|Snoopy ends his show career with a snazzy rainbow neck ribbon.|
Last weekend, Snoopy had a retirement party. We went to our
first, last and only off-the-farm show of the season, and I had decided it
would be our last hurrah. When I told friends and family members of my plans to
retire him, the nearly universal response was, “Again?”
every year I would say, “This will be our last show season.” But then, after a
long, dreary winter, I’d get that first class list in the mail and the bug
would come back and I’d pull him out of “retirement” just in time for show
season to start again. But this time I’m serious. Mostly.
First, I should clarify that “retirement,” in this case, is
a pretty loose use of the term. I’m not sending him off to Breezy Acres
Retirement Home for Aged Equines. He’ll be more like those “active seniors” who
spend their golden years playing golf and touring wine country. I’m not going
to stop riding him. In fact, I plan to compete at the dressage shows that my
boarding stable holds in the summer. I guess lower-level dressage is like golf
for horses: Not too physically strenuous, but keeps the mind and body running.
But I digress.
|Stall decorations at Snoopy’s show/retirement party.|
If you’ve ever discussed retiring a horse with another horse
person, you’ve undoubtedly heard the cliché, “He’ll let you know when it’s
time.” I’m pretty sure Snoopy would continue to put up with competing and
perform reasonably well if asked as long as he still has life in him. However,
he’s never been a fan of riding in a trailer. This is a horse who has lived on
both coasts and many places in between, as well as having toured the country as
a show horse since the age of two. As far as I know, he’s never had a bad
experience in a trailer, but for whatever reason, it’s the one thing he hasn’t
gotten more laid-back about as he’s aged. This makes travel a stressful
experience for both of us, so why keep doing it?
Of course, if he was a promising youngster who happened to
dislike travel, it would be a different story. There are other factors at play
here that make now the right time for retirement.
- Quitting while we’re ahead. Sure, I COULD keep
showing him until his age catches up to him. I do like showing and I can’t
afford a second horse, so why not show the one I’ve got? But I think it’s
better to bow out now while no one believes me when I tell them his age rather
than wait until people are raising their eyebrows, wondering why I’m dragging
that poor old horse out of his pasture in pursuit of a silly ribbon. Plus, we
ended last weekend’s show with two firsts and a second. Can’t ask for much more
than that. Better to go out with a bang than a whimper, right?
- There’s nothing left to prove. I’ve been riding
and showing Snoopy for 11 years now, and he’s carried me to more blue ribbons
and high-point awards than I probably deserve. And for a decade before that, he
was all over the Morgan circuit with his various previous owners, earning
national and regional titles under saddle and in harness. More than 20 years in
the show ring is a pretty good run.
- We’re halfway to retirement anyway. Logistics
have always been a stumbling block to show-ring glory. I don’t own a truck or
trailer, which means in order to get to a show, I have to have a friend heading
to an appropriate competition. Showing a Morgan around here typically means
heading to a fair on a random Tuesday evening in July, or spending hundreds of
dollars to go out-of-state to a breed show. So, for practical reasons, Snoopy
and I haven’t been doing a lot of showing over the past couple of years anyway.
May as well make it official and use it as an excuse for a party.
Warming up for a class at our last show.
We’ve got plenty of other stuff to do. This
might have been a harder decision before I moved to a farm that hosts a couple
of shows every summer. Retirement might have also been less appealing if I was
boarding at a barn where the only place to ride was an arena. But since we have
some trails to enjoy and can work on improving dressage scores without ever
having to leave the farm, I don’t think I’ll feel too much of a void without
show-ring goals to work toward. As every graduation speaker says, “It’s not an
end, but a beginning.” Take showing out of the picture, and we’ve got the
freedom to do all kinds of other stuff.
Any one of these reasons on their own might not have been
enough to throw a retirement party, but taken altogether, I’m pretty sure I
made the right call. I think.
Now if anyone needs a catch rider, I’m free next season.
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