It was my second horse show at Mane Stream, a facility that offers adaptive riding lessons for children and adults with physical, emotional and developmental challenges. I had been taking lessons for about 10 years when I participated in 2014 and won high scoring independent rider as well as ribbons for champion in my class.
In 2015, the months leading up to the horse show were tumultuous. My husband of 28 years decided he was done being married in the spring and we separated. I started dating for the first time in my life at age 52 and fell in love with someone new. My parents disowned my husband even though they had known him since 1979 when we first met.
The show was in October. I wanted my friends and family there for support. My parents are in their 80’s so they took advantage of my brother being in town to navigate and get them to the show. My estranged husband came with our 2 sons. My boyfriend of 4 months came. Awkward. Through some unusual circumstances my husband and boyfriend had met each other before around the house as my husband didn’t move completely out of the house for several months, and they’d bumped into each other a few times.
The instructors, staff and volunteers at Mane Stream knew my family from seeing them around at events for the past 10 years. I felt some embarrassment at introducing them to my boyfriend with the rest of my family there.
When my brother arrived with my parents, he deliberately steered clear of my husband who had become persona non grata among my family members. My mother, however, took this opportunity to march up to him and tell him what she thought of him and his decision to leave her daughter with 2 children. She hadn’t seen or spoken to him since June. My mother is from Brooklyn, and is bold and outspoken.
Within earshot of me, my boyfriend, and my sons, she headed straight over to my husband and said, “Who the fuck do you think you are and what the hell is wrong with you?” Although I shared her sentiments, I was mortified. My boyfriend looked scared. He took this as a warning to be sure to stay on her good side. My father wouldn’t even look at my husband.
After my mother got that out of her system, my brother got my parents situated in chairs to watch the competition.
With my odd group assembled to watch me ride, the competition began. We were given time to warm up in the ring. From the vantage point high on the 15 hand horse I had been riding, I took in my surroundings. I was feeling normal nervousness on top of dealing with the strange gathering of fans that were assembled to watch.
My husband and my boyfriend were standing together at the fence around the show ring. I found this a bit distracting.
The first class was the walk/trot. As I rounded the corner where my fans were, I could see they were deep in conversation. I was trying to concentrate on my riding, but couldn’t help but think,
“What the hell are they talking about?” “Why aren’t they giving my show their full attention?” I started to feel a twinge of anger about this. But, the only thing to do was ride on.
The second class was the obstacle course. Unlike walking and trotting around the ring, this required more intense concentration. It went well. I did notice another rider in my class who looked like she was about 30 or more years younger than me. It didn’t appear that she was physically challenged. I assumed she had a different challenge going on.
I rode well and without any major mistakes.
I was not surprised when the younger rider took first place. If anyone had excuses for taking the title of reserve champion instead of champion that year, it was me.
Thank you for reading :)