Early Days

Elvenstar Hunter Show AKA The Braiding Disaster

About a week ago I found out that 2 newish clients of Laurie’s were headed to a local hunter show, and I looked into tagging along. It’s good practice for both of us to go to a new place, and conveniently the show facility is right next door.
As in literally, we share a fence. Perfect!
But wouldn’t you know it, there are no gates. There is one gate from another neighbor’s property, but there’s a brick wall on the other side…so we had to trailer over. Yep, we trailed to next door. I felt like Steve Martin in LA Story.
Anyways, I decided that this weekend was as good a time as any to try braiding Hemie. I’ve never braided him, and I thought it would look good on him. I decided to braid the day before in order to preserve my show morning sanity. Let’s just say it didn’t work out.
He was a pretty good sport, but was annoyed at bugs.
Here we are halfway through.

So handsome! Even with my pitiful excuses for braids!

Next morning – day of show. Braids did NOT hold.

Apparently Hemie either rubbed or slept on his neck. I tried salvaging them, but it was for naught. Laurie took one look at them and said they were beyond saving. We ended up pulling them out.

Which leaves me in a conundrum for future braiding (including this coming weekend!)…do I try again the day before but just spend more time/effort/energy/hairspray to help them be more secure, or do I wake up crack of dawn and braid on show-day?

Anyway, on to the show! It was held at the well known Elvenstar Stables in Moorpark.

They have 2 show rings, with the upper ring being for higher levels and the lower right (ring #2) for the lower levels.

“Ring #2” – Lovely hunter ring.

The footing at the facility arenas was really cool.

Close up: powdery sand and scraps of fabric? Paper?

According to the website, its ESI All Weather footing – a blend of sand with “geo felt & special fibers.” I loved it.

The day started off as a bit of a cluster. As I pulled in to the barn to longe and groom Hemie, I got a call from the show secretary telling me my classes were going and asking if I was on site since I hadn’t checked in. Ha! I wasn’t even going to be picked up for another 45 minutes or so, so I said I would probably need to scratch those classes (2′) and enter the 2’3″ instead.

As soon as we got to the facility, one of the barn moms graciously signed me in and said that I could still make the 2′ classes if I got on ASAP and headed to the arena. I decided that I was not going to rush or stress, and if we missed the classes then so be it. I’d rather take our time and ensure a positive experience for Hemie. Plus I knew we could handle the 2’3″ without issue.

Unfortunately there’s no shots of us doing our best hunter impression. Oh well.

Laurie warmed up Hemie because he was acting quite bright eyed and bushy-tailed, but there were no major freak-outs. Just his normal issues exacerbated by the stress of being in a new place.  After her ride she was hesitant about him being able to go in the hunter ring, saying he wasn’t broke enough. To be honest I was floored when she said this. But I think she was just a little tired (she had just come back from a 3 day trip out of state) and not thinking clearly since we’ve done several shows before and are doing a derby next weekend. If my horse isn’t broke enough for a 2′ hunter warm-up class then we have major problems.

Anyway, she came to, and I took him into a 2′ warm up class (they graciously let me do this even though the division had ended) and then the 2’3″ warm up class a little bit later. We called it a day without actually entering any judged rounds, but that was fine. Due to the hurry-up-and-wait situation at these levels of shows, I was actually up on Hemie’s back for probably 2 hours. He was a very willing and brave mount in both our classes, and we cantered through the entire 2nd round, very fluid and forward. I came out smiling from ear to ear and it was overall a great day. I would go back to that show again in a heartbeat.

The two gals who I went with are young girls (like 12 and 8 or something), and their moms brought a groom. I was informed (note: not asked) that he would be helping with my horse for a tip. It was one of those socially awkward situations where trying to explain that I didn’t need or want (read: didn’t want to pay for) a groom wasn’t going to fly, so I just bit my tongue and started worrying that this show was going to be more costly than I had thought.

But let me tell you: having a groom was awesome! He not only groomed Hemie to a gorgeous shine, but tacked him up, led him around, wiped my boots, wiped Hemie’s hooves, brought both of us water, helped calm him down, helped un-tack and groom, and was just overall friendly and pleasant and helpful beyond belief. A girl could get used to that! I tipped him handsomely. Don’t you love it when you stress about something and it turns out to be fabulous?

