Big horse shows are big.
A week ago today, Katie and I were on our way back from our whirlwind trip to Vegas, back from our first experience with a big horse show. We decided if we do this next year, staying one more night would be good. Of course, Katie is already planning Lena's Paint Vegas barrel racing debut, too.
Back to last week. Because the arena had to be completely reconfigured, cutting was scheduled for the last day. On one hand, we missed most of the events, but on the other hand, things in the barn were pretty quiet.
The hotel itself is set up as an equestrian event center, with permanent stalls and a good-sized arena. All you had to do to find the barn was follow your nose. Some poor kid spent all day Sunday vacuuming the carpet of the alcove that led to the barn.
We got to our room - up on the 23rd floor - and managed to catch Cheri and Tiffany by phone right as Amber was going down for a nap, so had a couple of hours to kill.
We went to have lunch, then went to find the horses. Cheri had told me they brought seven horses from Slide, but when we got to the stalls, we only recognized six of them. I saw Vinnie first, then Cooper, Truly, Annie, Too Much Pepper and Peaches. But we couldn't figure out who number seven was. Turns out it was "Lena," another Lena, who they were using as a help horse.
We perused the gift show - gravitating instantly towards the most expensive headstalls available. Katie declined the opportunity to watch some of the Western Pleasure events and we headed back to our room. She didn't quite run away screaming, but close. On our way back through the hotel casino, where we dodged dazed gamblers and cheerful cocktail waitresses, we found Ike. He suggested Katie go up and change for the upcoming practice session right as Tiffany called me to say Amber was up from her nap. Nice timing all around, I'd say.
Amber and I hung out, trying to stay out of the way and find somewhere to sit after the cleaning staff kicked us out of the stands. Katie helped keep the horses warmed up, trotting and loping them in the practice arena, switching out as the horses each took turns with the practice cows. The cattle were - according to Tiffany - gross and nasty, running headlong into the horses instead of moving away.
The cattle did improve the next day - here are Ike (and Vinnie) watching as the helpers settle a group of cattle.
It was hard to watch the cutting and watch Amber, but there were some great runs on some truly excellent horses. Unfortunately, my pictures are mostly blurry because of how fast everyone was moving and because we were indoors. Amber spent time watching the cutting, watching me take pictures of the cutting, looking at the pictures I took, and climbing up and down the stairs with me right behind her. I got a great work out! Probably the most amazing thing was how long Amber played with her Play-doh. I don't think I've ever seen a 2-year old play with anything for 4 hours straight. Ever! I did get in trouble with her, though, for yelling "too loud" during Tiffany and Truly's Non-Pro run. I told her I had to, it was for her mommy. :-)
All of Ike and Cheri's horses made the finals, which was really cool, and Tiffany got reserve champion in both the Open and the Non-Pro categories. In the Non-Pro, she was only behind the leader by a measly 0.5 points, but she had a really exciting ride. (Hence the aforementioned "too loud" shouting.)
It was a fast trip, and I would have liked to spend more time with the Slide folks, but the time we did spend was pretty special. I got to watch Katie reconnect with riding and with people who really treat her as if they like her. (Because they do, of course.) I got to be reminded that there are people out there who really appreciate and enjoy wild and crazy - and smart - horses like Lena. That was a pretty special suprise to get out of this trip and one of the many reasons it was worth going.
And it was wonderful to come home to Lena Rey and Steve and share the after-glow of that gift with them.
Congtratulations, Slide Mountain crew! You guys are awesome!