Show Season has begun! For all of us, that means different things. For me, I am a Morgan person. Well, at least when I show horses, I am a Morgan person. I have lots of other breeds around the farm… Anyway, have you ever been to a Morgan show? I have. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just not a show person. To coin a relationship phrase, “Its not the show, its me.”
First off, let me tell you that although I had Morgan show horses for many years, I’ve only been to a handful of shows. Not many Morgan horse people really know that I actually exist. The people in my trainer’s barn called me the Phantom Owner. It was as if there was a myth about me and my horses… someone pays the bills but we cannot confirm or deny that these horses really have an owner. I felt like the benefactor of the eternal roses on Marilyn Monroe’s grave. They were always there but no one knew how or why. That was me.
Oh sure, I was totally into the behind the scenes stuff. I was a fixture at the training barn. My trainer would call me up and say, “He’s getting hooked today…” I’d be there. “Doc Curnan is coming today…” OK! or “C’mon by because it is beautiful outside and I think we are gonna work her in the outdoor arena…” Yippee!! I sometimes would even go to the barn just to hang out and watch him train all the other horses all day long. I loved learning everything that it took to turn out a great show horse. And, of course, I loved to study the breeding. I don’t breed anymore for various reasons, but during my breeding days, I was glued to the Progeny DVDs and the Stallion edition of THE MORGAN HORSE magazine. In fact, my trainer probably saw me too often! ;)
MY FIRST UNSHOW EXPERIENCE (I wasn’t there…)
I had been very lucky with my first show horse (pulled from my back pasture at age 9 to start training – considered ancient in the horse world and hopeless to be a contender…). I never went to his qualifying shows because he was such a long shot. For some reason, it never occurred to me to go watch. My bad. He won two World Championships when he had only been in training for 8 months. Now, that was terrific and I’m only kinda boasting a little, but I never basked in any show glory because it never occurred to me to go. Hmmmmmm.
But, the pictures were good so I was kinda there. And, the phone call from the trainers was awesome! They were so out of breath! It went something like this, (ring) “Ah, hello…” (heavy panting and yelling in the background) “Hello?, is someone there?” (Trainer says) “OMGOMGOMG!! YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THIS!! TOM WON!! HE WON!! (Me) “Won what?” (Trainer amongst people cheering and yelling) “THE WHOLE THING!!” (Me, making dinner and half-way listening) “What whole thing?” (Trainer, exasperated) “IT ALL, HE WON HIS DIVISION AND HE WENT ON TO WIN THE TITLE!!!!!” (Me, being naughty and not gettting it…) “What title? Most improved pasture gelding? he hee” (Trainer, really frustrated) “NO, HE WON THE HUNTER DIVISION AND SOMEONE IS OFFERING YOU BIG $$$ FOR HIM RIGHT NOW!” (Me, suddenly listening), “Wha? OMGOMGOMG!”
And, so the rumors started. I became the phantom owner who didn’t even show up to see her horse win it all and then sell for a lofty sum. It gave the impression that I was something I wasn’t. Basically, I was just ignert and busy… But, everyone thought I was so mysterious. Ha! T’wernt no mystery!
DAGNABBIT, I’M GONNA GO!
So, with my next horse, I decided to go. I decided to follow her progress and really participate in the show scene. Whatever that was… Huge Pause here. I had never, ever been to a Morgan Horse show and I was about to embark. I packed my little bag with a few types of outfits depending upon the weather. I brought comfy shoes and appropriate (or so I thought) jackets and pants for being around horses but also being around people. I got in my car and drove to the out of town show.
