Friday, June 21, 2013

Here comes the judge...

     A couple Sundays ago, I was the judge for a small horse show in Clinton Corners, NY.  I awoke early that morning so I could adequately provide myself with a bucket of coffee before I had to set sail for the show.  I wanted to be super sharp and on my game and since I'm not a natural morning person I needed mucho caffeine. I've been judging a bit more over the last few years. It's not a job for everyone, but if you like watching endless rounds of horses and ponies jumping courses and can sit on your ass for several hours at a time then it's be right up your alley. I've always been able to watch endless rounds at horse shows and sitting still for hours comes very naturally to me. Long story short, I enjoy judging.
  The morning air smelled clean and fresh, with a subtle hint of warmth that promised a bright summer day was coming up. Perfect weather for a June horse show. I smoothed my skirt and checked my make up in the mirror before I fired up the Audi. The drive was about thirty minutes through shady country roads that wound up and down hills through the Hudson Valley.  While driving, I found myself reflecting on June horse show mornings of my youth.  Before I got my own horse, one of my summer highlights was the Hampton Falls Volunteer Fire Department Horse Show.  When I was really young it was held in a large flat field just down the road from my house.  The night before the show the volunteer firemen would configure long sections of snow fencing to provide a ring. There were more rows of snow fence to mark off the parking areas. A small wooden booth was towed in on a flatbed to serve as the judge's stand.  I would spend the day of the show walking around the show grounds in a glorious daze as I watched horses and riders being put through their paces. It was thrilling to be around so many horses and riders at once. Something about it just felt "right" to me.  If I was lucky I was allowed to pat a horse, or hold my friend Kim's pony for a few minutes.  The night of the show I'd come home dusty and exhausted, but full of excited stories to tell my parent's about what a grand day I'd had. Poor things, they had no idea what I was setting them up for a year, or two later.
   Still lost in my reverie of those charming local shows of my youth, I came upon the farm where I was judging.  When I got to the end of the long bumpy driveway  I stopped a woman walking by and asked where I should park my car. She pointed to where the trailers were all going, but I smiled and said to her, "Well, (I could've inserted "you insipid peasant" here, but I chose not to) I'm the judge."  It's a heady feeling to say those words. Suddenly, I was the most important person on the show grounds. The earth nearly buckled under my power. Well, not really, but I did get a totally V.I.P. parking spot right next to the barn.  Hoisting my bag, which was loaded with seltzer water and snacks, I  went in search of the ring to get my instructions and a prize list. The staff for the show were exceedingly organized and had put me in a comfy chair by the side of the ring in the shade of a large tree, complete with a folder of judges cards. I settled in and prepared myself for the first task of the day, which was judging lead line.  Lead line is always a cute class. Little tots dressed as miniature equestrians in tiny jodphurs and hard hats that are bigger than their actual heads are ridiculously adorable.  I was treated to two little cuties being marched around the ring by smiling handlers.  Both received blue ribbons, despite the fact that my husband texted me during the class and told me it was never too early for a child to learn the agony of defeat. He grew up under the rule of a very tough trainer a.k.a. his mother.  She instilled a killer competitive instinct in her kids that drove them to run other children over in flat classes and ride like they owned the course.  Jonathan still goes into a scary "win or go home" mode when he's showing.  I usually don't make direct eye contact with him right before a class. It can be deadly.

  The next division was a group of very intense Walk-Trot riders.  One little girl was as white as a sheet, frozen in place on her chestnut pony.
 "It's her first show," said the woman who was in the ring with me to do the announcing.  I nodded, sagely and gave the little girl a big smile when she walked by me.  Again, I reflected on my early childhood and though I don't really remember my first show I'm sure I was as spooked as the little girl in my ring.

"Relax and have fun while you ride!" I said in a cheerful voice. Okay, maybe I'd had a little too much coffee, but I didn't want to have zombie children riding around the ring, too scared to steer, or stop. No one fell off, or died of fright during the class and I pinned it as I saw it. The scared little girl actually smiled when she got her yellow third placed ribbon. I even choked up a little. I'm sappy that way.  Hey, being a judge doesn't make you inhuman! Then we moved on to the jumping divisions. I spent the next few hours watching kid's jumping courses, some smooth rounds, some more bumpy, but all were well turned out and doing their very best.  The last classes were composed of a group of good riders and nice horses, which made my judging job earn the money. All were good, some missed some distances and lead changes, but it was a delight to watch these young girls learn how to navigate a course of 3 foot jumps with as much precision and accuracy as they could muster. And I learned a few judging tips from the owner of the farm, who is a rated judge. It was a lovely day in June. A beautiful day to judge a horse show, and I felt privileged to be chosen for the job. If I'd had an inkling 30+ years ago that I'd be asked to be the JUDGE of a horse show I probably wouldn't have slept for a week. Being involved with horses for as many years as I have is a total thrill. Sometimes I can't believe that I make my living as a professional rider. It's a weird job to explain at cocktail parties of non horse folks, but totally fulfilling to a diehard horse lover. I'm hoping to judge more shows as I get older. I may even strive to get my judges card from our head organization, the United States Equestrian Federation.

