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That’s not a metaphor for our experience at the Harrisburg National this week, it is an actual statement of what happened to my equipment.  Which led to the show being not quite the experience I’d hoped for, but a fun one nonetheless.

Times were super vague, and the show start time was pushed back, so I had no real clue what time we needed to get there, since the sidesaddle classes were scheduled for the middle of things.  Since I was working the night before, I decided to pull the Adult Ammy card and pay someone else to braid for me, so I could get 4 hours of sleep instead of 3, and had Liz braid her for me.  Sometimes, the cost of braiding is outweighed by the value of sleep, especially when you have to drive 2 hours to show.  So when I arrived at 7AM, I had a lovely braided horse, and just needed to clean her socks off, shove as much hay on the trailer as possible, and make doubly sure all the tack was loaded, and were on the road by 8AM.  I figured since the show was starting at 8, but numbers didn’t look crazy, that should put us there in good time.  Hit some traffic around Baltimore, but really, it’s a very simple drive up to Harrisburg for us, and the State Farm Show Complex is right off I-83, so very very easy to get to with a trailer, thankfully.  Harrisburg is also close to I-81, so my mom, and one of my aunt and uncles, came up to watch us since they’re retired and have nothing better to do on a weekday that come watch me show.  (Hahaha. Joke’s on them, they spent the day waiting around.)

Julie had come up the day before, so had actually managed to snag us an empty stall across from them, since their aisle was mostly empty.  That ended up being really nice, since the whole place is climate controlled, and I think Cally is now a big fan of A/C.  Sorry, horse, not happening since I didn’t win the Powerball.  I unloaded some stuff, checked in, found family, and then took Cally for a little walk around, since everything there is under the arena and can be a bit intimidating.  Being Cally, and assured of her own awesomeness and place in the universe, she was totally unphased by the whole thing and walked around like she went to big Indoor shows all the time.

Then we heard that the ETA for the sidesaddle was 1:30, so we grabbed some lunch (walking tacos!) from the food stand and watched some ponies go, and got to chat with family for a bit. Then I headed back to the barns as the Children’s Hunters started, to get ready.

Clue #1 that it was going to be a weird day should have been that when I pulled out my stock ties to get dressed, they were moldy. How does that even happen? I guess I put one of them away sweaty and it just festered? I had to just trash one of them, and was going to use the less-horrible one, but went to the bathroom and saw it in the mirror and was just like, no, I absolutely cannot wear that for an Appointments class. I ended up going to the tack shop and buying a brand new one, which did look appropriately sparkling and gorgeous. Pretty sure some bleach and/or oxyclean can salvage that one kind of moldy one though.

Clue #2 was that as I was finally getting ready and tacked up, the overgirth on my saddle snapped as I was tightening it. Fortunately, it snapped just at the clip where it holds the flap down. I was panicked for a moment, then realized that I could sort of jury-rig it to hold in place, and headed down to warmup, where one of the ladies who does a lot of work on saddles was. I chatted with her as soon as we walked into warmup, and was assured that since all our overgirth really does when showing is hold the flap down (odds of a girth actually snapping are low, and you’re un safe circumstances to stop, unlike a hunt field), we’d be perfectly safe to show. So I started warming up in the tiny warmup which was also crowded with ponies getting ready to show, and Cally was being a bit of a nutter, just cantering weird or not wanting to go forward. Then I realized that with the overgirth issue, I’d never tightened the actual girth again, and it was probably shifting too much–sure enough, I could fit my whole hand between the girth and her ribcage. I found a quiet corner to hop off, and had my family help with the holding and readjusting the girthing, because it really took me getting off, readjusting the saddle on her, then hopping back on and tightening the proper girth, then someone on the ground had to rehook the balance girth in place. Managed to get it all sorted out, and she was going much better in warmup.

We all lined up to go in as they were pinning the ponies, and oh my, how thrilling it felt to walk into that huge arena out of a dark entryway, onto perfect footing and ask for a bit of a trot to settle in and feel Cally take one look around and settle in to do her job. She was not at all looky after the initial entrance, and actually went really beautifully. There was a little bit of jigging when we changed directions and they asked for the trot, and she wanted to canter, which unfortunately the judges saw, but overall, she was moving some of the best she ever has in a flat class.

