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Poetry by Rachel A. Gold

The Horse Show

Drew Hurley

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My wife is stricken with an irregular
and periodic form of temporary insanity.
Ususally the symptoms
begin to appear about midweek,
when she starts to show signs
of progressive irritability
and mutters inaudibly
about such things as:
enough bread for sandwiches,
when to get ice for the cooler chest,
or how she's got to clean and oil the tack,
and make sure that her riding clothes are cleaned.
One doesn't have to be a genius
to recognize that these above noted syndrones
lead invariably to a particular uniquely
American phenomenon
called the horse show.

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The events of the week prior --
as serious and dysfunctional
to normal behavior as they are --
are but a prelude
to the massive manifestations
of flagrant insanity
that are so flauntingly displayed
at this thing called
the horse show.
In the first place,
the alarm clock rings
hours before sunrise,
and it seems like a near eternity
is spent feeding and grooming the horses,
the child, and ourselves.
Then we hook up the trailer
and load the truck
with all sorts of sundry equipment;
half of which is neve to be used,
but taken along "just in case."
In case of what,
no one ever knows,
but it is all there anyway.
Once all of the chores are taken care of
we have the dubious pleasure
of trying to coax a 1200 pound gargantuan --
that towers over us
like you would tower over your pet dog --
into a trailer that you'd swear
wasn't half as big as he was.
After waving a bucket of feed
in front of his face
he finally consents to lumber into the trailer,
and then you start the long drive
that will take you to the horse show.

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Once you arrive at the show grounds,
you unload the horse,
take off the shipping boots on his legs,
and put training wraps back on his legs.
The horse is then lunged
until he works up a good sweat.
Then he is washed down, groomed,
and walked until he is dried out.
All of that is the easy part.
Next come the real test.
First you put on the pad, the saddle,
the breast plate and the bridle.
Then the rider unveils her
best white breeches --
which have been previous hidden
beneath a baggy pair of jeans --
and dons a black riding coat.
Tie pin in place,
protective hat on her head,
and a riding crop are now added
to complete this ensemble.
A leg up, and the rider is off
to contest the class.

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It is hard to tell whether riding in a class
is harder
on the rider,
the horse, or the husband.
Actually, the horse has the easy part.
All he has to do is exactly
what he has been doing every day for the past month.
For the rider and husband
the pressure can be intense.
And the tension is not just felt
when the rider is performing in the ring,
because there is always a terrible delay
before the judge decides
on the placement of the class.
Then, they always announce the order
of ribbon placement
beginning with the sixth place.
By this time, you'd be happy
with any ribbon at all.
Even a sixth place finish
would be a "moral" victory,
but to win a class --
that would be sheer ecstacy --
almost makes all the pain
and anguish seem worth it.
There are times, of course,
many of them,
when no ribbon is are awarded
and your only consolation
is that old cliche:
"the horse needed the experience."
The real kicker, though,
is that you never go to a show
for just one class.
So you end up going
through the whole process again,
and again, and again.

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Finally, it is all over.
You are physically exhuasted,
emotionally drained,
and as short tempered
as a 30 second dynamite fuse.
Somehow you find the strength
to get all packed up
and you struggle to get the horse
loaded into the trailer
for the trip home.
Eventually, you wind your way
back to your old familiar driveway.
After reaching down deep inside you
for strength you didn't know you had,
you manage to get the horse
unloaded and into the barn.
The trailer is put away
and left to be cleaned some other day.
The tack and equipment
somehow find their way
into the tack room,
and all of the other sundry odds and ends
are mysteriously put away.
At the end of this ordeal,
you collapse into your favorite chair
and start pouring down
a good stiff drink, or two,
while trying hard not to decide
if it was all really worth it.

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[Note: This is a tongue-in-cheek testiment in praise of the patience of the horse ANROCK.]

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