Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Paths Less Traveled

I wanted to go to one day of the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show this year, but preferred to go on a day where there would be less people and more of the types of competitions I am interested in.  Usually, they schedule something interesting right at 8:00 AM, followed by a bunch of hunter classes, then something interesting at 2:00 PM, followed by a bunch of hunter classes, then something interesting at 6:00 PM.  Year after year after year I get stuck watching nothing but hunter classes, so I don't want to see another hunter class for as long as I live.

Also, I wanted to increase my chances of seeing more classes by not going with anyone nor meeting anyone there.  Anytime you bring other people into the equation, you risk missing the best parts of the show because they are late or they want or need to leave early or everyone wants to see different events.  I decided to take all of that out of the equation, go by myself, and try to stay from morning all the way into the evening activities.

I planned to go on a Monday holiday because my husband would be home to take care of the animals.  If I went on a day he was at the office, I'd have to turn around to come back home as soon as I got to the show, because a dog would need to go outside or be fed or get its medication.  However, I had the flu on Monday.  I couldn't go Friday, because the dental appointment I had to cancel because of having the flu got rescheduled to Friday.  I was just trying to avoid going on a Saturday, because the biggest crowds show up on Saturdays.

However, I woke up on Friday with a sore throat and a fever blister that split my upper lip, so I had to cancel my second dental appointment.  I was so irritated that I told them I'd call them in a couple of months when I know this virus is completely out of my system.  Everyone thinks that if you have the flu, you'll be over it in a week, but I'm rarely that lucky.  My depleted immune system opens the door for all kinds of trouble.

By Saturday I was feeling decent enough that I figured I had better just go to the show before it is over and do my best to avoid the crowds by taking the less trodden paths.  I studied the class and event schedule online and found one set of evening classes that I did not have to pay extra to attend.  Usually, if you hope to stay after 6:00 PM on a Saturday night, you have to go back to the ticket office and fork out more cash, which is another reason why I don't like to go on Saturdays.  They get you coming and going, and I already think that general day admission is too much, considering that the majority of the show is vendor booths trying to sell you overpriced, decadent junk.

One of the main reasons why I miss a chunk of the show each year is the 101 freeway.  It's always jam packed, it is always under construction, and there are always accidents on it.  I can easily spend two hours at a stand still or driving at a crawl.  So, I decided to go through the mountains to get into Scottsdale.  I drove all the way past Saguaro Lake, down into Fountain Hills, then into Scottsdale.  It took a while, but was a pleasant drive... at least until I got stopped at an intersection by a police officer who was directing traffic for a marathon, and he wouldn't let any cars go until every straggler crossed the street.  I tried to entertain myself by watching this cop give these waddlers high fives as they limped through the intersection.  That set me back quite a bit in my schedule.

Oh yeah, and I picked up one funny story along the way.  While I was leaving my town, I slowed for horseback riders here and there who were trying to cross the street.  Then I saw about thirty sports cars coming toward me in a single file line, as if they were in a rally race or headed to a car show.  The driver in front swerved into my lane, and then back into his.  The next driver did it, then the next, then the next.  If they kept doing it, we were going to have a head on collision.  Fortunately, when I got close, the drivers then began swerving onto the shoulder.  I looked down to see what they were swerving around, and it was a pile of manure!  I guess they didn't want horse poop to get into their treads.

Anyway, my plan to avoid the crowds by taking the mountain roads worked, until I got into Scottsdale.  In years past, they set out signs that you could follow to get to WestWorld, but this year they didn't do that.  I somehow wound up in Phoenix, then started heading toward Payson. I was all messed up.  I finally called my husband to look it up on the Internet and direct me there.  Getting lost wasted another hour of my time.

They often change the names of the arenas based upon who is sponsoring them that year, so I need a map to find my way around.  I just trusted that they would have a map at the door, and they didn't.  Then I hoped they would have the arenas labeled, but they didn't.  If I go again in the future, I will have to print out a map from the Internet.  In all fairness, they may have had maps available, but I and other people were having a hard time finding them.  They used to put them in the free magazines advertising the show, but they didn't this year.  I suspect they were in the program you had to buy, but I didn't see any tables with programs until I was ready to leave for the day.  I suspect too many people were crowded around them for me to see them.

