When asked, I usually tell people that my first live show was a small "fun" held by Fran Lowe in Denver in March 1999. And it's true, that was the first live show I ever attended as an entrant. However, my actual first live show experience happened by accident several years earlier in Raleigh, North Carolina.
At that time, I was working for a high end, mobile tack shop on the A show hunter/jumper circuit. Every year our show season concluded with a mid-November trip to Raleigh for the Duke Children's Benefit Horse Show.Held at the James B. Hunt Horse Complex at the NC State Fairgrounds, this week long show was a popular stop for southerners returning home from the indoor circuit. I'm pretty sure I attended Duke all five years I worked at Judy's.
That said, I am also relatively sure that most of these pictures were taken at Raleigh shows other than Duke. Somehow I didn't have the foresight to know I'd want them for a blog post some twenty five years in the future. Go figure.
Anyway, I always liked Duke. It was big and festive and far enough away from home that we got to see some new faces. Also, the free exhibitor breakfast was bagels instead of donuts. Sometimes it's the little things.
One year - I don't remember which one, but it was near the end of my Judy's tenure so probably 1994 or 1995 - the Duke Children's Benefit also included a model horse show. Other than subscribing to The Hobby Horse News, I was not involved in the hobby so this was a surprise to me. As soon as I found out, I hoofed it over to the indoor ring to get a look.
There are two models I specifically remember. The first was a Lesli Kathman Loki resin. Because of The Hobby Horse News, I knew what he was. However, the black and white newsprint images had not prepared me for the glorious reality. He was so exquisitely beautiful. I just stood there and stared.
The other was a Black Horse Ranch hunter in special run bay Appaloosa. He was on someone's sales table with a fifty dollar price tag. That was a lot of money for me back then, but I was really tempted. I went back a couple times to look at him, but in the end I didn't buy him. My reasons were less about money, and more about my nosey boss. At that point, I was still determined to keep my real horse and model horse worlds extremely separate. Bringing a big, fragile, expensive toy back to the mobile shop seemed like a quick way to ruin all that.
Still, I thought about that BHR hunter for years.In the early 2000's I traded a bunch of tack for a several BHR horses, the most important of which was the hunter in the original issue black.
Because this mold will always remind me of North Carolina and the Duke show, I named him Bull Durham.
He mostly made up for not buying that horse all those years ago.
But you know, every now and then, I see the Appaloosa come up for sale - usually for around fifty dollars! - and I am tempted all over again. So far I have resisted, but someday it's going to happen. When it does, I hope he'll bring a Loki with him.