My alarm went off at 7:30 this morning, and I rolled out of bed to put on a clean, white show shirt and tan breeches, along with bright purple socks for good luck. I drove to the Blenheim show grounds at San Juan Capistrano, and after a few trips down the lot aisles, found a spot to park. In the brisk morning cold, I walked to my barn and checked the whiteboard.I had a total of six classes ahead of me over the course of the day. I threw my hair up in my helmet, reluctantly took off my warm, puffy jacket and exchanged it for my show coat, and tied my number around my back, threading the string through the third button on my coat before tying it in a little bow. I quickly shined my boots, already dusty from the two minutes I had been wearing them, and walked over to the mounting block.

As my horse, Camvall, and I walked to the far sand arena, what seemed like a million thoughts rushed through my head. I could almost hear my trainer repeating, “shoulders back, thumbs on top, and don’t forget to keep a soft bend in your elbows”. In that flat equitation class, I would have to use every muscle in my body to hold perfectly still and upright. When it came time to line up, I knew I had done my best by the soreness I could already feel in my shoulders. No, I didn’t win that class, but I learned from it, and from watching the riders that did take home the blue and red ribbons.

The rest of my morning was pretty similar, but with over fences classes instead of flat ones. In between my rounds, I looked over to the Grand Prix arena to watch two hunter idols of mine, John French and Jenny Karazissis, duel it out in the International Hunter Derby. I finally finished my last class at 1:30, and after a long sip of ice cold water, headed back to the barn to change into my “normal people clothes” as I call them.

It’s 3:30 now, and I am sitting under the shade of an umbrella at the top of the Grand Prix field- typing away on my laptop and looking out over the green fields and sand arenas, watching an under saddle class in the Pacific Field and a hunter on course over at Ortega in the distance. All day I have been living inside the show, and now I get to take a moment to appreciate it all from a different perspective.

This show is so much more than a means to compete and potentially win ribbons. To me, what makes this show meaningful is the friends I’ve met and the people I’ve talked to. It’s sitting with my marine biology homework during an exciting class because I just can’t bear to go home and miss it, or taking photos of riders I look up to, so I can remember each of their rides clearly in my mind later. It’s the hot coffee in the medal club at seven in the morning, and the smiling faces behind the desk when I get there. It’s the shops and the food (really, the food is exquisite), and the opportunities to learn and grow that have come my way.

#horseshowlife was written by Junior Rider Erin Melville. Meet Erin:
I  have lived in Palos Verdes, CA, for my whole life. It’s a very horsey area, so when I was little, I would see people on trail rides along the sides of the streets almost every day.  I finally got into riding at age eight, when my friend and I went to a local summer camp. I fell in love with everything about riding! I started taking lessons every Saturday and would stay late to help clean stalls and groom horses. I now ride at Seahorse Riding Club, and have my gelding Camvall, who I show in the hunters and equitation. Next year, I’m heading to UC Santa Barbara to study communications and will hopefully be able to stay involved with the horse community throughout my time there. I have absolutely loved the time I have spent in the saddle, and I don’t think I’ll ever want to live without horses as a part of my life.