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First in Show Starleigh Jones The cold quietness of the red barn seemed almost peaceful as the morning sunlight peeked into the stalls. The stillness of the morning air seemed to change. In the distance you could hear soft noises as the trainer and horses scrambled to prepare for the days' event. “We are leaving for the horse show in twenty minutes!” Lisa, the trainer, yelled as her voice boomed throughout the barn. The horses' ears perked up as she bellowed out more commands. The bustle of the preparation builds ever so slowly as more things get done. Preparing for an event and a show is always very stressful at the barn. This was going to be Tiffany's first show. She paced back and forth in front of the horse trailer. Her palms were sweaty and her stomach was churning. Alex, her best friend, has been to hundreds of shows and was very confident. The horse show was in Saugerties, New York. There was a lot of competition at this show. Almost four hundred riders would compete. “I don't think you should go to the show Tiff.” Alex uttered nervously. “Why?” Tiffany shouted. “ The judges are really picky, and I don't want you to lose.” cautioned Alex. Tiffany’s heart sank. She just wondered why her best friend wasn't supporting for her first show ever? Somewhere in the back of her mind she repeated her words until she felt sick. Tiffany was nervous and it showed. Lisa came out and it was almost time to go. One by one horses were loaded into the trailers and the saddles and tack were put on the racks. As the dew clung to the windows of the motor home, they all climbed aboard the rear door and off they drove.


Preparing to leave is always filled with drama of making sure you remember all the equipment. This time was no different, after the drama, Tiffany and Alex were having a great time in the car. They talked about each horse in the barn and all of the beautiful horses. Each horse had a special talent or attitude that made them sometimes difficult to ride. They spoke about the events and what the judges would be looking for during the ride. They even talked about the cafeteria food that they would soon be eating as each drifted into a quiet place thinking of the upcoming events and their day. After what seemed like an eternity of turns and thoughts, they finally made a left onto a dusty, dirt road. The sign read Pony Grounds with a big arrow. Lisa, who was silent for most of the drive, began to bark out orders and things we needed to do when we arrived. The car stopped short and the hum of the engine stopped. Tiffany stretched, yawned and got out of the RV. As she looked all around, she gathered her bearings and headed toward the show grounds. Her heart began to beat faster as she saw the ring and all those jumps. Alex stepped away, toward the rear and unloaded the horses from the trailer. The horses too were happy to be out of the small cramped trailers. Looking uneasy, they entered the holding stalls. As soon as they settled into the barn, Alex and Tiffany began to tack and saddle the horses. Walking the horses over to the small practice ring near the south edge of the barn, Alex swung up and onto the tall, muscle filled back of a young mare. Since Alex was older and more experienced, she explained how to warm up for a successful show. Around the small ring she corrected Tiffany. “They will deduct point for that, slouch a little,� warned Alex. But that was completely wrong. Tiffany remembered Lisa always telling her to straighten up, not to slouch.


Finally, Tiffany prepared to jump a few gates. She thought to herself, “Is Alex really trying to sabotage me”? All she could do was try to focus on the event and all she had learned. Although Alex is her best friend she couldn't help but wonder what her real motivation was. Tiffany went back to the barn a little while after Alex. As Tiffany entered the barn, she saw Alex doing something with her boots. Tiffany quickly grabbed them out of Alex’s hands. “What were you doing with my boots?” Tiffany raged. “I was just going to polish them.” Alex spoke. Tiffany walked past her to and found a bottle of water and a rag. Water ruins leather boots. Good thing Tiffany got there before she polished them or they would have been destroyed. “Alex is trying to sabotage me.” Tiffany thought to herself. Today was Tiffany's day to shine. So ready and so focused in everything she did. Every detail would be looked at by the several judges. Tiffany prepared for the event with such concentration. She knew Alex's tricks and really did not want to talk to her. The time for the first event came quickly. Tall polished black boots, neatly ironed collars and jackets gleamed in the sun as Tiffany leaped onto her Appaloosa and entered the ring. With a click of her heels she led the horse around the ring to each jump. Swiftly she glided above the bar of each with a smile and a slight glint in her eye. As Alex began her run, one could see the unrefined control as she jumped over each hurdle. Forgetting to smile was just one of the problems that she encountered as she went through. Point after point was deducted from her score until the final score was calculated. Alex realized her performance had much to be desired. She even felt some envy for her friend.


Later on the announcer began to broadcast the results of the event in a booming loudspeaker voice. “In first place, Tiffany Stewart aboard her mounts Angelo”. Alex cringed as she looked toward Tiffany and thought, “I can't believe it”. Alex appeared upset as she lost her title to a novice. She realized that she had spent more of her time attempting to mislead Tiffany instead of spending the time practicing her own techniques and preparing mentally for the competition. As she reflected on what she had done, she felt sorry and sad that she had done these things to her friend. Unsure of what to do or say she slowly began to pack her things for the return trip back home to the barn. One by one the horses were loaded back into the trailers with one addition. There was a huge blue ribbon hanging on the halter of Tiffany's horse. As Lisa looked on, Alex could barely smile when Tiffany entered the RV. Lisa hollered, “We learn something at every competition”, “What did you learn today?” Alex responded with a frown, “I think I need to think about myself more and focus on what I need to do”. Lisa nodded and then looked over to Tiffany whose smile said it all. She knew that she won as a result of hard work and keeping herself together. The return trip was anything but quiet as all in the motor home were deep in their own thoughts. Tired and peaceful, Tiffany enjoyed the moment and relived each jump in her mind. Once home the unpacking of the truck was quick and uneventful. Until the next time....



First in show