Pam and Marcel were getting the hang of riding aside pretty quickly and the thought of showing him at a local Saddlebred show sent chills up Pam's spine (probably Marcel's too!) She decided to enter in a combination class. It started with driving, then half way through the horse is unharnessed and saddled. The class then competed under saddle. Pam knew she would really Wow the crowd riding the under saddle portion aside! The started practicing. They practiced driving, riding aside and having the ground crew unharness and retack Marcel in under two minutes!
Right before the show, Pam literally stepped into a hole and broke her foot. Her sister, who was at least 20 feet away from her could hear the snap! Pam had torn her tendon.
"I was so disappointed" Pam explained. "Even when the doctor told me I could not ride for at least 6 weeks, I tried it anyway. I had a big show coming up after all! It was so painful. I could not push off the mounting block to get on and even when I did manage to mount, my ankle was in such bad shape, I was in agony with it dangling off on the sidesaddle horn. I knew at that moment there was no way I could compete."
Not only could Pam not ride, but she could not even drive! She went from working Marcel almost daily preparing for the show, to only getting to see him when someone else could take her back and forth to the barn. Marcel became pensive with this schedule change and several people noticed it. The next time Pam went to the barn, she entered Marcel's stall. She lifted her pant leg and showed Marcel her injured foot. Pam was wearing one of Marcel's Polo wraps over her splint. Marcel dropped his head to sniff it. He snorted and blew at it for a moment. After further inspection, both visually and with his lips, he stepped forward and chewed on the top of Pam's head. She knew he understood.
In time they were able to show. It had been beautiful September weather - low to mid 70's and light breezes..until the day of the show. The temperatures slowly rose to 100! Pam did not handle the heat well but, the sidesaddle attire must be perfect! On went the black tights, the black knee boots and stocktie about her neck. Next it was the wool sidesaddle apron, the wool jacket, all finished off with leather gloved and an antique beaver felt hat with a veil. Enough clothing to face a snow storm! As she mounted Marcel, Pam's sister Lisa coined it as "The Suit of Death!" Pam was heating up quickly and there was no escape. Marcel was acting up. She was losing her patience and the gate was open for their class. They trotted in and within 10 strides she knew she was in trouble. For a split second everything went black. Pam was succumbing to heat exhaustion. Marcel was going high, just as he should, but from that brief blackout her legs went limp. She bumped to the right and couldn't regain her purchase. She was going off all the while thinking, "I am going to Wow the crowd one way or the other!"
Pam spun Marcel to the center and told the judge her girth needed tightening. The poor ring master took one look at the sidesaddle and tried his best to turn invisible. It didn't work. He came over and Pam talked him through tightening an already tight girth. Marcel grunted. This maneuver gave Pam just enough time to catch her breath and regain her clarity. Back to the rail they both knew their jobs. It was up to Marcel to show and it was up to Pam to just stay on! Marcel knew something was wrong. He stopped being a Saddlebred show horse and did his best Quarter Horse impression instead - slow and steady. Marcel was even taking his cues from the announcer instead of Pam. They placed third out of four and Pam was thrilled.
"The worst part about that whole story is that there were so many people interested in learning more about sidesaddle and I was too ill to talk to them. It was the perfect time to promote the discipline of riding and I just could not do it." She reflected.
Pam dismounted with Lisa's help and immediately started to remove her habit as she was shuffled back to the tack room to cool off. It took quite a while before she felt normal, but she realized that once again Marcel had taken care of her. Good Boy!
Shortly after that show Pam was diagnosed with breast cancer...
to be continued..