Horse Showing

Sparkling Splendor

February 10, 2010

The queen of bling takes a few moments to decide what to wear.

Pamela Britton-Baer goes through the process of achieving that pro look that will give you the confidence to enter the show ring.

Pamela Britton-Baer goes through the process of achieving that pro look that will give you the confidence to enter the show ring.

By Pamela Britton-Baer in The American Quarter Horse Journal

I’m the queen of bling. Trust me folks, I’ve been wearing rhinestone-studded belts for nigh on 30 years, long before Kippy came along. Liberace has nothing on me. Elton John’s glasses are tame. And that guy who created the BeDazzler? He’s my hero.

So it’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that when I made the transition from the hunter world to the Quarter Horse circuit, one of the classes I most wanted to learn was showmanship. Not because I thought it looked fun – although it did. No. I wanted to do it because of the clothes.

Having previously consulted my oracle of all things Quarter Horse, (otherwise known as Google, YouTube or the forum at www.pleasurehorse.com) I’d learned that some of those outfits were pretty darn snazzy. And expensive. Ver-ry expensive. I could buy a flat-screen TV for the price of a rail shirt. Not that I’d be needing a rail shirt anytime soon, rail shirts being different than showmanship jackets (or so I learned).

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Heck, I could feed a few dozen children in Africa paying for either a rail shirt or a new jacket. Maybe even feed a whole nation. Did I really want to spend big bucks when I knew that whatever I bought would be out of fashion 10 seconds after I wore it?

No.

And this is where my experience as an Internet junky stood me in good stead. The Internet is a giant rummage sale. Seriously. I’ve gotten some of the most amazing deals off eBay. The keys are to know where to look and to be patient. Unfortunately, I was running out of time. My first official lesson with my new trainer was right around the corner and I didn’t have a thing to wear.

Here’s the deal about having a new trainer: It’s a lot like starting a new job. I knew I wasn’t going to actually wear my new showmanship outfit, but I sure wanted my trainer’s seal of approval. There’s nothing worse than walking into an arena and realizing you’ve committed a fashion faux pas. I’d rather know ahead of time that what I’d bought was wrong. The trouble was, I couldn’t decide what to buy. At least with hunt coats your choices are limited: Black, dark blue, dark green, brown; hunt coats all look the same.

Not so with showmanship jackets.

Should I get a solid color or floral pattern? Fancy trim or plain? Cuffs or no cuffs? Lots of sparkles or no sparkles? Wait. That last question I knew the answer to. I was just having a hard time finding something I liked in my size. Apparently, most people who show are the size of a praying mantis. I, however, am a roly poly. Sigh. I would have to have something custom-made. This would take time.

And so, empty-handed, I reported to my first lesson sans showmanship outfit (dagnabit!)

I was like a kid on the first day of school.

The whole way there, I was a nervous wreck. But once again, it turned out I was worried about nothing. I’d forgotten that a good trainer only wants what’s best for you. A good trainer will tell you like it is. They’ll point out your weaknesses … and your strengths.

My first lesson with Lise von Uhlit was chock full of helpful advice. I was thrilled. With my next show only a few weeks away, I was given lots of things to work on at home.

I just wish I’d had a sparkly new jacket to show her. In the end, I did manage to find something. It wasn’t custom made. It was a pre-made, one-of-a-kind and I LOVED it. I added more sparkles (of course), found matching pants at the local thrift store (yes, thrift store), and painted my boots to match the color of my pants. Cool!

But would that outfit pass muster?

I don’t mind telling you I was a nervous wreck when it came time to debut the new duds. Of course, part of my anxiety had to do with the fact that I was wearing those new clothes an hour before I was due to go into the ring. That doesn’t give you much opportunity to change into Plan B should the first outfit fail the test. Plus, I suffer from a little thing called pattern panic. That’s when you feel like you’re going to throw up right before your showmanship class. Symptoms are usually exacerbated by the knowledge that you’re going to leave out certain elements of said pattern. Yup. That’s me. The one who turns right when one’s supposed to go left. Or pivots when you’re not supposed to. Or trots when you’re supposed to walk. Sigh. But back to the outfit…

It was a hit. Sort of. The jacket received rave reviews, but the rest of me, well….

Did you know a showmanship hat should have a crease like a taco? And did you know pointy-toed boots should only be worn by elves? And did you know that the bun at the back of one’s head should be a specific type? Apparently mine was a hot dog-type when it should have been a hamburger.

I would have never known.

Thanks to my newly hired trainer, I was “in the know.” So I didn’t mind the fashion tips at all, because I’d had no clue there was a certain “look” to showmanship. Lise helped me to achieve that look. It gave me confidence to know I would enter the ring dressed like a pro. Only when I went off pattern would a judge realize I was far from proficient in the class. But, hey, looking the part has to count for something.

And so I fixed the hat. I fixed the hair, too. And the boots…well, I happen to love my boots and so — pardon the pun — I put my foot down.

Lise didn’t mind. She’s laid-back enough not to sweat the small stuff — like my feet. So we moved on from clothes to my patterns. And after two days of practice, my performance improved. I was stoked. I stayed on pattern.

I won a class.

I know. What a shocker. I was even in contention for the circuit championship for about 2.9 seconds. Un-believable. Each class was looking better and better — thanks to my new trainer. And that, my friends, was the whole point. I’d wanted to improve. My fantastic new trainer helped me to achieve that goal.

I left Reno, Nevada, proud of our performance and committed to doing better the next time out. That show’s only a few weeks away and I. Can’t. Wait. Maybe next time I’ll pull off a circuit championship. Or not.

But it sure will be fun to try!

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