Low and behold, they really needed a few braiders. We typically do not braid for these types of shows, but this was the championship show, so we wanted to braid to properly show off the horses. I had 5 to braid from my barn for Sunday and 1 for Saturday. I ended up getting 3 ponies from the horse show association then 3 more from my trainer's friends. Then the night before the show, another friend from another barn called and said she needed 4 braided as well.
Oh the life of a braider...lots of work, but I enjoy the quiet time with the horses. The solitude of being at a barn with just the horses and ponies. All of the ones I braided were very well behaved (I had one pony that did not want me near the wither bone, but some breakfast in the morning fixed that). So here is my approximate schedule. I am by no means the fastest braider; I am actually quite slow and I really wanted to make sure that I did a good job. Hopefully these people will then use me in the future, which would be some very much needed income to help pay for 1, horses, 2. Grad school, 3. Husband's law school debt, 4. small things that I want to buy.
Braid 3 horses who were showing in the first division of the day at 7:30am. The trainer told me that they wanted to school the horses in the open schooling before the show, which was from 6-7am. Which means I wanted to be done by 5:30 so they had time to get the horses tacked up. I also braided their pony that was showing a little later that day. I did 4 manes and two tails by 5:30am, so I was quite happy with my timing. It takes me about an hour to braid a mane and one of the horses had a very thick mane, so lots of braids.
Hour break with a sorta nap in my car, but it was too cold outside so I gave up on trying to sleep.
Start braiding ponies that were showing later that day. The pony divisions weren't starting til at least 11am, so I did these starting a little later so that they were not in their braids too long. I had 5 ponies to braid that day, all manes and tails. I had two ponies who were keeping their manes in for both days, so I wanted to do those ones later. I had a very good plan going in and only had some minor changes due to a pony coming to the horse show a little late (but not really). I was also asked to do an extra tail, which is awesome. Finished around 2pm. I had a few breaks here and there. The rider of one pony I was braiding wanted to ride during the schooling break, so I finished the mane, took a mini break, and started braiding another mane while I waited, then went back to do its tail. So there was lots of walking around to the different barns.
Worked out pretty well, but OMG! my back was hurting pretty bad from braiding so many. My fingers and hands were fine, but my mid to upper back, right between and below my shoulder blades were killing me. I called my friend who was putting Ronin on the truck for me to not do it. There was no way that I was going to be able to get Ronin ready to show the next day. It would be one thing if I could literally just get on my horse and show, but the thought of setting up his stall, getting him settled, hacking him that day, and the whole prep of getting him ready to show was just too much and I decided to scratch. It just wasn't fair to him to not give him the time he needed to show well. Also, one less horse to braid and one that I don't get paid for, lol!
I went home, showered, took some naprosen (generic aleve), and went to sleep for a few hours. My only thing is that I couldn't sleep! I was too up thinking about the next day. I wanted to sleep til 7:30pm, but only rested til 7pm and just decided to go back to the show. The show is only 20 minutes from my apartment, so that was really nice. I also had a back on track back brace that I had purchased at a discount with my friend at the horse expo a few months earlier. It is a lower back brace, but I put it on my upper back. It has ceramic powder in the material which is supposed to help with circulation. I figured it couldn't hurt and we'll see if this actually works.
I had one pony that the owners said didn't rub and that I could do him early. He had a super short mane, so it was really quick. I also had another horse that I could do early since I wasn't planning on doing any extras for Sunday. The trainers were really understanding that I was already booked for Sunday and doing these two early was necessary. The horse also needed the tail done, but I won't do tails before midnight and did it later.
I was done with the two manes from other barns and started on my barn's horses. I had three manes to do and four tails. So I did the two manes who were showing first thing in the morning then went back and did the three tails who were showing early as well (2 from my barn and the other horse). The last horse I had wasn't showing til a little later, so I wanted to do him last. Also, the three tails had fake tails and those took me some time to get in. One horse had the most beautiful fake tail. Super long and thick, so I really had to attach it securely since it was quite heavy and I wanted to distribute the weight on the tail bone.
Finished with the horses showing first thing in the morning and did the third horse's mane.
Took a break and slept on a bench in the tack room of the barn where it was heated and quite nice. There was a nice cushion and two pillows.
Braided the tail of the last horse who was there. I was also asked to braid the tail of a horse who was doing the second class, so did that really quick as well.
I talked with the other braider at the show who is a professional and does a lot of braiding in the Mid Atlantic area. He liked my braids and asked me if I was willing to braid at other shows and how far I was willing to travel to braid. I was so thrilled to receive such a high compliment from a top braider. I told him I was only willing to stay local, PG Eq Center, Owings Mills, and maybe Littletown, PA, but I was not willing to go to Culpeper or Lexington, VA (just too far).
Riders start arriving and getting horses ready to school. I went with my friend and watched the two horses school.
I walked the course with the two riders showing in the medal final. The last two horses I was braiding were not arriving til 8:30am so I had some free time to watch the equitation finals. I was able to watch one rider show and receive 4th out of 18! It was her first medal final and she was a little nervous. She has a young TB who is still quite green. He was perfectly behaved and she had a good round with just a couple of mistakes. She flatted well and we think her flat moved her up a little in the standings.
I ran back to the barn to start braiding my last two horses. One mane and another mane/tail. I quickly braid the one mane since the horse was showing relatively soon. The second horse I was going to braid went for a quick hack, I had one other tail to braid (pony who was showing both days), then I started my last one. I finished around 12:30pm.
Things I am thankful for:
1. Well pulled manes (thank you to my trainer who pulled most of the manes from the barn I ride at - she did an amazing job)
2. Clif Bar Builders Bars, Vanilla Almond - low glycemic index, lots of protein: long lasting energy and keeps me full!
4. Back on Track back brace...I am happy to say that this worked wonders on my sore back. After about an hour of wearing it, my mid back was quite happy and wasn't sore at all. I felt great all day and plan on getting more gear, especially if I'm going to braid at some of the bigger shows. The only finger that cramped on me was my middle finger on my left hand. My thumbs are a little sore, but not bad.
5. My barn mates and trainers. They are like family. This was a great way to end the show year with good rides in the medal final, good prizes in the divisions, and year end championships.
I have a big problem with the way the show association is run for this program. I feel that this program, the Regional program, is a good fit for people on a budget. Most of the shows are quite affordable and those people do a very good job of keeping it affordable ($200 season stalls for 8 shows, low prices for classes, etc - you can't beat it). What erks me is barns who are willing to show their horses every weekend and do 20+ shows. In order to be competitive, you have to do so many shows and our barn just isn't willing to ride our horses into the ground. If you have that kind of money to do that many shows, go show in the big time divisions.
I am going to talk with the association and see if they are willing to put a limit on the number of shows that will count towards year end. The championship show qualifications is based on your top 10 shows, so I will ask that the year end awards is also based on your top 10 shows plus the double point championship show. That way, it is quality over quantity and more people are willing to come to the last show. And if you have some off shows, you can do more to replace those ones.
As a side note, my trainer bought some breast cancer awareness charms to put in the horse's manes. I do not know details, but I believe she knows a few survivors and a few who are currently undergoing treatment. Here is a up close pic: