Let me just begin by admitting that I'd been extremely nervous about this hunter/jumper show season for some time. My wife, Kimberly, and I recently purchased a new gooseneck, three-horse trailer as well as a seven-year-old Quarter Horse, Skip. It had been some time since Skip competed, and I wasn't sure how he would do. I wasn't even sure how I would do. I knew only that I hadn't trained enough.
I wasn't nervous about riding--I haven't even started doing that yet--I was nervous about simply helping my wife during her show. Peering into the tack trunk, I found all sorts of brushes, gels, ointments and wraps to keep track of in addition to the strict show schedule.
We had 1) a new trailer, 2) a new horse, 3) our other horse, 4) a new show and 5) me, the new squire. An overwhelmed number 5 helped load number 3 and a mildly uncooperative number 2 on shiny number 1 so we could drive an hour to busy number 4 for the 10 a.m. starting time. This squire's first lesson: some shows are stricter than others. We arrived in time for our 10 a.m. start time to be moved to 11 a.m. So, the show began at noon. When it finally began, the scene was a complete circus. To make up the lost time, classes were being held in three separate rings. Children ran everywhere, horses nickered, and everywhere I looked I saw clones wearing beige breeches, blue jackets and black velvet helmets. I'm quite sure I also saw clowns with balloons and dancing bears somewhere in the crowd.
Kimberly got ready while I sprinted around to find the correct time and location and write down her jump courses for each class. She was riding both of our horses at this show, and the first of seven classes was about to begin. Kimberly tacked up our first horse, Vander, and I grabbed the caddy holding all the necessary grooming supplies. She hacked Vander in the warm-up ring and left just enough time for me to paint his hooves and wipe the dust from his face before they entered the arena. Kimberly and Vander started strong, placing second in a class of 12. She had two more classes--about 10 minutes of riding and two hours of waiting--with Vander before she would ride Skip. There was enough time for me to get Skip off the trailer and hand graze him near where we parked. I left her with the grooming caddy and walked back to the parking area.
Skip was definitely ready to get off the trailer. We walked slowly around our parking spot as Skip ate mouthful after mouthful of rich, green grass. After about 20 minutes I brought him around to the side of the trailer and tied him up so I could brush him. I retrieved a curry comb, brush and my water bottle from the truck. I was admiring Skip's attractive coat as I took a swig of water. He was pawing at the ground where he stood, occasionally kicking the trailer tires. "Okay, okay. I know you're probably thirsty, buddy," I said and went to grab his water bucket out of the trailer's tack room. I could still hear him pawing as I looked around for a water spigot. "Easy, boy. Hold your horses," I said. He obviously didn't think I was moving quickly enough and hastened his pawing, kicking and nickering.
I spotted a hose at the end of a nearby barn and jogged over to fill up the bucket. I filled it about halfway and had just started walking briskly back towards the trailer when I heard a deep, muffled bang from the vicinity of our parking spot. I was absolutely horrified when I caught a glimpse of Skip running between the two trailers parked beside ours.
Water sloshed out of the bucket as I ran back to the trailer. I was now soaked and petrified as I stood staring in disbelief at a clearly punctured trailer tire, a broken tie ring and a total lack of Skip. I didn't know if horses, like dogs, would respond to their name being called. I ran in the direction in which I last saw Skip traveling, shouting his name. Either every man, woman, child and horse at that show was named "Skip" or they were all staring at me because I was the biggest moron they'd ever seen. (I know what you're thinking and I am just as surprised as you; so many Skips all at one show!) Needless to say, I got nowhere by calling his name.
I was terrified, dizzy and felt as if I was going to pass out. I saw my entire marriage flash before my eyes. I figured that losing the new horse would unravel the whole romantic ball of yarn about quicker than anything. That's when I spotted our Skip in the far corner of the field where we'd parked. He was munching grass beside another horse being hand grazed by a young girl.
I sprinted nonchalantly over to him and casually picked up his lead line as if everything up to this point was simply part of my plan. Skip must have taken a detour through and rolled in the far, barren side of the parking area. He was covered in mud, which I'm sure felt good to him. However, for me it could mean divorce or at least a few months in the dog house, which is bad because we don't even have a dog house. I walked him right past the trailer to the water hose I'd used earlier. I tied him to a small tree and hosed him off while scrubbing him with my free hand. We rushed back to the trailer; I squeegeed him off, loaded him on, pulled the trailer forward onto a trailer jack, changed the tire, parked the rig and had just tied Skip to the remaining tie ring when Kimberly returned with Vander.
I was red-faced and dripping with sweat. She looked at me and then at Skip. She looked back at me. I just knew I had missed something and now I was going to be in big trouble. Kimberly walked over to me with Vander trailing behind her, and threw her arms around me. "I love you!" she said laughing. "I can't believe you even washed Skip! He looks so good! You're the best squire ever." Vander snorted. Skip just looked at me and pooped.
The rest of the show went smoothly. Kimberly placed in six of her seven classes and there were no other escape attempts by either of our two boys. I didn't mention to Kimberly what had happened that afternoon, but I'm certain she'll read this story. That's okay, because I've really been meaning to build a house for our dog anyway.
Jeremy Law and his wife, Kimberly, live on a small farm in Grifton, N.C., with their two cats, two dogs and two horses.
Read Jeremy's other columns in EquiSearch's Humor section.