The next morning, I put on my outfit, stuck my chapstick and visor in my purse and headed to the show grounds. (Another big pause…)
I MUST NOT BE A SHOW PERSON BECAUSE…
As I drive in, I see people wearing clothes that didn’t match what I had brought at all. Was there a cocktail party happening here? I see gorgeous horses strutting about. OK. OK. I see colorful curtains and lots of brouhaha hanging. I see ribbons and pictures and so much stuff my brain has a hard time keeping up with it all. As I get closer, the detail becomes more precise. I see that every trainer or barn has a different layout for their area. This was such a statement. For me, coming from a television background, I understood the showmanship, hierarchy and social stratosphere I had just walked into… ugh. I mean, I should have known, but it took me a few hours of walking around to really get it. I could almost hear the music from West Side Story… Jets and the Sharks… One after another, Joneses trying to outdo the Smiths. Or, Hatfields and McCoys. I had no idea it would be like this. And, as I delved further towards my own trainer’s palazzo, I saw even more elaborate sitting areas constructed to draw the more well-heeled clients like flies to honey. I saw entire aisle ways being taken over by full bars with shavings covered floors, imported foliage and automatic temperature systems. Was I at a spa? Was I on vacation? I thought I was at a horse show? Uh, Dorothy, we aren’t in Kansas anymore…
So, what is up with all that then? Well, of course, I know what this was all about but I hadn’t expected it. You need to rise to the status of your clients. I totally understand that a trainer needs to cater to his client to keep them coming back. And, many horse people require certain creature comforts. But, I couldn’t not notice the contrast of it all. Clearly the area with the most stuff wins. The fluffy booths were all clustered together. They obviously had some seniority. You could just feel the beat of the “haves” party going at all times. And, yes, my trainer was among them. Right in the thick of it.
But, before I joined my “barn” at the show, I decided to stroll near the bathrooms and manure pile to the “have not” section. Hmmmmm. A bit different. I knew how the economics of it all worked, clearly. However, I felt a bit uncomfortable. It seems like we were playing one game at home, but when we got to the venue, the rules changed. I thought the goal was to have fun. But, now I see, the goal was to WIN. And, honestly, winning did feel good and I had to think about how I fit into all of this. I liked winning. But, I didn’t like this… whatever it was. I wanted to unparticipate. I wanted to participate in the horse part but not really in the human part. I was starting to like my Phantom identity.
As I was thinking this through, I went back to my trainer’s area and relaxed in a very cozy chair under a mister with a fan blowing perfectly nearby. I had a glass of wine – from a very nice bottle. Y’know, I see how this experience feels nice and vacationy. After all, it costs all of us a pretty penny to get here. So, why not? I drank my wine and melted into my recliner. I thought about venturing to the arena without crossing the other side of the tracks… Hmmmmmm. It all felt a bit awkward for me. But, on the other hand, I fit right in… I actually fit in better than most because I had the whisper behind my back of “She’s the one with the two World Championships…” I was more “in” than I felt inside. Thus began my show conflict. Thus began my show avoidance. Thus began the perpetuation of my Phantom myth. I exemplified exactly what was making me uncomfortable. Ugh. At my first show, I decided that perhaps it should be my last.
And, besides the emotional stuff, I had a few questions…
Ok, veering away from the human drama for a bit, I want to discuss the music at Morgan Horse Shows. Have you ever heard it? Oy. Let me tell you that it is the same musak they played in every elevator and in every doctors office before Sirius/XM came along — only worse because they take every piece and convert it into a dandy organ ditty. How can Billy Idol’s REBEL YELL end up on the Morgan Horse Show Circuit? Because it is unrecognizable, that’s why! I swear, they played the National Anthem and I had no idea. I’m surprised anyone can stay awake with that droning churchlady music playing constantly in the background — and I grew up Catholic! I should be used to it. But you never get used to that Morgan Horse Show music. It is no wonder the horses lose it occasionally. There is no rhythm or cadence or pattern for them to understand other than being totally frustrated and irritated. I could not believe it. I sat there slack jawed, wondering why no one else was running over to the music booth with a stack of CDs and a boombox.
Then it occurred to me. The organist must be somebody’s mother. This is her only job and she lives for it. Or, she has dirt on the officials or something. I could not fathom any other reason for not bringing this show out of the elevator and into the new ages. So, that was my second “I must not be a show person” thought.
