Read about a young working student during a typical horse show day.
By TPH Intern Tori Weed
It’s 5:00 a.m. and my alarm clock goes off one more time as I urge my sore and crackling body out of bed. My tired feet hit the floor and I bend and stretch in all the weirdest ways in order to get my muscles ready for another day as a working student at the Colorado Horse Park. I reach around in the dark until I can find a fresh pair of breeches and a collared shirt, then my belt, some boot socks and other basic necessities to get ready for the morning. Once dressed, I pass by the coffee machine and make sure it’s on and warming up. There’s no way I want to face my morning without my normal cup of happiness. Finally equipped with my boots, camera bag, and coffee I make my way out the camper door and walk down to the barns.
A morning sunrise at the Colorado Horse Park.
5:20 a.m.: I reach the barns and give a warm good morning to the grooms who are the only other people at the show grounds this early, or a quick thank you and goodbye to the amazing braiders who have managed to stay up all night making our horses’ manes and tails look impeccable. I greet our horses, as I sip my coffee a few final times, and begin my morning routine.
5:35 a.m.: I sit in the first of many saddles of the day and begin my morning tour of all the rings. I take the Performance Hunters to main hunter, hunter two, etc and give them a nice hack around the arena. I let them have a good look at any scary, new jumps that appeared over night. I ride the jumpers around or give them a nice morning stretch to make sure they’ll have an easy warm up later before their class, always making sure not to do too much so they conserve all their energy for their power and speed phases. I hand the reins over to the groom of my final client’s horse, then run to get my own horse ready.
7:15 a.m.: Finally, I hop on my personal horse and do a jaunt around to all the arenas. Once we’ve seen the sights, I do a bit of flat work: Haunches in, shoulders in, and counter-cantering, in order to make sure my horse is all warmed up and stretched out, ready to do any crazy equitation and Medal tests thrown at us later in the day.
7:45 a.m.: I check in with my trainer and get an idea of the schedule for the day. We run to get breakfast because who knows when the next time we’ll get a break is, and we both need to be sharp and ready. Then we head off in the golf cart to check into the arenas and walk any courses we need to. Once back at the barn, the whirlwind of the competition day begins and we’re off. My trainer leaves on her first horse, with me following quickly behind with my camera and the grooming kit.
8:30 a.m.: Hopefully, our first jumper is finished or we’re quickly waiting for the Performance Hunters to jog. Then, we’re off to the next horse, and the next, and the next. After many trips and check-ins at all the arenas, many warm up jumps set, and many courses later, somehow we’ve survived the morning. Ideally, we’e made it through the first half of our day with no rails or faults, lots of successful rounds, and good ribbons to show off.
Intern Tori Weed taking Winning Ticket, a 3’3 Performance Hunter, on a morning hack.
1:30 p.m.: By now most of our horses have shown. But, of course, we’re waiting on a few arenas to hurry up. So we take advantage of the lull and refuel with some lunch and continue with everything else that needs to be done. At this point, my trainer and I hack the horses that don’t show today and I try to squeeze my horse in one more time.
3:30 p.m.: We make a final walk to the hunter ring that decided to run all day to finish our last horse. I set the warm up jumps again. By now it’s second nature. I paint the hooves one more time and do a final tack adjustment. I wish my trainer luck as she walks into the ring. We smile at each other after a round well done. I hand her a cup of water and teach her one more course. Thank goodness hunter courses are easy because, after a long day in the sun, we’re lucky if we can remember “single, outside line, diagonal line, single oxer, judges’ line.” Shortly after, we wait patiently for the jog one more time, hoping to hear our horse called. Last, we walk back to the barns and reflect on a day well done with our great horses.
5 p.m.: I begin the night routine and talk to my trainer about our plans. Before sitting down to decide what we’re going to do for the evening, I collect all of the grain buckets and start making the beet pulp for later. The horses are eager for the grain, but they’ll have to wait, so I throw them each a flake or two of hay. My trainer and I discuss dinner for both us and the horses. She runs and gets us food as I make up the horses’ feed. While I wait for her return, I take the time to clean my tack, then hers, look up the times and class counts for tomorrow, and tidy up the aisle. By the time the shedrow looks as if a tornado of a horse show day hadn’t happened, I hear my trainer walk up and we’re off to eat our dinner.
9:30 p.m.: We’ve eaten, showered and checked up on any left over text messages we’ve neglected all day. We chat about the happenings of the day and make up a game plan for tomorrow. Finally, we do one more night check on our deserving horses and take care of last-minute details like hanging tail wraps, checking buckets, and giving cookies. Soon, it’s already later than we had thought, and we crawl into our beds ready for another day with a couple final goodnights.
It was a good day. Let’s do it again tomorrow.
Casido and Karen Banister in the 3’6 Performance Hunters in Tulsa, OK.