After our 2 rounds, I took Hemie back to the trailer. He was the only horse tied up there, and for some reason he was acting like a dork – hollering and pacing around, not eating his hay. He’s been tied before, all by himself, without issue. At one point he got his lead rope stuck on a part of the trailer, but he just stood there like a good boy until I came to release it. At least he’s still smart when he’s acting like a dweeb. He settled down as soon as the other horses came back to the trailer.

Being a dweeb at the trailer.
Laurie and cute little Walden showing off Tori and Honor’s reserve champion ribbon.
Honor, Mocha pony, and Hemie chillin at the trailer. With Fermie the amazing groom.
Hemie in the trailer heading home. He is looking back at me.

Overall it was a fabulous outing. The Elvenstar managers were very pleasant and accommodating. All the kids and parents were friendly and low-key. The girls I rode with and their moms were welcoming and friendly, and most importantly it was a safe environment.

Okay, one more story from the day. Most of the 2 hours I spent in the saddle were walking around inside the warm-up arena. Hemie did not really want to stand in one place for very long – he got fidgety. Anyway, when the divisions changed from 2′ to pony division, a mass of children and ponies flooded the warm up arena. They were going every which way, and looked so darn cute with their pigtail braids and fuzzy coats! Hemie was a champ navigating the warm-up craziness. At one point a young girl was walking next to me and in all seriousness asked me if I was competing for the pony medal championship. I said no, that I would be doing the 2’3″ (which apparently is called “Intermediate”) – and she very formally wished me luck. :)

I have to say I do love competing with small children; they remind me that horse-riding is about reconnecting with your inner child and having fun.Which I certainly did.

18 comments on “Elvenstar Hunter Show AKA The Braiding Disaster

  1. Sounds like a great trip! I agree its always nice when you have someone there to help you out!


  2. Sorry about the braids! yeah, wake up early or get a braider…actually don't get a braider otherwise you will get very used to that awesomeness too!! I never had a groom growing up and it made me feel weird at first, but I agree it is super nice and helpful!


  3. I totally know where Elvenstar is and have been there! My grandparents have a house in Simi Valley and I spend a lot of my childhood there :)

    Sounds like a great show and day for you both! LOVE those awesome experiences!


  4. Next time you visit your grandparents, I'd love to have you stop by and meet myself and Hemie. =]


  5. Defiantly! They spend most of their time in MO now and rent out the Simi house but if I am down there I'll def hit you up :)


  6. Even if the braids didn't work out, it sounds like a super-fun show! I'm glad you both had such a nice time, and it sounds like you were with a good group of people.

    After going solo for YEARS, I've recently had some very kind friends groom for me. HOLY COW is having a groom ever awesome! I think I'd have a hard time having someone I didn't know as a groom, but it sounds like the person you had with you was one in a million. How nice!


  7. Sounds very fun for you guys! Bummer about the braids… I have always put a sleezy on Hue when he is braided over night. One time I even turned him out in his medium with braids in! They weren't hunter braids though. Don't know if dressage/ eventer braids stay in better?


  8. For braids, if they are tight enough they shouldn't fall out like that. Did you do double knots? Also I braid with the mane wetted down so they're tighter. Glad you had fun!


  9. wow, a groom would be a spoiler. Watching all those fearless little kids always reminds me to take a min and enjoy being around horses again (and that whole if the tiny girl is jumping that height i better do it too)


  10. With braids, I usually braid them straight down, put a sleazy on the horse over night, and then band them up in the morning. I also use horsie hairspray on them :)


  11. Thanks! Yeah it was a little too nice…


  12. Hahaha good point about the braider! Maybe I'll save that for a big show.


  13. Yes, very nice group of people, which makes all the difference! I've had friends help “groom” before…but mostly they just hitched a ride with me then watched the show! =P


  14. I'm gonna think about investing in a sleezy. I don't know if eventer-dressage braids stay in better than hunter braids – probably depends more on how well they are done rather than the difference between being folded versus buttoned.


  15. I'm positive it was user error – not tight enough, not enough knots (I for sure did double knots…but probably needed triple or quadruple!). And next time I'll wet it down or use hairspray or something.


  16. Little kids are so fun. Though I have long since given up the idea of those-kids-are-jumping-that-height-therefore-I-better-do-it-too. I've accepted that there will always be people younger than me jumping higher than I ever will! But I must say that winning in a show against little kids is one of my secret happy wishes!


  17. This sounds brilliant. Thanks!


  18. A groom … Deep sigh of envy … :0)

    It sounds like a successful day to me!


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