My next discord was makeup. Why are the darling little horsey kids all made up to look like Dracula’s bride? I was shocked when I watched the first class of kids. Who replaced little Ashley with Wynonna? Why do I feel like I’m watching actors from an Italian Opera? It is one thing to have a fake smile plastered on your face, but to also have plaster plastered on your face just makes it all really bad. I swear, I have a photo of a teenage rider on my horse and she looks like Norma Desmond, “I’m reeeeady for my close-up Mr. DeMille…” (not pictured here…). Whoever the culprit was who told these girls that this was the way to wear makeup oughtta be taken out back and made to move the manure pile around a few times. Sheesh.
DIRT AND HORSE SLOBBER
I totally get why a judge wants to look their best. I get why a presenter and an owner want to look good for the photo. I mean, it is a huge charge of excitement to win and you want that picture to capture the moment… and of course, you want that moment to be one of your finest since you will show the photo to everyone. Still, I cannot help giggling a bit when I see fancy outfits and pumps walk out onto the arena dirt. Invariably, someone trips or hikes up their best shiny dress while walking gingerly and wobbly to the photo area. And, also invariably, they go to kiss the horse and they get slobber across their chest or face or some other inopportune area. Frantically, the owner wipes off the slobber to create a schmear somewhere it shouldn’t be and then grapples with her outfit just as the photog is counting “3”. FLASH! Darn it! Take another one, please! So, the owner wipes a big, red angry swath across her cheek to wipe away the now dripping brow that has attracted several flies just as the shutter clicks again. Even the horse was on “2” for that one. Oy.
I say, wear a nice top and some comfy pants/shoes, trot out there easily and don’t kiss your horse until after the photos.
NO ONE WILL SIT NEAR ME
It isn’t like I have cooties or anything… It is just that I am not a lot of fun at shows. I lose my ability to chit-chat. My chit-chat mechanism defaults into fixated pedigreeitis. I cannot help myself. I am consumed by genetics. I think I should have studied that instead of television. I can totally see myself in some tiny lab somewhere, in a white coat, looking through a huge microscope and proclaiming, “A-ha! I knew that marker for tongue curling ability was on R-52!” But, alas, I didn’t take that fork in the road so my fixation expresses itself at horse shows. I’m like a junkie in need of a fix. I get all jittery and grind my teeth. I’m flipping to the back of the book to check out the pedigrees of all the horses in every class constantly. Flip, flip, drop the book, flip, spill my drink, flip, drop my pen…flip, flip, flip… I’m obsessed and completely annoying so it isn’t very fun to be around me. That’s another reason no one knows me at horse shows. I’m the crazy lady in comfortable clothes who is flipping frantically through the show brochure that most of you are sitting on so you don’t get the bleacher booty marks.
WHY I DON’T GO TO SHOWS ANYMORE
So, that’s why, really. I’m just not a show person. I have a hard time with the social strata divisions even though I admit that I choose to sit in my trainer’s very comfy area and not cross the divide. I have a real hard time seeing Susie in full drag makeup and I really want to change out the whole music library. I tend to titter a lot during ribbon ceremonies, not good, and I always seem to mention judging errors when I am supposed to keep quiet. And, since I spend most of my time alone doing genetic calculations, I really am unfit to sit in the stands and socialize. So, I stay home. The Phantom owner sits quietly, listening to music she likes, wearing comfy clothes and pours over progeny lists in the privacy of her own computer — waiting for my trainer to call…
MY NEXT PHANTOM UNSHOW
Yes, it is show season for me, too. I do have a horse going very soon in Monroe, Washington. So, if any of you are at the Morgan Show in Monroe, look for Bellorazzo. He might be driving in his first show although we hope he might be riding. Anyway, he does have an owner and she does love him dearly. She just isn’t really a horse show person…
HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!