Another Fair memory…
Back when the Mrs and I were brand new, a foal arrived during a gentle snowfall, around the first week of April. Minnesota can be fickle like that, and to be honest, I’ve seen it snow in May. As I recall, I don’t think we were expecting to see a little red filly to be standing in the stall with her Dam, Daydream. We named her April Snow. And then we got married. No, it didn’t happen the same day, at least I don’t think so, but close enough to keep the bride a bit preoccupied.
Little April was our first foal together. We got in there and rubbed her, picked up her feet, draped ropes around her and kept an eye on Daydream, who was not entirely sure this was something she was going to put up with. In fact, one of the early days she expressed her displeasure by butting me in the chest, with her open, toothy mouth. She was just doing her job and it all worked out in the end. April took it all in stride and developed into a fine little filly.
When she was old enough to start training, we brought her out to Reflection farm. In fact the whole reason there was a Mrs and anything horse related was due to the subtle connivings of Jean Liestman and the crew of Reflection farm, of which my wife was part. April was introduced to all the things necessary to becoming a good horse. As she developed, it became clear to my wife and others that maybe getting her into the show ring would be added to her training. April was not so sure of this.
One of my favorite life memories stems from April’s reluctance to get with the program. I think she was 2 and we were in the indoor riding arena. I don’t really recall what we were trying to accomplish, but part of it involved me leading her around the arena at something more than a walk. She did this with reluctance, but eventually picked up the pace. And that pace continued to get faster still, until I was literally flying around the arena, my right hand on the cheek piece of her halter. She was cantering and I was taking 1 step for every 30 feet or so. We kept it up for a couple of laps and then petered out. It was the closest I ever came to having Superman-like powers, and I am not sure about the horse, but I had a blast. She eventually understood what was being asked for and got with the program.
A year or so later, there was talk of getting April in the show ring, she must have been 3 or 4. Jaime, from Reflection farm, worked with April that summer and had decided she would like to show her at the Fair. Keep in mind, this was 20 some years ago, so Jean and Jaime, if you have any corrections to the story, just let me know.
Fair time comes around and April gets sent to town, where she got all prettied up and installed in a box stall in the horse barn of the Meeker County Fair. Now some horses like showing, some horses are indifferent or resigned to showing, and some horses just aren’t down with the whole idea of putting lipstick on and strutting their stuff. April was a category 3 girl. She couldn’t believe we would just drop her off and all these strange people would make noise and paw at her. She took to putting her backside to the whole thing and sulk. I thought she would pout a bit and she’d get over it.
Show day arrives, Jaime gets April out and starts getting her warmed up. I think she was going to show western pleasure, and as she was walking April back from lunging her in the arena, she mentions that April is a little tense. Nerves, I said. She’ll shake it off. Now, smart guy that I am, I was telling a kid who grew up with horses and showing them, it’s no big deal, she’ll be fine. Jaime gives me the side eye and takes her back to the stall. My wife sidles up mentions April’s a little tense and also gives me the side eye. I’m starting to get the message. Jaime gives it the old college try and mounts up in the parking lot. About 5 steps later, Jaime dismounts and with a shake of her head, hands me the horse and indicates not today. Hmm. Okay, let me see if I can get this sorted out. I put my foot in the stirrup, mount up to see if I can get her past this sticky point. Because I’m a guy and guys are prone to doing stupid stuff, I made it about 30 steps when April starts whole body shaking like she’s a ticking time bomb, just about ready to go boom. I very carefully dismount and stand with her until the shaking stops. We start to head back to the barn, I pass my wife, shaking my head, not today.
I don’t really think I saw my life pass before my eyes while riding her, but that’s because I’m thick headed and not prone to introspection, and after the 5th step, I was too busy calculating which car we were going to land on. I had never felt that from a horse before. We put April back in her stall and enjoyed the rest of the fair, in a somewhat half hearted fashion. Sunday night comes and time to load up and head home. Our horse trailer had a 2 piece device that clamped around the ball hitch of the truck. It is held together with a bolt, that broke in half and fell into my hand, as I went to clamp it up. Mr Murphy was letting me know that I had been skating on thin ice. Thanks for the heads up, pal.
So, some fairs you win, some fairs you lose, and some fairs you’re just happy to make it home in one piece. Like an airplane crash, any Fair you can walk away from is a good one. Jaime, thanks for not smacking me in the head on that long ago fair day. I sure deserved it. April went on to live a long and happy life. A couple of years after that fair, we sold her to a friend of Reflection farm. She was our first foal and you always remember the first ones with fondness, and are grateful that you lived through it.
Authors note: The picture at the top of the post is of my wife and Daydream. It really does not have much to do with the story other than it is one of my favorite pictures of them.