I awoke just after 11 a.m. with Jack and Pickles lying on me. They hadn't moved since I'd begun napping. The extra shut-eye was needed because I wanted to be fully rested for Kimberly's horse show. Kimberly, Vander and Pepper were already there.
It had been a long week divided among the farm, office and the restaurant where I recently started cooking. Hay for the winter had to be picked up with the pickup and then put up in the barn. Pictures of halters, bridles and saddles had to be taken for several office projects. And after receiving its most recent 4.5-out-of-5-star review, the restaurant was packed nearly every night of the week.
I was thankful for the farm, photography and food, but also ready for a day at the show. I nudged Jack and Pickles aside before hopping out of bed and into the shower. I was excited to get to the show.
When I arrived at the show barn, Kimberly was just getting Vander tacked up. Pepper sat in the barn aisle beside Kimberly's tack trunk.
"You're just in time," Kimberly said. "Our class is scheduled to start in 20 minutes."
An hour later her class began. I didn't mind the wait. For most of it I watched Kimberly and the others in the warm-up ring. The sun was warm, and the horses kicked up trails of dust as they trotted and cantered past one another. Leaning against the ring's wooden railing, hypnotized by the hoof beats, I felt like I was worlds away from everything.
Kimberly's hunter-jumper classes were held in a large indoor arena. Her classes at these local shows had grown considerably. A lot of former "A" show riders were saving the cost of the "A" show travel, board and entry fees; they were sticking with the smaller, closer and cheaper local events.
It meant that Kimberly was competing against some very accomplished riders, and our economical Vander was up against some $50,000 mounts. It also meant that Kimberly and Vander would have to be perfect to place.
All of Kimberly's classes went well. I clapped and whooped when she finished her courses. I snapped a few pictures of Kimberly and Vander jumping. They performed better than ever, but it wasn't enough for a ribbon.
It was, however, enough for Vander to get some treats. I suspect he prefers treats to ribbons anyway.
"Vander and I may have come about as far as we can," Kimberly commented later. "He's not a fancy horse, but he's got a lot of heart and enjoys the shows."
Vander wouldn't be going anywhere soon--if ever. Even if we could find a more graceful athlete at a good price, neither Kimberly nor I could imagine the farm without our moody-but-dependable Vander.
After a romantic dinner of ham sandwiches, chips and canned beer, Pepper, Kimberly and I lay on the air mattress in our horse trailer's dressing room. Kimberly and I recounted our favorite stories about Vander.
We laughed about the first time I met Vander during a visit to North Carolina, not long before I moved from Colorado. I rode him on a short trail ride during which he tried to buck me off. I stayed on, which made Kimberly think I might be a keeper.
We also giggled as I described seeing a fully-tacked, but riderless Vander run past the kitchen window of our old house. When Kimberly reminded me that was the time Vander ran off after throwing her into a poop pile, we laughed so hard that Pepper bounced right off the air mattress.
When Kimberly suggested that I stay the night I quickly accepted. Fortunately, I had thought ahead and left Hazel a big bowl of kibble in the barn. Also, the horses were turned out on good pasture, and I could easily get back in time to drop the morning buckets.
We fished a couple more beers out of the water in the cooler and walked to the barn. Vander was nodding off, but didn't mind being awakened for more treats, pats and scratches.
When we returned to the trailer to go to sleep, Kimberly couldn't get comfortable on the air mattress. Her discomfort turned into a mild attack of claustrophobia. Turning on our little camp light and opening the windows didn't help. Before things got any worse, I suggested we move the mattress to the bed of the truck and enjoy a night under the stars.