When I got funneled through all the vendor booths to the Equidome, much to my disappointment I found that despite my best efforts to avoid arriving during the lunch break, I did.  A tractor was grooming the arena and the lines at the food stands were ridiculously long with no free tables to sit at, so there was no point in eating lunch.  I had read that they were going to start a round of classes at noon in the Equidome, but they didn't.  More misinformation.  I wandered around to other arenas and they were all being groomed.  This went on for hours.  Everywhere I went, there were only tractors and no horses.

I finally found an arena where some trainers were warming up their horses for a reining competition.  I sat down to take pictures of a horse spinning.  I did not bring my professional camera, because I heard that they won't let you in with those anymore.  I don't know if that is true or not, so I brought my point and shoot just to be safe.  If they turned me away because of my equipment at the gate, I didn't want it baking in my truck in the parking lot while I was at the show.  Anyway, I was getting my little camera set up for speed when this man interrupted me to ask what the next show was in that arena.  I said I didn't know.

I put my camera back up to my eye, and the man kept asking me questions.  I got frustrated with his inability to notice that I was busy and to go away once we established that I didn't know what was going on and had no information for him.  He had to keep clarifying everything I said.  His wife finally suggested that they speak with someone on staff, but by the time they left, the trainer had stopped spinning the horse and I never got my shot.  Perhaps I take photography way too seriously, and perhaps getting that shot was minor in the grand scheme of things, but none of that thinking did anything to improve my mood.

I was feeling generally frustrated and considered just leaving the event and going back home to some horse event I saw on my way out at my local arena.  I figured it was probably better organized.  However, by the time I hiked back to the Equidome, they finally started up some classes.  I prefer to watch classes in outdoor arenas, because I can get clearer pictures, but this seemed to be the only place where something was actually going on.

I ended up staying there the majority of the day, because each time I hiked out to other locations, either nothing was going on or what was going on was just a waste of my time.  For instance, there was this organization that was putting on attack dog demonstrations and dog obedience demonstrations, and every time I would walk up to watch, they'd stop and just stand around talking amongst themselves as if deciding what to demonstrate next.  I'd patiently wait five minutes or so, then give up and go somewhere else only to find more people standing around like the show had just ended or they weren't quite sure how to begin it.

At one point, I parked myself in a seat that would allow me to use a white backdrop by the entry gate for my photos.  They had advertisement banners everywhere except on the corners, and the banners don't make good backdrops because they are too busy.  I had to shoot from up high down into a corner to cut out distractions.  This big family came along and sat down in the row beside me.  I could hear someone a few seats down saying, "I wish someone would move over to make room for us."

I didn't know if they meant me or people on the other end of the row, so I waited for someone to ask me to move.  Then I would explain that if I moved, I would not be able to take my pictures because a pole would be in the way of my chosen backdrop.  I figured they'd understand and just sit in the empty row behind us.  But they never asked me to scoot down.  They sat next to me with their kids in their laps for about half an hour, and then left with one lady saying under her breath,  "Some people are just inconsiderate."

Really?  At the point in time when they arrived, there were plenty of places for them to sit without having to make someone move.  A lot of people just don't understand the logistics of photography.

By 6:00 PM, all these security people started showing up at the Equidome.  I had left the Equidome to use the restroom.  I was confused, because I thought we didn't have to pay extra for the evening classes in the Equidome, but did have to pay extra for the evening show in another arena.  In the theme of taking the path less traveled, I managed to slip into the arena through a lesser known entrance.  I was walking along in this crowd of people noticing that everyone had these psychedelic bracelets on.  Then I heard people talking about their assigned seating.  It hit me that I was definitely supposed to pay extra to be there after all.

I kept heading toward exits, but there were so many people pouring in that I couldn't get out.  I knew of a way to get straight to the parking lot without having to go past all the vendors again, so I headed in that direction when a security guard ran up from behind me and asked for my ticket.  I told her that I was trying to get out, so she showed me to an emergency exit.  I got to my truck, but had to wait to drive home, because the sun was setting and in my eyes.  I couldn't see a thing.

My grand plans to stay from morning until night failed between getting lost in the morning and having to pay extra for every show in the evening.  It just seems ridiculous to pay to get in, only to be forced to take a long lunch break where all the food vendors charge you double and triple what you would pay outside of the event center.

The majority of the show I saw happened between 2:00 and 5:30 PM.  My camera battery died before I could get all the shots I wanted.  I had to PhotoShop most of them because in order to increase the speed to prevent blur, they all had to come out underexposed.  I had to accept some blur, because otherwise they would just be way too dark.  Processing them to lighten them up made them grainy.

