It's almost Halloween, which is one of my favorite holidays. Overlooking the major candy benefits, Halloween has a few other bonuses. In trying to figure out why Halloween is such a fun holiday (again, other than the candy factor) there were two reasons that I came up with. First of all, there's no pressure; no big family dinners, no gift giving, and no cooking. A few hours of encouraging my child to go door to door and basically asking for a hand-out, is the only obligation. Second to that is the costume factor. Dressing up as someone or something else has always been a big thrill for me. I think I get that from my Dad. He would surprise people, being kind of a stoic guy, by putting on a goofy costume for Halloween. I remember one year when he dressed up as the scariest thing he could think of. A 1040 tax return form.
The great thing about going to horse shows, is that sometimes, they offer a costume class. It's like Halloween all Summer long! Occasionally, there will be a half-hearted entry that isn't really discernible beyond being a kid on a horse with some graffiti thrown in, but sometimes, there will be that entry that's gone full bore, all out, to the hilt so that the horse and/or rider are unrecognizable. That's awesome!
The most awesome thing abut it, is that the horses put up with that nonsense. They patiently bear the Rudolph noses, picnic blankets, or giant candy bar wrappers as if it were an everyday occurrence. I myself, am terribly guilty of desecrating my horses' dignity with costumes. Some were appropriately decorous, such as the Medieval and circus costumes, but most were just silly. By no stretch of the imagination am I any sort of seamstress, so my costumes have always been more accessory laden than actual outfits. One of the horse show moms, who was without a doubt, a fantastic seamstress, made elaborate clothing for her daughter's mount. Usually that mount was Pooh Bear who was as steady as they come as far as school horses. Pooh wore, on different occasions, a Raggedy-Andy outfit complete with a shirt, trousers and a little hat, a Wizard of Oz Scarecrow outfit, again with shirt, trousers and a little hat (except this hat had a little bird on it too), and a police car outfit with license plate, a set of wheels and a sparkly blue "light" instead of a little hat. Those outfits rightfully earned a handful of blue ribbons for his little rider.
Although I most always participate in the costume classes myself, there is rarely a time when even my most creative of costumes will not be bested by a cute little kid on a pony. The fairy/princess/butterfly on the unicorn/flower bedecked, shaggy pony will always take the blue. It's an unwritten rule somewhere that the amount of audible "Awwwww...'s" sways the judge's decision.
My own child has been a harbinger of "Awwww..'s" himself, in costume classes. When he was still young and malleable (as well as being free of encumbering embarrassment), I entered him in several costume classes. With the help of my Mom's and friends' seamstress skills, I was able to put together some seriously cute costumes. He's been a '50's rock & roller, a knight, the Tin Man and a pirate, and since I had to lead his horse for each class, I too was dressed up as a bobby-soxer, a squire, Dorothy and a parrot. At every show, he managed to win the blue ribbon. I take that back, there were a few shows where he wanted the red one instead (being his favorite color at the time) so he traded.
Costume classes require tremendous effort and creativity to be done well and for all the weeks of preparation, it comes down to 5 minutes of glory. Is it worth it? For me it is. The thrill of presenting myself and my horse as something completely different is like recess to a Second Grader. It's a chance to be outrageous, unexpected and silly. As a training side, it's also a chance to show how complacent your horse is. There are definitely some horses that won't tolerate drapery, trappings and little hats. It takes a horse that is unflappable and tolerant with a dash of silly.
Fun is where you find it. Some riders find fun galloping cross-country while their horses fling themselves over logs the size of Volkswagens. Some riders find fun in chasing down a scampering calf, roping it and then wrestling it to the ground. I like dressing my horse and myself up as thugs and trying to snatch the first prize out of the hands of a four year old girl dressed as a lollipop. Now that's fun.