Thursday, August 21, 2008

Barn Stories: Episode II

The lady that owned the barn where we kept our horses for a while had a little Chincoteague pony named Katchina. She was untrained, unruly, and semi-dangerous (I’m recalling an incident where I narrowly avoided a kick to the head by ducking and rolling under a fence). But my sisters and I loved her like crazy and adopted her as our own, doing our best to teach her things like how to be ridden, how to not be a butthead, and how to “shake hands”.

Unfortunately, when the owner’s husband lost his job, they began minimizing their costs by selling off some of the animals on their farm. Knowing how much we Sweet girls loved little Katchina, they did what they could to avoid having to get rid of her. Other horses were sold at auction first, but eventually when push came to shove, they simply couldn’t afford to keep her around any longer. We were all devastated when we found out that our favorite little pony, the one we had spent so many hours training, would soon be sold to the highest bidder.

Little did we know, our parents were scheming. When we sadly arrived at the barn the day the auction was supposed to have taken place, Annie was the first to notice the big red bow on Katchina’s stall door. A card, slid into a crack in the wood, explained that the three Sweet girls were now the proud owners of their very own pony.

The goal was that we would share her nicely. It worked at first, because we were just so grateful that she was finally ours for good, but eventually things went downhill. We fought over who got to ride first, who got to pick out her feet, who had to clean her stall, who snuck in an extra ten minutes’ riding time, blah blah blah blah blah. I remember a specific fight that I had with Annie, where I fiercely reminded her that Katchina belonged to all THREE of us, meaning we each had a part, meaning I had her front end, Corinne had the middle, and Annie had her butt. I was such a brat, I swear. But so it went, on and on and on. So many tears, so many hurt feelings. My poor mother had to listen to all this for YEARS.

But somehow, despite all the fighting, we managed to get her trained up enough that we decided we were ready to enter the show world. We signed up for classes at a schooling show in Spotsylvania, and I dreamed in blue ribbons for weeks beforehand.

We planned to arrive at the show couple of hours early in order to get in sufficient warm-up time. Knowing that the horses would be nervous in a new place, this time before our classes would be essential to getting them used to the venue before putting them in the show ring. Unfortunately, we had some hitches in our plans that placed us at the show location with only minutes to spare. All together, horses and people, we were a tangle of nerves. In my first class, all of my energy was spent trying to steer Katchina away from the other horses. She flattened her ears and tried to kick each and every one of them as they moved past us. In our defense, we had tied a red ribbon in her tail (the universal sign of a kicking horse), but none of the other riders seemed to have a clue what it meant. I was already exhausted by the time the judge asked for us to canter, and by then, Katchina had had enough, too. She took off from the far end of the ring, straight down the middle, and would have trampled the judges if it weren’t for their superb leaping skills. When she finally came to a sliding stop at the gate, I was unseated, and ended up perched in front of the saddle with my arms wrapped tightly around her neck. …The same exact thing had happened to Annie the class before.

My pride was damaged even more later on in the day when I returned from a trip to the PortaPotty. Corinne was beside herself with joy when she pointed out that I had about four feet of toilet paper tucked into my breeches and wrapped around one leg. Who knew that even happens in real life?! She got what was coming to her for being so amused by it, though, because later on in the day she was riding our pretty black Quarterhorse/Standardbred cross, Quincy, in a hunter-jumper class when he stopped directly in front of the judge to pee. By the time he was finished, she’d missed half of her class.

All in all, it was pretty much the worst day ever. For all of us.

Luckily things went more and more smoothly with each show we entered. Annie was a machine– her bedroom walls became lined with ribbons over the next couple of years. Lots of them were blue, and a few were Champion and Reserve Champion. I was so jealous. I had a couple each of reds, yellows, and greens, but throughout my entire show career, I only ended up taking first place a single time. And as luck would have it, they handed out the last blue ribbon of the day to the winner of the prior class, so all I got was a stupid silver dollar. You can’t hang a silver dollar on your wall, so the next time we showed at that venue I took my coin with me and attempted to trade it in for the real thing. They didn’t believe me at first (it must have sounded just as stupid to them as it did to me, running out of ribbons and handing out silver dollars), but I finally got my way, and hung that ribbon on my wall with pride. Never mind that there had only been one other girl in my winning class, and that her horse had been unusually finicky. Once I had that blue ribbon, I was complete, and I had no desire to ever show again.

I still rode occasionally, and I still do when I visit my parents, but strictly for pleasure. I decided that I only want riding to be fun, and to me that means no show nerves, no competition, and no pressure. And no fighting. And no falling off of crazy horses. And no breaking the ice out of water buckets in the dead of winter. Just being honest. The end. Here are some pictures.

Corinne and Quincy.

Annie riding Katchina bareback. If my eyes don’t deceive me, it looks like she’s preparing to take a jump with no saddle. I really hope her crotch was okay afterwards.

Me after a class at the Aquia Harbor Stables in Virginia.

Annie and Katchina.


  1. Is there an Episode I that I am missing?

    And love the sketch, as usual. You have a great talent for it.

  2. Did anyone notice that Katchina is trying to bite my hand off in that last picture? Just wondering. And I've never forgiven you for the "butt" comment. And I probably never will.

  3. Katchina was always trying to bite our hands off. She was such a B. Remember when she'd try to get us off her back by running us into trees?

  4. I suggested Corinne start wearing a red ribbon on her butt. She didn't think it was funny.

  5. Oh horses...oh horses.