Monday, June 12, 2017

Memories of the NC State 4-H Championship Horse Shows

I am planning to be a vendor at the North Carolina 4-H Championship Horse show July 5-8. I’ll be selling my horse books. It has been a few years since I’ve been to this show, but in my younger days it was the biggest deal of the year for my 4-Hers and myself. We worked and planned all year long for this wonderful show – which always fell on the hottest four days of the year.

The first time we attended the show was held in Dorton Arena. We hauled our paint mare, Cherokee, and my daughter, Deborah, to the fairgrounds – a two-hour trip. She showed in a couple of classes, then we hauled back home – ALL IN ONE DAY. To say we were novices was an understatement. We didn’t bring home a ribbon, but we’d gone to the State Championships and Deborah rode in that big indoor arena. We were thrilled.

The next time we went “prepared.” The stalls were temps set up in the Jim Graham livestock building. We – my daughter and I – slept on that concrete floor with sleeping bags. Well -- sleep we did not.

The first time we showed in the new Hunt Horse Complex I remember Deborah sat up all night polishing her tack. Again, we slept in the tack stall, but this time we brought cots. I’m not sure there was any silver was left on the bridle’s silver-plated conchos by morning. At this show we were rewarded with Deborah and her Arabian gelding Kossack winning a first place in trail class. That was just the beginning. We hauled kids and horses to Raleigh every summer for years. We added a stall for “living quarters” with fans, chairs, and the cots for sleeping. Still, we didn’t do a lot of sleeping. The kids were too excited and there are all those night-noises like horses kicking the walls or neighing to one another. By the break of dawn, we were up. After breakfast, everyone was hard at work grooming, schooling, and grooming some more. Then the days got frantic as classes began with getting the riders dressed and making some last-minute grooming touches. Then began the waiting and waiting for huge classes to finish before it was their time to show. We called show days the hurry up and wait days.

Jeesica and Coco
After my children were grown, I took my granddaughter, Jessica, and a car loaded with a new crop of kids. I hauled their horses in an old 4-horse stock trailer to the show. By then I had moved to Wake Forest, which was only about forty minutes from the fairgrounds, so we came home every night to sleep the first time. After that, realizing I was too tired to be driving after a day of showing, we got a hotel room. The added fun of a swimming pool was a great relief for the kids after a hard day of working and riding in the brutal heat.

Getting home after the show we had to unload all that stuff. First the horses were settled in their stalls, fed and watered. Sometimes we left a lot of the unpacking for Monday morning. But the children always found their the ribbons and hung on them the fronts of their horses’ stall before leaving with their parents to go home to their own soft beds.

I am sure my 4-Hers have different memories of going to the State 4-H Championships than I do. I mainly remember the relentless work involved before, during and after. But I also remember the children all working together, helping each other. I remember their faces beaming when they were handed a ribbon, and the do-better-next-time attitudes when they didn’t get a ribbon. I look back and am so amazed by how hard we all worked for that two-dollar bit of ribbon. But, it was more than the ribbons. It was learning that you have to work hard to achieve a goal, the importance of practicing good sportsmanship, and of putting the comfort of another living being before their own. It was the comradery and it was the building of memories. It was all worth it.

I'll be looking forward to seeing some old friends at the 2017 NC State 4-H Championship Horse Show. 
Books by Donna Campbell Smith
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