In my last blog, I recounted the events leading up to my eldest daughter’s I.E.A. Hunt Seat National Finals equestrian competition in Lexington, Virginia. (I’ve been told that I.E.A stands for “Interscholastic Equestrian Association,” but I think it really means “Incredibly Expensive Activity.”) While in Virginia, we had already experienced history to its fullest with a day-trip to Thomas Jefferson’s beloved Monticello, which featured a special private room that allowed him to retreat from his family so he could write constitutions and watch SportsCenter in peace.
When the morning for my daughter’s competition finally arrived, we entered the vast coliseum at the Virginia Horse Center, and I was amazed at the pristine condition of the facility. The dozens of horse show venues I had visited before this one had all been festooned with manure and other horse by-products. This time, though, the only smell I could detect was from the little café near the arena that was preparing breakfast burritos.
Unable to resist the chance to do something other than sit and pluck my nose hairs while waiting for my daughter’s forty-five second ride that wouldn’t take place for several hours, I took my other two daughters to the café. The breakfast burrito I ordered was roughly the size of a MINI Cooper, and it was bursting with eggs, sausage, and peppers. (Speaking of bursting, my wife, kids, and the other spectators at the show sitting within a fifty yard radius of me probably wish I had stuck with Cheerios.)
On our stroll from the café back to the coliseum, it began to rain, and I discovered why there was no sign (or smell) of horse droppings in the actual arena. The horses were apparently trained to relieve themselves just outside along the shortcut we were taking–and in intervals that made them practically impossible to avoid. As a result, we had to sprint through the downpour dodging puddles and piles of horse briquettes like a bunch of drunk lemurs playing hopscotch. (Yes, I’ve been to the zoo far too many times–and I think I’ve actually witnessed this.) When we arrived back at the coliseum, we all looked (and smelled) like we had just escaped from Shawshank Prison through the plumbing, and there were no towels of any kind to be found in the facility. Luckily, the Virginia Horse Center was willing to put us on a financing plan to reimburse them for exhausting their entire stockpile of toilet paper.
When it finally came time for my daughter to ride, I assumed my usual position in my seat with my head between my knees trying to avoid a reunion with my burrito. It’s not necessarily the likelihood that she’ll be bucked off and ruin her expensive orthodontic work, or that she might not win, that makes me nervous. What I really fear is that she’ll be disappointed or upset with her performance, and for me, trying to comfort my eldest (and most dramatic) daughter when she is heartbroken is like watching all of the parental Disney character death scenes simultaneously and on a constant loop. When she’s upset after a ride, I always try to cheer her up by suggesting that the horse might have had gas (possibly from an enormous breakfast burrito) or stayed up too late watching cat videos on YouTube, which usually only serves to prove that she can sob and roll her eyes simultaneously.
Luckily, her ride at the finals went well, and her team finished in fourth place nationally, which pretty much dashed my hopes that she might turn in her reins and take up scrapbooking.
To celebrate, we took her and her teammates to the local Dover Saddlery, which is conveniently located next door to the Horse Center. In case you aren’t aware, Dover Saddlery is Mecca for horse people, and my eldest daughter considers it compulsory that when we visit one, we purchase some kind of overpriced horse-related merchandise. From sweat scrapers to sheath cleaners (don’t ask), Dover Saddlery has everything for the horse lover in your life who wants to ruin your finances. They even have special underwear for horseback riding! (I still haven’t figured out where the tail goes.)
With this once-in-a-lifetime (I hoped) experience at the National Finals behind us, we headed to Washington, D.C. for the final leg (I hoped) of our adventure. It was a chance to spend a few hours in our nation’s capital before our flight home, and my family was determined to make the most of it, even if getting there meant riding together for over three hours in an enclosed vehicle with me and my breakfast burrito.