**2 weeks until RPSI inspection**

Up until now we’ve talked about why RPSI, bringing out the shine, and fitness. I’ve managed not to mention yet a pretty large sticking point. My barn’s hosting the inspection.

I always thought it was a bit strange that there wasn’t an inspection site near Toronto. There are so many breeders and owners in such a small radius around us. The closest site to Belle Wood was 2 hours by normal car. I estimated closer to 3 hours once you factor in “trailer time.” After a pretty casual discussion with B, my coach and the owner of Belle Wood, she offered up her property as an option.

I filled out all the paperwork and got in touch with RPSI. Unfortunately, the interest in the area wasn’t super high. Or so we thought. Just as I was getting in touch with the closest site to reserve a handler and braider, I got a call. The woman wasn’t a RPSI worker, but she had a three-year-old to be inspected and didn’t want to drive through Toronto to get it done. She’d pushed head office to reconsider us as a site, and they agreed.

We weren’t technically going to be a full-day site. The judges would stop in for the afternoon while driving from one site to the next. Belle Wood got added to the Official RPSI Host Sites, and the fun began.

An inspection is not that different from a show or clinic at the barn. You need to make sure there are stalls available for outside horses, that all requirements and fees are clear and easily accessed, and that the facility itself is cleaned and organized to show at its best. Throw in some good help, a bit of food and drink, and you’re more or less set.

Except.

As I mentioned above, I wanted a handler and braider. Can I do both of these things on my own? Yup. Still, having a 5’ 3” human trotting a 16.2” Thoroughbred is pretty ridiculous. I basically have to sprint to get Star to trot out at her best. I’m also not experienced in lead line classes. So, while I have spent quite a bit of time training Star to walk out properly and stand up for a judge, I’m not confident I could do it stress-free on the day. Braiding is something I don’t mind doing for fun, but beyond popping in a few button braids here and there, it just seemed like more trouble than it was worth.

It’s sort of like hair and makeup. Going back to my acting days, I was paid by other people to do hair and makeup. I did proms and homecomings and the occasional student film. I’m skilled and confident about doing it myself. But on the day of my wedding? Nope. I hired two professionals and sat back drinking champagne while they did the work. I chose this route so that my “special day” wouldn’t involve me worrying about perfectly matching my own eyeliner, and I have zero regrets.

The inspection is sort of the same thing. I’ve asked a friend to video Star’s inspection, so I can simply watch. I want to take it in and remember the view through my own eyes, rather than the lens of my camera. I want my anxiety about the day to be as far away from Star as it can be while she’s working.

I asked around about handling and braiding. The same names came up time and again. But the thing about the horse world is that it’s hard to get ahold of people and/or schedule them in. Very few are lucky enough to be able to work in a full-time capacity as an equine professional, and often carry several jobs to make enough to survive. Finally I managed to contact Theresa Detsikas, a very experienced and gifted in-hand trainer who has shown locally all the way to the Royal. She also braids really, really well. Thankfully she was available and we booked it.

But honestly what’s an inspection (or a show or clinic for that matter) without awesome photos to go with it? I was so stoked to discover that Sara Duncan, our photographer for the Peter Gisborn Clinic, was happy to take on the RPSI inspection. I love her work, and I’m hoping to get her to take some nice conformation shots of Star all shiny and braided beyond everything else going on during the day.

The best part of all of this, though, is talking to other owner/breeders who are coming to the inspection themselves. It’s astonishing how, literally across the board, we all feel nervous. We all have questions, hopes, dreams, and expectations. We all feel a bit sick if we think too much about it all.

I’ve done hand-holding and question answering. Spent hours on the phone and computer. I loved every second. We’re all in this together, and I’m certainly not going to be the weak link. Everyone I talk to gets the exact same verbiage from me: “We’re in this together. It’s not going to be fancy, but it’s going to be clean, safe, fair and fun. As little stress as possible. It’s Belle Wood’s first time as a host, but we want to be a host for years and years to come.”

One of my mentors for breeding just took her three 2016 foals to a RPSI inspection in their area. They all scored as premium foals. I congratulated her and admitted my feelings of complete inspiration for her and her program. She thanked me, and assured me that everyone has nerves. She promised that if I saw how stressed out she’d been behind the scenes, I would be able to face this inspection with full confidence.

And maybe that’s the best advice I could ever give myself and others. Not one of us is above the rest. We might be a one-horse breeder or a billion dollar farm, at the end of it all, no one has the perfect formula for the perfect horse. We go in, hearts in our throats, hoping for the best.

On the day Star may decide she doesn’t feel like doing anything but running around like an idiot. She may live up to every potential she has to offer. We’ll see what happens. In the meantime, we’ve done all we can. I think I’ve finally (mostly, I hope) actually come to the point where I’m content. We go forward, we get our comments, we’re done. I honestly don’t think I have anything more to give.

Christine Sharpe is a Canadian who grew up riding Hunter/Jumper in the Southern USA. Now living in Toronto, she is a thirty-something who is back to riding after four years off and having her first child. Christine is aiming her Thoroughbred mare, Star, toward the Jumper Circuit and Warmblood Breed Inspections. She struggles daily to juggle family, work, and her equine lifestyle, with occasional success.

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