However, sidesaddle is always tough on the flat, because there are a lot of really nice movers who do the division, as I’ve mentioned before. I was quite pleased to finish in 5th, for a lovely ribbon and a rose! I’ve never gotten flowers with our placing before, so that was a fancy touch to the prizes. The ribbons are also slightly different than normal coloring, a bit darker and more jewel toned.

I handed that and my hunt whip off, and she settled in and flatted wonderfully in the hack. Then we ended up first to go in the jumping portion. She cantered right around boldly to the line, and we nailed the in, and I sort of had no idea on striding and completely got to a half stride at the end and chipped out. Oops, sorry Cal. But she then totally nailed the hand gallop to a halt down the other long side, so lots of pats for that, and putting up with my inability to find a distance. We ended up 4th, so again, quite pleased with that.

They actually left the fences at the 3′ spec that they’d been for the Children’s, which is a height I’m not really comfortable jumping aside. Since Julie is, I asked if she wanted to do Cally for me, as she did at St. Christophers, and she agreed to give it a try after she went on her horse. I shortened the stirrup for her, and off they went. They looked good to the first fence, a single on the quarter line, but then landed in a bit of a heap and pulled up in the corner. Turns on my stirrup leather broke! It snapped clean through the fitting at the top, and I walked into the ring to retrieve my entire leather and stirrup iron. Then I noticed that the sandwich case had also broken through at the top. WTF?!? It can’t just be a mold issue, as the sandwich case, stock ties, and saddle are all stored different places, including in my climate-controlled in my house. So bizarre.

BUT, the wonderful lady who does a lot of sidesaddle leather work, Amy, came to the rescue. She says that happens a lot with the leathers, and she actually carries some spare fittings with her, so come see her at the trailer when we were done, and we’d see what we could do. If not, I had the fitting and the iron, and she could probably make me a new one and have it to me before Warrenton next weekend.

That would have to wait though, because we were randomly selected for drug testing! I was actually weirdly excited about it, which the testers seemed to find funny. I explained that I pay a fee for it every show, and had never even seen testers in the flesh before, so I was delighted to see my money actually being used. I asked if we could stop to take a few pictures at the fancy setup first, and they said of course, they just had to come along. They were actually great about it, waving around some gloves to try and get Cally’s ears up for pictures!

Thanks, tester ladies, we got a great picture!

We went back to the stall, and I warned them she was weird about peeing, we might have to put her on the trailer, but she is totally chill with blood draw.  I went about untacking, etc while they chatted with me and Mom, who was stuffing Cally full of more treats, and was also kind enough to get me my lemonade out of the cooler.  Turns out being in a stall is just as good as being in a trailer for Cally, because I barely got back from retrieving bath supplies from my trailer when she peed for them!  I had to sign some forms, they gave me a slip to check, but said odds were I’d never hear from them again.  Great, the only thing the horse got aside from morning feed was a tube of omeprazole, so no worries there.  Just happy to see my drug test dollars at work!

After giving Cally a bath and tucking her in with water and hay, I headed out to Amy’s trailer, forlorn stirrup leather in hand.  She had a whole old leather, and showed me how she took it apart, and stitched it back on to my fitting/stirrup iron.  I’ve never really gotten to watch a lot of leatherwork up close, and it was neat to learn how to put things together again.  Maybe a bit above my sewing abilities, but she got things back together like magic!  I’m going to hop on with it this weekend to make sure it’ll work for us for Warrenton next weekend, and get measurements to have her make us a proper new one that she can assemble for us at Maryland Horse & Pony next month.  I knew I’d need to replace that leather at some point, as it was super stiff but not something you can really oil, and also a bit of an odd length for me, so this will just accomplish that a bit sooner.  And then hopefully after MDHP, or maybe after the second show at Stellar, I can send the whole thing up to Amy, and have her do the panel work we’d discussed in the spring, since while she has them off she can also replace the overgirth strap for me.  I’ll plan that for a day off, since it’s a bit of a drive up to PA but should be totally fascinating.  There is always something new to learn with horses, and especially with sidesaddle.  And luckily in sidesaddle, there are wonderful ladies who are happy to share their knowledge and skills.

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