Braving the tempest at Eric's first horse show

We were at a horse show in Vermont this weekend. It was the boys’ first experience camping, and boy was it memorable. I won’t blog the whole thing right now but I will tell you about the dramatic part — it’s still pretty fresh in my mind, so I want to get it down.

Background: Nate and Eric have both been taking riding lessons, but neither of them is really advanced enough to do anything but a leadline class (they sit on the horse, they hold the rains, they smile, they look cute, and maybe they post when the horse trots, but the person who is really controlling the horse is the handler). Nate has done these classes before, but Eric has never ridden in a show. Given that this was one of those shows that guarantees blue ribbons to kids just for entering a class, we figured, what the heck… we’ll put Nate up on our gelding and let him have the experience. As I was signing Nate up for the class this morning, Mark wandered up just in time to hear the judge say, “Oh, I’m so glad. We only had one rider in the class, now we’ll have two.” Mark suggested then that we put Eric in, too. I pointed out that we had only one rideable horse and he said he’d find another. It so happened that I’d tossed Eric’s helmet into the car just on the off chance we’d need it, so it was really just a matter of getting him a mount. Which Mark did, and with style, too – he got the woman who leases our gelding to offer up her 6-year-old, multiple Grand Champion mare for Eric’s use. This is an animal who has more bling than a dance club full of gangsta rappers. She’s the best of the best. Not a bad horse to have underneath you in your very first show!

So there we were, all dressed up and in the saddle and about to go into the ring, when a little rain starts falling. Then the wind kicked up, with a low rumble of thunder in the distance. The loudspeaker announced that they were going to put a hold on the leadline class until they saw what the weather would do. Well, we were standing out there in the rain with little kids on young horses – not cool. So we led them off into one of the enclosed pavilions to wait for the decision. We got into the shelter just as the heavens opened up, and we were shortly joined by the judge, the photographer, and several of the show’s managers. Over the noise of the rain, the judge suggested that we simply hold the class right in the pavilion. And so we did. But, the mare’s owner had not been among those who came to the pavilion, so I ended up leading Eric around in my tie-dye t-shirt and cut-off shorts, while he grinned and held onto the reins and was utterly oblivious to the fact that the mare underneath him was becoming increasingly unnerved by the rain and the thunder and (eventually) lightning. The judge wisely kept the class short and did not ask them to trot, gave them all blue ribbons, had the photographer take their pictures, and got them the heck off their horses.

And just in time, because it went from a driving rain to a near-hurricane shortly after that. I’ve seen some pretty intense storms in my time, but this was about as bad as they get without actually being funnel clouds. I was starting to have flashbacks to the fairground pavilion that collapsed in Indiana, and wondered whether we were really going to be all that safe in this building. Not to mention the fact that along with my own children, I had both the mare and the mare’s owner’s youngest daughter in my care (not sure where the latter came from, but I was grateful she was there because the mare knew her and was calmed by her presence). Fortunately, the girl’s older sister showed up, followed by their mother, within minutes of the storm’s intensifying – because that’s exactly when Eric’s CGM started going off. I gratefully handed the mare off to her owner (I was petrified of having that mare come to harm while in my hands! “Just shoot me now” would have been an understatement) and went to see what the problem was. He was, according to the CGM, at 89 and trending downward rather alarmingly.

This was a potentially serious issue. The storm was becoming downright dangerous, and his bag — with all the juice, snacks, cookies, etc. — was in the car at the other end of the fairground. Mark was fully occupied keeping our gelding calm and in control, which was no small task given that the lightning and thunder were making all of the horses dance and spook. My stepdaughter is petrified of lightning and thunder after having nearly been hit by a lightning bolt one time while out with her boyfriend “stormchasing” — she was huddled in a ball with her distinctly un-terrified youngest brother and the younger daughter of the mare’s owner. But, to give her credit, she did raise her head long enough to offer to go get the car and bring it back to the pavilion. “Do you seriously think you can drive in a storm like this?” I asked her, knowing what the answer was. “But I’m the one who’s already wet,” was her rationale. “I don’t mind getting wet,” I responded, "But I will mind if you crash the car because you’re flinching away from lightning bolts. So YOU get to stay with your brothers, and I’m going after the car."

