Catching Horse Fever
Have you ever been to a horse show and seen the sleek, shiny horses of every size and color performing at the peak of their splendor? If not, you don't know what you're missing. Come along now on a trip to the country and the wonderful world of the show.
As soon as you start to bump along the old dirt road that leads to the show grounds, you'll feel excitement in the air. It's a kind of excitement like a light fever, horse fever. Anyone who likes animals loves horses, and almost everywhere you look you'll see horses - some being ridden in an easy, relaxed manner by seasoned professional riders; some being held by proud, smiling grandmothers; some acting frisky in the crisp morning air as soft-voiced grooms do their best to quiet down the snorting animals ; some standing peacefully, gently nuzzling their affectionate owners.
Young riders will be scurrying in every direction, hunting for the proper number to wear on their backs so the judges can identify them easily, searching for their hunt caps or derbies before the next class begins, or maybe just plain trying to find mother. Other riders may be out for some early morning practice, putting the high-stepping Saddle Horses through a walk, trot, and canter.
Or you may see a well-dressed rider in black boots and canary-yellow riding breeches taking a big, rangy hunter over the outside hunt course where the jumps are like the actual jumps a rider would meet on a real hunt. You'll hold your breath the first time you see that Thoroughbred collect himself and go up and over a four-foot stone wall with the ease and grace of a dancer.
Pounding away in the distance will be the rhythmic beat of the black-smith's hammer, the ringing clang of iron on iron as he shapes a shoe. When the shoe is properly formed, the clanging will stop only to be replaced by the softer thud of a small hammer driving the nails through the shoe and into the horse's hoof. But don't worry about the horse being hurt. His hooves are like your fingernails. No pain is felt around the edges where the shoe is tacked on, any more than you feel pain when your nails are filed. Only if a nail is hammered too near the center of the hoof will a horse feel any discomfort.
As you keep moving along the dirt road, you'll see horse vans and trailers, which transport the animals and equipment to and from their home stables. In the background, you'll see the barns where each owner is assigned stalls for his horses and, if the show is a large one, there will even be huge tents put up to stable the hundreds of horses that will be on hand to compete in the sport of kings.
But these days is it the sport of kings only? Not on your life! In fact, if you'll buy yourself a program and step right up to the rail of the big riding ring where the various events (each of which is called a 'class') take place, you'll discover for yourself that riding horses is truly becoming the sport of kids.
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