  As I drove back to our farm when the show was over, good sized check in my pocket, I couldn't wait to get there,  tack up my horse and go for a ride. I don't know why horses are in my blood, since I come from a very non-horsey family, but they are and I wouldn't change a thing. At the end of the day, I'm still that excited kid who loves everything about horses, the smell, the tack, the discipline, the thrill of a good course and the bond that we have with these beautiful four legged creatures who allow us to ride them. Okay, sap fest is over. Next blog will be full of crazy cat stories and four letter words.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cat Dynamics, illustrated by some guest blogging...

       Wow, I'm such a  lame ass. I haven't bothered to follow up on the last blog and we're in the latter weeks of June.  To be fair, we have been very busy with horse shows, lessons, barn chores, tennis, getting a kitten, etc. YEAH THAT'S RIGHT, WE GOT A KITTEN!!!!!  Any of my friends on Facebook know this since he's been featured on my page, daily, since he arrived at our house a week ago. We named him Miles, and he's tiny, fuzzy, insanely adorable, precocious and brave as can be. There's nothing more ridiculous looking than a tiny ball of fuzzy kitten-ness arching its back all Halloween cat style, advancing toward a target in a sideways fashion on its tiptoes.  I mean come on! It just makes you laugh.  Miles does this move on a regular basis at us, the other cats and occasionally the dogs. He is a bad ass mo'fo kitten. We love him so much that it's nausea inducing.  I love that when I pick him up to kiss his head he claps his fuzzy kitten arms around my neck and bites me.  I love that he attacks our feet while we're brushing our teeth.  I love that he runs in front of us while we're walking through the house and stops dead directly in front of us to rear up and grab us around the ankles. He has a sweet, cuddly side that he exhibits when he's asleep on a lap.  When he's asleep we can pet him all we like without any claws or teeth or ninja fight moves. For now his tiny teeth and nails don't hurt a bit. I fear as he gets older these fun little habits of his will have us hemorrhaging vast quantities of blood, requiring transfusions several times a week.  We'll have long, road maps of scars decorating our bodies. People will start rumors that the Edel couple must have a self cutting problem due to all of the deep scarlet ribbons of scratches making road maps across our arms and legs. I'll get anonymous self help pamphlets in the mail from "Cutter's Hotline". My guess is that we should address Miles' kitten obsession with killing and conquering anyone, or thing who crosses his 1 lb. path. It seems like a logical move since I predict lots of bloodshed in the future. But he's so damn cute! And irresistible! And soft! And fuzzy! Okay, I'll stop there. If you want to see pics of the devil's spawn just check my FB page.

Marbles, our calico girl cat has checked in for a guest blog feature:

   My caretakers have lost their ever loving minds. They brought home an animal that was plucked from the bowels of hell. I hate him with ever fiber of my tri colored being. I fantasize daily about killing him, plucking every piece of fuzzy kitten hair off his body until he's a bald, bleeding mass. The extent of my loathing of this beast is hard to put into words, but just know that I'm pissed off beyond belief. I watch him cavorting around the house, while I'm high atop a piece of furniture and I try to use my death glare to freeze him in his kitten tracks. It's no use. He's impervious to my death gaze. The other day he got on my bed (where my caretaker's sleep) and I couldn't believe his audacity. Nothing is sacred anymore. Nothing. My life is over as I knew it.

Mia, our black and white cat decided she would weigh in, too:

  I've always been the youngest, smallest and cutest cat in the house. I still am in my mind, but my caretaker's have brought home a stupid, crappy kitten that they fawn over for hours while he terrorizes the rest of us. I've never hissed so much in my life. My hisser is actually sore. This kitten thinks he's going to be my friend. WRONG! He chased me tonight. Twice. My hatred for him is deepening, which I didn't think possible.  I refuse to be in the house for more than an hour while IT is here.  I may go on another water strike, but I know the woman caretaker will just force a syringe of water in my mouth if I do. She's cruel, in so many ways. I am the cutest cat, dammit. I eat ITS food every chance I get in hopes of starving it. Then I watch the woman caretaker refill his dish and tell ME to stop it. I tried suffocating IT the other day while IT was sleeping in the woman's lap. The caretaker's just laughed and thought it was adorable that I was sleeping on her lap alongside the thing.  They're too dumb to catch onto my ploy. I've thought of enlisting Marbles in my plan to off IT, but she's such a bitch and claims to be above me. My boyfriend, Zeke is pissing me off, too. He actually seems amused by the stupid kitten. What a dumbass. My wrath will be recognized. They'll all be sorry.

Zeke, our big 17 year old Tiger, had this to add:

   I'm still mourning the loss of my beautiful mother, Miss Girl. She was a great mom, always loving, nurturing me, giving me great advice. No cat could ask for a more caring momma. But, alas the passage of time strikes us all down at some point and my mom is gone now. The caretaker's brought home a small, fuzzy baby cat last week. I am now an uncle to this creature.  I've never questioned their choice in new animals, but I'll admit that this one is a tad lively for our geriatric home. He thunders around the house like a miniature elephant. And he mock attacks me on a regular basis. I gave him a smack down on day two, albeit a gentle one, given the difference in our sizes, which established a modicum of respect that I wasn't sure was possible when I first met him. However, the baby cat isn't stupid and he now shows me respect, but I allow him to bat at my tail and engage in some gentle play time. Mia is ready to break up with me, but she's just being overly hostile. I think she'll get over it in time.  She's never been the sharpest tack in the box. Don't get me wrong, I love her, but she's a bit of an idiot. I think it will all be fine. Adjustments are always difficult.

Miles, the small bundle of baby fuzz has the last word:

  It's my house now, BITCHES!!!!