Here's a rendition of one half of the crowded Equidome...

This lovely lady below was Bombay's second horse trainer...

She's been competing at Scottsdale for as long as I've known her.  I remember she took Bombay on his first trail ride, and he was so nervous that she had to gallop him the whole way.  I hoped to find her during her down time to let her know that he actually is a trail horse now, but I couldn't find her.

This groomer is wiping down a horse with a rag during a timeout...

I've never attended a show with so many timeouts.  Three horses threw their shoes upon entering the arena, and two riders had to leave for unknown reasons.  When a horse throws a shoe, the farrier has a limited time to replace it or the rider and horse are disqualified.

I'm not sure what happened here, but the farrier ended up wrapping the hoof and shoe...

If I remember correctly, the horse and rider went on to do well in their class.

This horse kept turning its head around to look at people in the stands during the lineup, so I had to get a close up of its cute face...

Sometimes the most entertaining things happen during the line up.  The horses' true personalities tend to come out when they are bored.  I like to watch the riders chat with each other while waiting for the judges to tally their scores...

These are some of my favorite costumes..

One horse kept bobbing its head up and down in the line up and the rider was bouncing up and down from the force.  She just sat there calmly and didn't do anything to correct it, which interested me, because Rock does that to me when we are heading home on trail rides.  I'm always trying to correct it to no avail.

Another thrown shoe...

Who throws a shoe?  (Sorry.  That's one of my favorite lines from the Austin Powers movies.)

This champion kept shying away from its ribbon...

Not every rider had an easy time of it.  I saw quite a few bucks, rears, bolts, spooks, and refusals in the arena.  Nobody came off while I was watching, though.  I heard a little girl in the audience complain to her mother that this horse show was boring because the riders don't fall off.  The mother said, "That's the rodeo, honey.  This isn't a rodeo."

You can see in the picture below how having banners in the background can ruin an otherwise decent shot...

Of course, I appreciate sponsors who pay money to help put on the show, but I'm just speaking from a photography perspective.  I'd love to be a hired photographer who is provided a designated spot to take pictures where nothing and nobody can get in my way, and I can bring in all the equipment I need to be successful.

This rider and horse below were a crowd favorite.  I think that not only were their costumes gorgeous, but the audience appreciated that the rider smiled and had fun...

Smiling again...

A pat on the back for a job well done...

I was glad that I caught mostly Side Saddle, Country English, Park, and Costume classes this year.  That's a rarity for me.  If I do ever brave the crowds again, I'll aim for the reining competitions, because those are the only ones I haven't seen in all the years I've been attending the show.  I just need to bring enough cash to be prepared to pay extra.  Yes, I know they take credit cards, but after having my number stolen multiple times, I only use my card at trusted and proven local locations.

Now it's back to shoveling for me.  It was painful sitting in bleachers all day after all the shoveling I had been doing, but I still haven't injured myself, which is practically a miracle.  It's that time of year when I'm due for a bunch of medical check ups, but I don't want to jinx it or risk my tenuous good health by going into germ-filled doctors' offices.  Unless I can reverse my arthritis, I don't think I will be able to compete with the rider in her 70s I saw in the show, but I'm trying to get in as much trail riding as I can before my body is completely shot.

Oh yeah, by the way, I took the freeways home in order to avoid getting lost.  Plus, I was worried that I might hit some wild horses crossing the highway at night if I took the mountain roads home.  I figured it was just my luck to finally see some wild horses, but only at night when I can't see very far in front of me, after all those trips up the mountain during the day in which I looked for them.  It turned out that even the more traveled path has no guarantees, because I missed my intended turn off from one freeway to another because of all these "entitled" drivers racing their expensive vehicles around at 80 mph, weaving in and out of lanes without using their turn signals.  I probably would have been safer with the wild horses.


TeresaA said...

Lovely photos! It would be fun to see sometimes.

Crystal said...

Oh I've got to see that in real next time. And I'm with you I kinda prefer to go by myself if I really wanna watch.

fernvalley01 said...

Beautiful horses and people! what an event!

anita said...

We have the Canadian Arabian show close to where we live. The show is free and we see all these classes and can see all the horses in the barns. There aren't large crowds either. You would love it.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

anita - Sounds awesome! I actually fantasize about moving to Canada some days. I know some Canadians fantasize about coming to Arizona for the warmth in the winter, but I long for your open spaces.