Here are links to the previous posts, since it's taken me a long time to write the next installment. It's just that they are getting harder to write. For reasons that will become apparent.
My horse training education was progressing and I was thrilled. Blair gave me as much instruction as she could, and let me work as much as I wanted. There were occasions when she didn't have much time to help me because she had paying clients to teach, but it always seemed like I could ask for a quick 30 minute lesson and she'd squeeze me in.
Blair was in a heavy showing rotation at that point. She asked me if I wanted to show one of her horses in the junior classes. Of course this was a dream come true for me. I asked my parents, since I was under 18 at the time and I would need them to sign the entry form in order to enter the show. They said no. Which means I couldn't show. Period. For some reason, they thought it was okay that I rode all the time, but they forbade me from showing. I couldn't really understand it, but no amount of pleading, begging, whining, or sulking would get them to change their minds. They wouldn't even let me go away to a show with Blair, even if I wasn't showing. This worked out nicely for her because I would stay home and work the horses that didn't go to the show. But I felt like I was missing out on some really fun stuff. I'd see other girls come back from shows, laughing and carrying ribbons and trophies. It made me sad, but determined that I was going to show at some point.
The summer that I turned 18, my parents decided to allow me to go to shows with Blair. This was such an awesome experience for me, and a great chance to learn. Of course this meant that I'd have to learn how to be a groom at a show, which is much different from being a groom at the stable.
First, I had to learn how to clip the horses before we left for the show. Blair showed me what needed to be clipped and how it was to be done. She liked to use different sized clipper blades for different areas on the horse's body to get the best look. The #10 blades left the hair the longest and were to be used on large areas like the body, legs, and parts of the face. #15 blades took the hair a little shorter and were used around the very tops of the hooves. #40 blades clipped the closest, like getting shaved before surgery, and were used inside the ears, on the muzzle, and tops of the eyes. You had to be very careful with the 40's because you could easily clip too much hair off or make a big ugly gouge in the coat. All horses had to be completely clipped before the show because clipping sometimes takes a long time and there is so much to do when you first arrive at a show that you don't want to bother with clipping horses.
Soon after teaching me how to clip, Blair asked me to clip Teeya for her before the Scottsdale show. This was a big show, and she was going in halter classes as well as western pleasure classes. The halter horses are inspected very closely by the judge, so you really want to do a perfect clip job. This one girl, Liz (who had a horse and rode with Blair and also groomed for her - we became great friends) was helping me clip Teeya. I decided I was going to clip her lower front legs, so I grabbed the clippers and started at it.
I was having a really hard time getting the hair to clip evenly. Usually if the horse is clean (she was) and the blades are sharp (they were) it's really easy to get a nice even patch of clipped hair. I was perplexed, but hoping things would improve I kept clipping, creating a bigger area of uneven hair right in the center of one of her front legs. I decided to ask Liz what she thought. We had the following conversation, which I remember just like it was yesterday.
ME: Hey, why can't I get this to clip evenly? It looks terrible!
LIZ: (taking a look) Hmm, yeah it looks pretty bad.
ME: I don't understand. She's clean and the blades are sharp.
LIZ: What blades are those?
ME: (looking at the blades for the first time) Uhh.. they're 40's.
LIZ: (shocked and dismayed) Blair's gonna kill you.
See, I should have looked at the clipper blades before I started clipping to check and see if I had the correct blades. I didn't, and since I clipped with the 40's there was no going back. Teeya, my trainer's beautiful halter mare, had a huge bald spot on the front of her leg. Easily visible from twenty feet away.
Needless to say, Blair wasn't happy. She didn't come down on me as hard as she could have, which I really appreciated. She took the clippers and did a good job of evening it up and blending it into the hair that was left. The show was still a few days away, and she said that by the time they got in the ring it wasn't really all that bad. But I think she was just saying that so I wouldn't feel bad. I can't remember if Teeya won that halter class or not, because I didn't go to that show. When she got back from Scottsdale, Blair instituted a new rule that when the clippers are put away you must put the 10 blade on them. That way if you aren't paying attention ( like I wasn't) you can't do any damage, because you can always change blades and go shorter.
But you can bet, to this day, that the first thing I do when I pick up clippers is check the blades.
To be continued...