I was soaked to the skin literally the second I left the pavilion, and I ran as fast as my feet could take me to the judges’ tent. Stopped there to catch my breath; one of the show’s organizers asked me why in the hell I was running through a storm like this, and I explained the situation. She kindly offered to drive me the remaining distance in her truck, which was parked about 20 feet away. So we raced to the truck, hopped in and drove through the muddy rivers formed by the rainwater over to where my car was. Then back I went to the pavilion with my car… completely forgetting that Eric’s meter was not in the car, but was in fact in the tack room of our horse trailer.

I figured that out once I was at the pavilion, but by then, there was no going back. The storm intensified even more, and it started to hail — I thought we might very well be in for a tornado, and the best I could do was give him the snack and wait till the CGM showed him starting to rise again to bolus for it. Which is what I did.

Eventually, after what seemed like eons, the storm petered out and we were able to leave the pavilion. I put the kids in the car and drove them all back to our campsite, and Mark walked our horse back to the barn. When I finally did take Eric’s BG, it was 173, and I spent the rest of the afternoon chasing highs… but, all in all, it could have been a lot worse, so I’ll take it!

Wow what a day you have had. My son is always giving me one of those looks when I tell him to bring his medical bag in with us when we are just running into the store quick. He looks at me like why we’ll be right back out, I feel fine. I follow it with a well we could get stuck in there for any number of reasons and then we would have your supplies. Now I have a story of a rain storm that kept you at one location that I can use as a reference. Oh and good job with all of the items you were juggling at once!

No wonder the child was a bit high after all that! The judge sounded a wonderful person holding the class (albeit short). In the UK we either carry on a class through the weather or it is abandoned - whatever the age of the rider! I have been through some really wet and windy ones and been thoroughly disappointed (tho it is understandable - no one wants to see or even try to control several highly strung animals skittering across the arena and putting them and their riders in danger!) when I have spent hours preparing for a show only to find that it cannot continue.

Perhaps one lesson is to have someone, or everyone, carrying glucose and or juice in the jacket pockets in case of lows and having the meter carried by someone close by. I used to get hypos - though we did not know what they were about at the time, just knew that the only cure was some form of sugar - and I would carry a note in my pocket explaining what was happening if I did pass out, and glucose tablets, while I was riding cross country! My horse absolutely loved cross country but he was sensible enough - sometimes - to stop when he felt me go low! I do remember (vaguely) one occassion when I had glandular fever which made me very weak and going out on cross country, and unusually my diminiuative grandmother actually came to watch. She was 4 foot nothing in heels! There was a running commentary and the event was extremely well run. Apparently I was number 35 (out of 87) and the commentary kept saying "Number 35 has overtaken number 34, 33, 32 (I never saw them! Was just concentrating on steering and staying on!). As we came to the end one of the others caught up with me and we had to jump into a field and over a V fence but had to swing round and jump the opposite side because of this other rider. My grandmother was jumping up and down shouting “Tell her to slow down, tell her to slow down!” Thankfully we just managed to miss each other, me coming over one side of the fence, the other rider coming over the other! The other rider was eliminated for dangerous riding. I came 3rd out of 87 - even beating my own riding instructor! But hypoglycaemia and glandular put paid to me for the rest of the day!

I had a great day but was exhausted! Perhaps another word of warning - like with driving - ALWAYS check blood sugars BEFORE riding!

Congratulations on their first blue ribbons. That is a class you will NEVER forget! Glad it all ended ok and hope you got your gelding home safely.

Great story Elizabeth! Did anyone manage to get pictures of the kids amidst all the chaos?

The show photographer was there so I think there are photos – although I may ask her to photoshop me out as I was not expecting to be handling (I’d been expecting to be BEHIND the camera!) and was dressed somewhat, uh, informally. Tie-dye T-shirt and pink cut off shorts, in fact. Not what you’re supposed to be wearing when you’re in the ring, but under the circumstances they were sort of stuck with it!

I had taken Eric’s BG before the class and it had been what I thought to be a perfectly adequate 110 – I’m not sure why it took the sudden nose dive except perhaps it had to do with the sudden chill of the rain coming in. I’m usually pretty good about bringing the bag wherever we go but in the confusion of trying to get him, his brother, and the horses under cover (and with no one to hand the mare off to that I could trust to keep Eric with as well) it fell by the wayside. Next step, it seems, is to get myself a waterproof fanny pack in which to keep some candy, some small juice boxes, and one of those tiny little one-touch meters – something I can wear at all times and never have to worry about setting it down somewhere or misplacing it. Lesson learned!