Manifolds, Manolos, and Manure
Our rodeo drill season has come to a close. As we hang up our chaps for the winter, it’s important to take inventory. After over a year off for an injury, our big red grumpy dragon again graced an arena. With my blue-eyed girl in tow, he ran a sweep. Pinwheeled. Barrel turned. And rolled back into a flying v. If you had asked us a year ago if we thought he would make it back for the 2023 season, we would’ve told you no. This is a win.
His younger brother, on the other hand, graced eight arenas. From the Blain’s Farm and Fleet Coliseum and HW Brand Arena at the largest horse fair in America to a professional rodeo circuit pen and finally to one of my favorite fall fests. He ran four different spots and ended the season leading the cloverleaf. Windows. One-armed pinwheel. Mini-sweep. The diagonal across the arena. And the race out of the arena gate. This is a win.
If you had asked me when we first brought him home if I thought I’d let him run rein-free in a mini-sweep with the crowd on one side and the music belting out the chorus of “Light ‘Em Up” by Fall Out Boy, I would’ve laughed. He also raced rein-free down the rail as Shania Twain crooned out “Giddy Up” but that was because I had to fix my hat. This is a win.
This year, he overcame his fear of cattle. Bucking chutes. And bulls. He stood nose to nose with a steer at the Stephenson County Fair. And demonstrated his roll-back skills at a sorting clinic. As a team we joked that after this year our ‘green’ horses are actually a shade of ‘yellow.’ Not quite finished. Not quite a newbie. A delicious, crazy stage in between. This is a win.
My blue-eyed girl joined drill in 2018 as a fill-in. At the time we were leasing our trainer’s buckskin, “Lady.” She officially earned herself a spot in 2019 a top of our big red grumpy dragon. This year marked her fifth season and the season she earned her “whistle.” The rider responsible for carrying the whistle in drill has to “see” the entire arena and know where each rider is. They’re responsible for signaling the next move. Ensuring that timing is correct. And making split-second decisions if a move needs to be extended or shortened. For many this is a coveted spot since it’s usually reserved for the most senior, seasoned rider. This is a win.
A semi-well-hidden secret is that this spring we welcomed another horse to the zoo. A little horse is more accurate. “Fritz” barely tops the ruler at 34 inches. In addition to four of the tiniest hooves I’ve ever seen, he boasts a wild mane. One blue and one bi-colored eye. And a stripe that crookedly runs down his face and makes his lip look lopsided. “Fritz” comes at a run to his name, scurries to the gate when grandma arrives, and despises needles with a healthy passion. To that end, every time we handle him, we poke him with a finger. Hoof pick. Spoon. Measuring scoop. Basically, anything we have in our hands. This fall he nearly stood like a gentleman for shots. This is a win.
This winter my blue-eyed girl will officially earn her red hat. Her chaps. And red glitter. No longer will she watch rodeos or be gate crew. Instead, she’ll line up. Race through the alley with her flag dipped just enough not to catch the top support. Run a rodeo pen. Stand for the National Anthem. And race out of the arena before turning back to give it one last look. All to do it over again. This is a win.
As we hang up our chaps it’s important to take a minute to be proud of just how far everyone has come.