything that could go wrong did, but that didn't stop us from having fun.

We tried very hard to get there but we clearly weren't supposed to show today

It was dark as we pulled out of our driveway and headed to the barn.  Even the birds were still snoozing.  Isabel chatted away about anything and everything as I ran through in my mind what we had packed and what still needed to be done before we could load.

We snaked through the sleeping town of Davidson, cocooned in a soft, velvet darkness;  the streets eerily silent.  Out into the country heading east on Rocky River Road the distant skyline above the trees was painted in soft streaks of cerise with blends of copper and coral.

"What an amazing time to be alive." I said out loud, punctuating Isabel's ramblings about ponies, and horses, and all things equestrian.

"Yes it is." She agreed.

I feel so blessed to have a passion that I can share with her.

The previous evening at the barn our pre-show routine had finally clicked with her.  She had spent some quality time riding before helping load the trailer and clean tack.  We'd had a conveyor-belt routine down-pat and had everything finished in no time.  We'd decided to bathe Mylie the next day at the show as our class wasn’t until noon which gave us all morning to kill.

As I'd tucked her into bed that night she'd hugged me tightly and whispered in my ear.

"I love you mum.  Thank you for getting everything ready for my show."  If love could be measure in a bucket, I had enough to fill every ocean on the planet.  What a sweetheart she is.

We pulled into the barn and were immediately greeted by a plethora of activity.  Horses and ponies stood patiently in the grooming stalls while everyone busied themselves.

Hauling a trailer is like riding a bike; once you learn how to do it you never forget.  With the guidance of Liss I backed up perfectly, first try, and hooked everything into place.  In the barn I wrapped Mylie's legs with the travel bandages then went back outside to do the final checklist before loading up.

And that's when the fun started.  The lights on the trailer wouldn't work.  We unplugged the cable; rubbed it, shook it, blew on it, and any number of other non-technical things but nope, no way were the lights going to come on.  We put it down to the trailer almost being swept away recently when a storm surge gushed through the farm but that's another story all together.

We contemplated taking the trailer anyway without lights but it would also mean the electric brakes wouldn't work and that wasn't something I was willing to risk especially loaded up with very precious cargo.  So Liss got on the phone and called for help.  Her good friend A. C. had a trailer not too far way that we could borrow.  We quickly unhitched and set out to pick it up.

By now it must have been around 7:00 a.m. and the rest of civilization was beginning to stir.  We dashed along country lanes, through Huntersville and back out the other side.  Without even announcing our arrival we pulled up to the unsuspecting trailer, attached it to the back of the truck and set off back to the barn.  We tested and reset the brakes and pulled onto the highway.

Now I've pulled many different trailers over the years with many different vehicles and they all have their own individual feel to them.  And this one felt like a troop of gymnasts were perfuming a routine inside it.   I mentioned that it felt very bouncy but didn't give it much more thought.  About half way back to the barn Liss said in an extremely calm voice.

"You might want to slow down, do you have a 2 and 5/16th ball by any chance." Liss asked me after receiving a text message.

I had no idea and to be honest didn't even know what size ball was on the hitch on the truck.

"Don't know." Was my answer and picked up the phone to call José.

The previous week he had been working his on-call week and was trying to sleep in.  His sleepy reply quickly turned into a completely wide away response when he realized we were towing a trailer with a ball too small for the socket.  But what were we supposed to do?  Even if we decided to take it back we still had to tow it there and we weren't about to abandon it at the side of the road.  So fully aware that it could bounce off at any given moment I gingerly continued our journey.  Thank goodness Liss knows everyone there is to know in the horse community around town.  We stopped off at another barn on the way and changed out the ball.

By now we had been missing about an hour and a half and I'm sure everyone back at the barn must have been wondering where we were.  Fortunately they had the foresight to transfer everything from the defunked trailer into Liss' trailer so all we had to do was load up the horses.

Finally on the road.  Liss and Jake in one truck with Cottie and Hershey, Bailey and me in the other truck with Mylie and Jelly Bean, and Dori, Chloe, Lola, and Isabel in the mini-van with the DVD player.  It looked like we had overcome all the obstacles, felt like I'd already put in a full day of work, and it wasn't even 9.00 a.m.

I77 was just beginning to fill up and I thought it must be safe to let out a sigh of relief.  That turned out to be rather premature.  A thin drizzle of precipitation formed on the windscreen and I inadvertently flashed my headlights in an attempt to find the wipers.  I really should drive José's truck more often.  The skies ahead were thick and grey which in itself isn't a bad thing.  I'd rather be at a show with overcast 70's weather even with a steadily falling trickle of rain than dress up in jods, shirt, hunting stock, and jacket in a billion degrees with off the chart humidity; so on we pressed.

We cruised past the lake, through Mooresville and steadily towards the ever darkening skies.  The rain drops grew larger and larger and our speed became slower and slower.  Less than an hour into the journey our convoy pulled off the interstate into the relative safety of a gas station to reassess the situation.  Dori had gone ahead of us and Katherine was already on the showground.  Numerous calls later and a look at the Doppler Radar image on the phone and we decided it was a washout.

Very reluctantly we turned around and made our way back to the barn.  We work like a well oiled machine and each took a task without negotiations.  Liss cleaned the trailers, I cleaned the stalls, and Bailey began taking shipping bandages off of the horses.  Dori and the girls arrived soon after and we all laughed about the adventures of the morning.  Not one single person complained.

It turned out that the storm had decided to plonk itself firmly over the show ground and the show had been postponed to the following day.  So, we get to do it all again tomorrow - minus the non-working trailer and hopefully the rain.

The moral of this story is - tomorrow is another day.  No it's not, it's WE NEED OUR OWN TRAILER!!!