The Competition

When my daughter was six years old she wanted to bring her pony to a horse show. One of Darcie’s friends was going and she wanted to try it, too.  Her friend’s mother convinced me it would be fun.  “We can compete in the halter class to get a feel for it,” she said. I had been riding since I was ten, but had never competed in a horse show.  We were instructed on what to wear and how to sign up. After loading Little Dipper, the Connemara/ Shetland grey pony with the big brown eyes into my two-horse trailer we headed to the county fairgrounds.

Horses of all sizes and colors were tied to horse trailers. The kids were dressed in their English and Western outfits including little black velvet helmets and cowboy hats. Some kids were toting chaps, some with crops depending on their discipline. The Moms were busy carrying water buckets, brushing horses, feeding hay, shoveling manure out of the trailers and pinning their child’s number on the back of their shirts or riding jackets.

I stepped out of the truck looking at the chaos and immediately felt the tension in the air. “Soccer Moms,” I thought to myself. “ Who is really competing here?”

Darcie went through the routine of the halter class. Leading little Dipper and smiling at the crowd like a pro. After she finished her routine, I went out in the arena to stand with her as instructed. The Judge approached with his clipboard.  He complimented Darcie on her ability to lead Dipper in circles, turn right, turn left, back up and stand quietly.

Darcie looked up at him smiling. “Hear that Dipper?” She said petting her pony,  “You did good!”

“However, you need to trim his whiskers and his fetlocks. Do you have a pair of trimmers?” Darcie looked at me.

“ No, we don’t,” I said disgustedly, trying not to be rude.

After telling me of different brands, costs, and quality of trimmers. He turned his focus back to Darcie. “Do you have any questions?”

My little cowgirl stood there looking at Dipper, chewing on the inside of her cheek the way she does when she’s nervous or anxious. “Dipper needs his whiskers to feel for bad things in the grass that he might eat by mistake. His ankles have fur to stop the mud and rain from getting to his skin. I don’t want to trim him.”

The judge smiled. “That is true,” he said. “ But in horse shows we want to keep the horses polished.” He handed her a green ribbon and walked off to the next competitor.

On our way home, we discussed how important it would be to win a blue ribbon. We came to the conclusion that a blue ribbon wasn’t in Little Dipper’s best interest. She was happy for her friend Malory to win a blue ribbon but felt sorry for Malory’s pony having to get polished up for the show.