After five months of prep, it’s finally over. I still can’t quite believe I’m standing on the other side of it, but there is a noticeable lightness to my body today.
The night before the inspection I had crazy dreams. Star had all manner of issues ranging from a missing leg to glass hooves. My handler, who’s a lovely blonde woman, had grown a long white Merlin beard. Oh, and the judges showed up minutes before my planned arrival time. It was a weird night, and by the time 6am rolled around I was very done with the nonsense. I forced myself to stay up all day in the hopes that I would be exhausted and fall asleep at a reasonable hour. It didn’t really work, but regardless I left the house the day of the inspection at 5am for the long drive into Belle Wood.
The tiredness was a bit of a mixed blessing, I think. The adrenaline on the day was pretty much canceled out by the exhaustion. It basically meant that I was able to function and (mostly) think, but not really able to care too much about anything.
I’d bought balloons and food the night before, so I unpacked the balloons as I drove up the drive. Star saw me and troted over to say hi, something that makes me smile even now thinking about it. I gave her some pats and then headed up to the arena and office to get cleaned up and organized.
The other owners started arriving, so I helped to coordinate who was going where. It was pretty cool to finally get to meet all the people I’d been corresponding with for the last few weeks and see their equine partners that I’d heard so much about. Across the board it was pretty clear that we all felt the same way about our animals; they were perfect and very, very loved. Putting a horse forward for an inspection is stressful on many levels, but I think it’s probably pretty much the worst the first time. I felt like I had a pretty objective idea of Star’s good and bad, but I’d never had my eye evaluated by an official. Everyone else was in the same boat. We all joked that together we made a pretty poor bunch.
I brought Star in for Theresa to braid, and so began the indelicate balance of me being a host site contact, entry owner, and barn marketing coordinator. It was weird trying to wear the three hats at once and I’m not sure I excelled at any of them. Still, I did my best. I ran for items when someone needed something, answered questions to the best of my knowledge, talked up Belle Wood and our program, and tried to turn Star out at her best.
I was astonished at how much longer Star’s neck looked with braids in. I know that horses look different braided, but Star looks SO different braided. Everyone at the barn commented on it at one point or another. Still, I had bigger fish to fry…
My current go-to for both an initial curry and hard brush is the Magic Brush. I haven’t been able to find anything else like it. Star hates rubber curry combs of any size or shape, but she tolerates the Magic Brush enough to allow me to actually get her clean. I flicked off the worst of what was left with my dual fiber dandy brush, and smoothed everything down with a softy and towel.
We use ketchup on white at our barn, but her socks were pretty stained to begin with. I ended up using Shapely’s White Touch-Up on them in the end. Her hooves got a good scrub and some Absorbine polish.
To finish, a layer of Showsheen got topped by a solid spray of World Champion Pepi Coat Conditioner. I think the funniest moment of the day happened when I accidentally grabbed the white spray instead of the Pepi and gave Star some lovely white streaks on her butt and face. Thankfully, some good rubbing with the Pepi pulled the white out and I was able to fix it without too much of an issue.
While all of this was going on, I started to notice several members of my barn family showing up. We chatted in between everything else, and I was pretty excited to see the turnout. I didn’t really notice at first, and I totally blame being tired, but most everyone was wearing pink. It took someone actually telling me that they were wearing pink in support of Star and me. On the day it made me feel so supremely happy, but thinking about it now makes me almost want to cry. I’m so lucky/blessed in my barn family, and I would not give them up for the world.
About three hours after Star got her braids put in the judges arrived. Otto and Ann set up shop in our office and immediately started churning out paperwork and answering questions. Ann gathered everyone together and chatted about RPSI’s history, mandate, and the general yearly process for herself and Otto. It was nice and informative, while also giving everyone a chance to transition from paperwork to the inspection itself. Belle Wood was presented with the official host medal for 2016, and the inspection got underway.
At that point Star was pretty annoyed. She wanted her braids out, and was non too pleased with smelling like strawberries and attracting all the flies. I had to hand walk her around instead of watching the inspections before me, something I’m still pretty bummed about. Thankfully, my girlfriend and fellow rider Erika took some videos for me. (You can also thank her for all the photos here, as the official shots still have to be processed.)
Finally, it was Star’s turn, and I handed her off to a smiling Theresa. I took a seat surrounded by friends to watch and wait. I felt like Star looked bored for most of her inspection, which was probably true. I probably should have popped her over a few jumps first to get her revved up. Her trot was slow and plodding, which was especially disappointing as we’d worked so hard on moving out nicely in the trot over the last few months. Regardless, I was pleased with her turnout and happy with her canter–once she finally decided to actually pick it up.
I’d gotten up while she was at liberty, to help encourage her to move. When Otto asked her to be collected, she came right back over to Theresa and stood mostly patiently. I sat back down, holding my hands and hoping.
Otto introduced Star and her breeding. Confirmed that she sticked at 16.1″ and complimented her on her “pretty face,” type, and size and frame for warmblood breeding. He noted her mismatched front feet as, “incorrect in the front,” but went on to note that she has a good rhythmic, uphill canter. He scored her at 44 points and announced she’d be entered into the Main Mare Book. If you make it through the whole video below, you’ll hear me almost hiss, “YES!” before everyone started clapping.
I had a great talk with both Ann and Otto afterwards, about everything from Thoroughbreds in general to Star’s future. We got her microchipped, and I was handed her recorded score. As I expected, her Trot and her “Correctness” were her lowest scores; just beating out the average at 5.5 (out of 10). Her Canter and “Breed/Sex Type” scored her a pair of solid 7s. The rest were 6s and 6.5s.
The remainder of the day was quite a blur. At some point I took out braids, said a ton of thank yous, turned Star out, and made the long drive back to my family vacation. I was hungry (why didn’t I eat anything all day?), hot, and utterly exhausted, but I had a smile on my face the whole time.
A few days before the inspection I told my husband I planed to buy some champagne if Star got into an approved book. As usual, he humoured me while I yammered on about how I really had to earn it though. So, I amended my first statement that I would only get a bottle if she made the Main Mare Book, because that would be tough. I have to say, my friends, all the work and the wait somehow makes it taste that much sweeter.
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.