It’s not always easy, but dang it’s worth it.
That’s what I remind myself as I rub Neosporin on the saddle burns on the inside of my calves. When you’re a broke Adult Ammy, you do what you gotta do.
4:30AM Wide awake, staring into the darkness
My alarm isn’t supposed to officially get me up until 5:15AM, but my brain has been buzzing with all the stuff that has to get done this morning before I can hop on my horse and school. Cram my eyes shut and beg my brain for 45 more minutes of sleep. Abandon hope at 4:45AM and sneak off to the bathroom so as to not wake the two other girls I am sharing a room with to make the travel costs more affordable. Stub my toe on the door casing and say bad words in my head.
5:45AM Drag myself and every possession I own to the lobby
Get called “Dora the Explorer” because I go nowhere without my ring bag. Unless I am on a horse, it is permanently fixed to my back. Burn my mouth on hot tea because as much as I want coffee this morning, I can’t handle coffee this morning. Load up in the back of the barn truck as my coach rattles off everything we have to accomplish that morning. Give up on the hopes of schooling my horse for longer than 15 minutes.
6:00AM Arrive at the show grounds
Immediately begin throwing hay and filling water buckets. Helping out makes my bill a little less, so I pitch in however I can. My horse steps on my already stubbed toe as he weaves waiting for his food. He acts like he hasn’t eaten in days. Try to think when was the last time I had something other than Doritos or Nachos from the concession stand and get lost in the timeline.
6:30AM Get everyone on a horse
I am last to mount, in true worker-bee fashion. Check girths, dust boots, give the barn kid a crop, and then let my coach throw me on top of my 17 hand horse as he dances around impatiently. Of course, he’s a nut for the first 10 minutes of our ride and we spend a lot of time trotting as I scream inside my head at all of the kids who were never taught to pass left shoulder to left shoulder. Watch my horse try to EAT a pony before I accept the fact that today will in fact be insane.
7:00AM OMG I got to school for a whole 30 minutes!
Of course not a lot was accomplished. We trotted almost every fence and my coach told me that we could just “wing it” in the jumper ring later. That’s code word for, “I am going to close my eyes and pray as soon as you leave the in-gate.” Head back to the stalls to muck, clean tack, and go over everyone’s courses before my own.
8:00AM Pony kid goes in for her class
Stand by the edge of the arena at the opposite end of our coach and tell her to “bounce bounce” when she gets her diagonal wrong. Freak out when I realize my class is next, dash back down to the stalls, tack up quickly, get glared at by grumpy horse enjoying his hay, jog back to the arena, notice I forgot my number, pass horse off onto another barn mate, run back to stalls…
8:30AM Go in for first trip in the jumper ring
By first trip, I mean first trip ever. Goodbye, hunters. Hello, jumpers! Make it through the course in great time, power punch the air after landing from the last fence, only to see my coach shaking her head and have the judge very nicely tell me I forgot fence eight. Where the heck is fence eight? Bad words again. Time to study my next course until my eyeballs hurt. Make it out of trips two and three alive, hit a few rails in three trying to be too fast but managed to take the red and yellow ribbon. Thank God, I am still ON the horse, pose for cute ribbon photo, jump off and jog back to the stalls because it is time to go back to work.
4:00PM In true horse show fashion, our riders trips aren’t until the end of the day…
…so I snack, load the non-essentials in the trailer, and then hurriedly help everyone get tacked up because somehow the class snuck up on us. Help one rider remember her course as we watch our older rider go. Horse is naughty and stops on her twice. Coach turns to me and asks if I have my breeches on under my sweatpants. The answer is no. She tells me to take the riders number and helmet anyway and get on.
Get on naughty horse, ride the course in sweatpants and paddock boots like a true hoodlum and still manage to make the horse go over (but it wasn’t easy) and he stole the blue. Get off horse, feel a burn inside of my calves and ignore it, watch our third rider go in. Her horse was spunky and took off after the first fence, dumping her and taking off out of the arena towards the stalls.
Yell, “Loose horse!” Let Coach take care of the rider as I take off after the horse. Apologize to everyone I pass and thank the rider who caught our naughty mare munching on someone else’s hay. Say not nice things to the mare as I drag her back up to the arena. Give older rider her number and helmet back, get third rider on her horse, while rider number two is panicking that she can’t remember her course. Remind her pink flowers, outside line, inside line, outside line, grey gate. Chant it with her as Coach leads her out.
5:00PM Realize I forgot to close out at the office as our last rider does her courtesy circle
I have done so much running today that if I don’t lose 10 pounds I am going to be ticked. Head for the office, grimace as I hand over my money, gather up all the ribbons for our other riders, and make my way back to the stalls. Water happy horses and begin loading up the trailer, dodging our little pony kids dancing in the aisle.
5:30PM We head out and I take a look at my calves
Leather burn. Fabulous. There is literally a hole in the side of my left calf where the stirrup leather rubbed me during my chapless ride. Ignore it, sign along to old 90s music with the coach the whole trip to the barn.
8:30PM Pull into barn
Here we go again. Unload horses. Unload tack. Unload everything. Hop into my car. Make the hour commute to my house. Barely drag myself inside before I pass out on the couch surrounded by my plethora of dogs and my husband who is rambling on about the ground work he did on the farm while I was gone. Dream about entering the Grand Prix ring only to have my coach yell at me that I forgot to pack hooves and having to leave the ring so I can catch up on chores.
I not only pitch in because it helps my wallet, but because I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love the thrill and to see my hard work pay off for myself and all of the other riders at our barn. For some it may sound like a pain, but for me it’s just another day in paradise…
About the Author
Meagan DeLisle is a young adult amateur returning to the saddle after an unexpected two-year hiatus. Combining both her passion for horses and her love of words, Meagan often writes about the comedy that ensues while working with her green OTTB Joey and training her horse-show husband.