This past Saturday was a very important day for me. My fellow apprentice and I entered our first Ranch Sorting competition.
To say I was nervous was a serious understatement. Not only was it a spur-of-the-moment decision to enter, or that I only had a day to practice, or that I hadn't worked cows in at least a month, but it was my first competition. Ever. I was never into sports as a kid, so I was never in any games or matches.
Well, that's not true. I went to a martial arts tournament as a kid, and I've done some play days on Rico, but none of those were serious. Not where I paid an entry fee, or where the competition was packed, or where the winning prize was a very beautiful buckle. Eek.
Now, I tried Ranch Sorting back in August, but it wasn't a real competition. We paid $5 to do a random sorting, more a "fun game" than anything. This time, every one was good, and they all came ready to win that buckle. Some of the runs were so amazingly fast, and the horses moved so well, I couldn't believe it!
I spent most of the day warming up horses, watching the other competitors and talking my poor partner's ear off. See, the only way I can combat nervousness is by feeling prepared. And since I didn't feel prepared, I had to settle myself down by dissecting every scenario in my head, making tons of plans, noting things about the cows or about other teams' runs. Would I remember any of it when I got in the pen? Most likely not, but talking about it made me feel like I was doing something. Fortunately, I had a great partner who just listened and nodded his head, even though I was probably getting on his nerves! (Sorry!)
It's funny how you can spend all day nervous but, once you're up, it just goes away. It's like you don't have time to be worried. Suddenly, it's just you, your partner, your horse and the cows; you can hear the people calling to you outside, but you can't hear them.
Even more amazing was how the horse I was riding felt so ready the minute we got in front of cattle. I've been riding this mare a lot, and I feel like we work well together and have a good relationship, but in that moment we suddenly felt like partners, like we were 'on a wire'. It was a really powerful feeling.
So, how did we do? Out of twenty-two teams, we came in second place. We were so close to winning the buckle -- we lost it at the last minute by four cows -- but I'm still extremely excited and happy with what we got. I have a great trainer, a great partner, and I was riding a great horse. Plus, my mom was there to see it. More importantly, I'm doing what I promised my grandfather that I'd do: following in his footsteps.
Besides, how many people can say they got second place on their first go?
I got a $101 for second place, which is going toward a new pair of nice spurs. I love my spurs because my grandfather bought them for me, but they're super light, 'learning spurs' and I think it's time for an upgrade.
Now that I've got the bug, I can't wait to compete again. It's a sport that I think Kachina would excel in, and I think it'd be a good competition for a young horse once they have more training of them (not as much running or turning in Sorting as there is in Team Penning). We'll see!
Next time, I'm getting that buckle!
Besides all that, Kachina's doing fine, and I did take a picture of her for you guys:
Just before I gave her a bath (which she hates). She looks all awkward and teenager-y in this photo. Definitely not a baby anymore!