Working as a groom at an Arabian horse show is hard work. Don't get me wrong, it's super fun. But it involves getting dirty, being tired, and doing all of the grunt work and crap jobs that nobody else wants to do. Once you realize this an accept it, then you can have a really great time, especially if you have good people to work with.
Liz was Blair's student before I started riding with Blair (at least, I think she was). At the very least she knew Blair before I did, through channels that I'm not aware of. Anyhow, Liz had her own horse who she showed off and on. I don't remember her grooming at the shows when she showed her horse, but maybe she did. I can't say for sure.
Anyhow, at some point she started grooming for Blair with me and we became friends. Well, not immediately. There was this weird period of time when I was grooming with Cami and Laura and they had something against Liz. I didn't know Liz that well, but I jumped on the bandwagon and we all kept Liz at arm's length. At some point Cami and Laura weren't riding as much, so I spent more time with Liz and realized that she was alright.
More than that, Liz made me laugh. Most of my memories of Liz at shows are of us laughing so hard that I thought I'd pee my pants. There was this one show where every time we'd start laughing at something we'd see this certain Arabian trainer (Bill Melendez, if you're curious) and I'm sure he was thinking "What's wrong with those two?". He'd give us this weird look and that would make us laugh even harder. Ah, to be back in those days of no stress and little responsibility beyond getting the horses ready for the ring.
At the Cow Palace show Liz and I really wanted to win the grooms award. We went to the show with a game plan. We would set up as quickly as possible and then be militant about keeping things in order. We laid down the rules (to both Blair and the owners/riders) - there was to be no trash in the barn aisle, any shavings dragged out of the stall when horses were taken out was to be immediately raked back into the stall, all tack and grooming supplies were only to be touched by anyone else if they were capable of putting them back neatly and correctly. I think at one point we even raked a diagonal pattern into the dirt in the aisle way. It became an obsession. Things had to be perfect at all times because we didn't know when the judges were going to judge for the award.
Since we weren't able to be at the stalls all the time, we had to trust that people weren't messing everything up while we were out bathing or working horses. But god forbid something was out of place when we got back. It all seemed so important then, and we had such a huge fit about it. Like this grooms award was the pinnacle of achievement. I think we turned into huge, uberstrict snots about the whole thing. Looking back now it just seems ridiculous. But it made us feel important. Perhaps a little too much so.
Towards the end of the show I think we both started to get tired. You see, this was one of the show were we were sleeping at the barn in the hospitality room. I can't remember if we did this so we'd be at the stalls all the time for the award, or if it just worked out that way. In those days it was perfectly okay for us to sleep in a tack or grooming stall. I'm not sure how it is now, but it was a common practice back then. At least one groom, and usually more from the bigger barns, would stay at the barn with the horses. I'm sure lots of partying went on, but since we were underage and didn't really socialize with anyone else we didn't partake in any late night activities.
At some point during the days we'd get someone to shuttle us to one of the hotel rooms for a shower, or we'd shower at the show if there were facilities to do so. There were shows where we got to stay in a room with someone. It just depended on how it all worked out.
Arabian shows generally have some sort of activity going on at all times. The classes might end for the day at 9 or 10 pm, but the arenas stay open all night, and the barn lights are usually on all the time (making it hard to sleep if you're trying to sleep in a stall). This is so the trainers can have time, after showing horses all day, to school the rest of the horses at night. Some trainers were weird about working certain horses with an audience so they'd ride at 2 am. I'd like to think that they just wanted the freedom of an empty arena, but I'm not so naive to think that some trainers didn't take the opportunity to be hard handed with the horses and not have anyone see.
One night, Blair informed us that she wanted to work the English Pleasure mare Andrea at 1 am.
To be continued...