June 18, 2015 was the day I rode Star for the first time. We hit the year anniversary with nothing too exciting happening.

Okay, that’s a lie. I spent that day doing show prep. Star’s first ever show prep. (Well, if you don’t count this; and I don’t.)

I’ve known about the show for awhile. I’ve been keeping it under my hat for a ton of reasons. Mostly because putting pressure on myself to do well does nothing good to anyone. Least of all Star. And since there’s no real point in any of this without doing good by Star, I wanted to keep my stress level as low as possible.

So besides my barn family, I really only told people who live with me. It wasn’t easy. I was thrilled to finally get the okay to try Star off property, even if it was only a schooling show, and this ramped me up enough without help.

Have you ever noticed that the anticipation of something is nearly always worse than the thing itself? I mean, I assume nearly always. I’ve never actually had an experience when the anticipation wasn’t worse, but I have to leave room for the possibility. After all, I’m not dead yet.

I decided to go in it alone, I didn’t want anyone outside of my barn to watch. I still felt anxious, and had a few moments of severe, heart racing panic just thinking about everything that could go wrong. Sleep in the days leading up to the show was full of bizarre dreams of horses, facebook, and my coach trying to force feed me tiny desserts.

I was worried Star would have problems loading, since the last time she’d been on a trailer was a year ago when she came to me. I worried she’d be stressed out from all the sights and sounds, like she’d been the last time I tried to show her. I was worried we’d make a grave error and harm each other or someone else. Tons of worries upon worries built up the pre-show anxiety.

At my last lesson before the show, my coach B said to me: “We’re not going to win. We’re going to be off property and see how she goes. Making it through the day without her being crazy is a win.”

Per my usual MO, and despite days of ranging panic controlled by breathing exercises, the day of the show itself I was fairly chill. By show day, you’ve done everything you can to prepare and it will either be enough or it won’t. I say it all the time to the younger kids, but only because I actually believe it. Toss in a bit of luck, your horse’s feelings on the day, and that’s all you’ve got to give. It’s good enough to pin or it isn’t.

The facility was large and well laid-out. Hunters were the majority of the entries, but our jumper division was the fullier of the two. I popped a green bow in Star’s tail and hoped for the best. Star had a couple clear “what the hell?” moments, but they were reasonable, and she got a lot of nice compliments along the way.

So how did it go?

Well, there was no champion for us, reserve or otherwise. But we found our stride and pinned the first two classes. They were Power and Speed classes (a clear round gets you an immediate jump off), and we managed a clear in the first and a superfast one-fault in the second.

A nudging fear I always have now is forgetting my course. We jump full courses so rarely, instead working on technical lines and nailing our flatwork. Of course I dropped the third-to-last jump in the last pure Speed course, which is disappointing, because we were fast and Star was doing great.

All in all, Star being great was the best part of the day. She basically gave herself over to the idea that as long as we’re together, she’s going to be just fine. I had countless people tell me she was beautiful, and quite a few compliment her on her jump.

A close second to all that, though, was the support and just pure fun I had hanging out with my barn family. In an early ride, when Star had a brief idea of taking over piloting, she threw a few tempi changes and rocked me nearly out of the saddle. I stayed glued, got her organized, and could clearly hear one or two of my barn mates yelling, “Good girl!”

Another one of my barn’s riders had a good day on her own lovely bay thoroughbred mare. We sort of stuck together throughout the day, encouraging and helping one another. Even though we competed in the same class, I don’t remember ever being concerned about that. I wanted her to do well. She pinned higher than me or I pinned higher than her, but either way, we were both all smiles and matching proud mare owners’ expressions. That’s what being part of a barn team actually means. Not who’s better, but how we can all help each other be our own personal bests.

It’s odd to think I’ve only known these people and my Star for only a year. I feel such affection for all of them, and I can only hope I’m as good of a support system for them as they are for me. I’m also so thankful that my husband gave up most of his Father’s Day so I could go out and show. He’s not the type of Dad who’s “babysitting” if he’s the one that has to watch our two-year-old. He’s happy to snuggle and spend the morning playing with her. But I’m also quite sure he would have appreciated a little more sleep in time.

At the end of it all, I came home tired, sunburnt, and happy. As usual, my coach was right; I the day wasn’t about pinning, it was about going out and being good. In that, the day was a total success. 🙂

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 recently back to riding after four years off and having her first child. Christine is aiming her Thoroughbred mare, Star, toward the Trillium Jumper Circuit. She struggles daily to juggle family, work, and her equine lifestyle, with occasional success.

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