On the Eleventh Day of Christmas: 11 Paddock Masters

I’m exhausted just thinking about counting them up, but surely I have been in at least 11 paddocks? I’ve set dressage rings, arranged jumps by headlight, opened gates, yelled for riders, sucked dust, looked around vainly for riders, thumbed the walkie-talkie a thousand times in a day, and watched with overwhelming relief as the last horse trotted in for last trip of the day.

The best warm-up ring I ever ran was at an event at the Kentucky Horse Park. It was a three-day competition. By the time we got to show jumping on Sunday, those eventers were motivated to get in, get finished, and get home. Plus, I had an highly competent compatriot at the gate shoveling the riders into the ring without delay.

At the time, I was showing Adult Jumpers at A shows. At those shows, the announcers would give gate calls that ran as many as 10 riders deep: Gail (you go) in 1, Elizabeth in 2, Katherine in 3 … At the event, I did this thing. I would announce the impending order of go for the next 7 or 8 riders. At two minutes a trip, that meant each rider had 15 minutes warning, more than enough time to plan a warm-up. After a rider went in, I’d bump everyone up a step and repeat. They offered me a megaphone, but I declined. I’m ever so much louder.

The only time I lost riders was when they had already gone down the ring for their turn. I love eventers. At mid-afternoon, we went back to the show office:

Oh, are you taking a break?
Nope, we be done.

They were stunned. I lost my voice, but, boy, was it worth it.

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