The day before leaving for Oklahoma, I was coming off a week of four exams. I had a half-dozen half-thought out packing lists, hadn’t packed my own bags, let alone my tack trunk. My tack was dirty, my horse wasn’t trimmed, her grain wasn’t packed; I’d barely looked up the directions for the fairgrounds. There just had not been time earlier in the week. I had to work at the barn that night, and I figured I’d spend the greater part of the night getting everything ready for our departure in the morning.

Bless the amazing boarders at my barn, they practically took the muck fork and wheelbarrow out of my hands and shooed me away to go load hay and shavings into the trailer. I wasn’t worried about cleaning my stuff and my horse because I knew we’d have time once we were in OKC, so I ended up being able to get everything onto the trailer the night before.

Saturday morning, I walked into the barn office to find the sweetest goodie bag from the aforementioned awesome boarders with treats for Trainer, The Mare and I, along with lots of words of encouragement.

After a brief struggle with my new Wilkers wraps to get them on my horse’s legs tight enough (spoiler – they still weren’t tight enough), The Mare popped on the trailer, totally unaware she was about to spend the entirety of the day traveling.

The ride down was relatively uneventful, save for a stretch of rain that slowed us down a little. At each stop, The Mare was bright-eyed and snacking on her hay, although with increasing looks of ‘are we there yet?!’

We rolled into the fairgrounds pretty close to our ETA, 13 hours after we left Indiana. After struggling to locate where we needed to be and meandering around to find our stall, we pulled The Mare – who had been waiting FAR more patiently than I expected – off the trailer.  Her first few steps off the ramp I thought she was about to face plant, but she walked off cool and calm for just having taken the longest trailer ride of her life.

She got her dinner, we moved our stuff out to her stall front, and I dug out my stethoscope and thermometer to give her a once over from the day’s travels.  Since we got in pretty late and still had to catch dinner and check in to our hotel, we let her eat and relax in peace and figured we’d scope everything out in the morning.

Our biggest question at this point was…where was the poop? There were no muck tubs, no poop piles – and the show had been going on for a few days already, so where was it going?

Sunday would be the day for exploring, figuring out where we needed to be and when, and getting in a hack.

Because we couldn’t drive the truck down the barn shed row while the classes were in session, I got accustomed to lugging my tack back and forth from the parking lot pretty quickly. The Mare was NOT impressed with her stall situation, and let me know as such when I walked down the aisleway.  Our stall-mates were already present by the time we got there, and while Trainer was parking the truck….I figured out the mystery of the poop when I caught one of our stall-mates cleaning their horse’s stall.

“THEY ARE PUTTING THE POOP IN THE TRASH CANS!” I texted trainer. When she got up to the barns, she confirmed with our neighbors that this was correct.  They actually have a waste management company come around to the barns everyday and empty the plethora of trash cans.  Unconventional, maybe, but it kept everything super clean.

After The Mare had breakfast and her stall was cleaned (into the trash can – by far one of the strangest things I’ve done), we started to scope everything out. We had a prime stall location – right near a spigot for easy bucket filling, right by a bathroom, across the barn row from the arenas we needed to be in, and surrounded by a fantastic group of exhibitors – several dressage riders and several hunter riders.

Further up towards the main coliseum, we ogled at the elaborate stall set-ups that the bigger barns had, browsed the shopping, and located our arenas.

We couldn’t school until showing was completed for the day, so we waited around and chatted with our dressage friends, and took The Mare on a walk around the grounds, until I could ride. I learned quickly that The Mare is very unsettled by the park horses and their high-stepping noises, as well as the carriages – but other than that, she took everything in her normal, non-plussed fashion.

One of the coolest parts of this show was seeing the absolute diversity of the breed across the disciplines. One of the dressage ladies across from us had her Morgan stallions, one of them 28 years old, and one of them 13.3 hands, both very stoutly-built and old-typey.  Down the aisle was an easily 16 hand, refined, long-legged hunter that I would’ve snatched in a heartbeat. The western Morgans, compact but still so active in their strides; the beautifully matched four-in-hand carriage teams; the little driving ponies; the big saddleseat Morgans; the roadsters barreling down the rail in their road trot…a little bit of everything.

And here was my little mare, here to show what she could do against some of the nicest-looking Morgans I’d ever seen.

I was expecting her to be pretty fiery given her long trip out and a new location.  She was a little forward, but so responsive and she felt amazing.  We had a local eventer

who offers PEMF treatments come up the Wednesday before we left to work on The Mare, and I could definitely feel the difference through her back and hind end engagement. I could not have been happier with how she schooled.  It had warmed up just enough that I was able to get her a bath, and found a spot of grass to let her graze and decompress while she dried.

We put her away for the evening and I was devising a plan for the first class the following day.  The hunter/jumper ring wasn’t going to start until 7 PM, so we’d have most of the day for last minute things like tack cleaning.  I figured I’d spend Monday hand-grazing and walking, scrubbing tack, polishing boots, and studying – since the day after we were returning from OKC I would have 2 final exams.

The first ride in Oklahoma was in the books and it was a bit out-of-body, but it really just felt right. I was nervous, but not quite as petrified as I thought I was going to be.  I was looking forward to our first class of the show, and knew The Mare was going to be ready for whatever was put in front of her.

To follow along with Danielle’s journey to the Morgan Grand Nationals, click here.

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