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Published: February 19th 2019
The horse show at the Chandrabhaga Fair was energetic and lively with showmanship. The contestants and their handlers were busy and bold. They were polished and robust. There was prancing and dancing and an air of professionalism. As we say in the States, this wasn’t their first rodeo...literally!
The contestants were shiny from grooming and dazzling with accoutrements. They were coifed and they were ready to compete. Each one entered the ring with an air of confidence and the pagentry of a Vegas show girl.
The energy and enthusiasm was downright dizzying. I struggled to keep up with the peacocking and the glamour of it all, thankful I was not a real judge.
Then in a quiet, barely noticeable manner another contestant arrived. There was no glitz. There was no grand entrance. And there was certainly no stage presence. In all honesty, I am not sure anyone else even noticed she was in the ring.
The contestant was a bit on the skinny side, maybe a little long in the tooth. It was immediately clear she was not privy to the same feeding and training schedule as the other contestants. She was pretty, but in a sweet and innocent sort of way. She wasn’t flashy and didn’t shine. She wasn’t draped in accoutrements and I can only assume she never had been.
Her handler was an older Indian man and as thin as his companion. He was serious and seemed to have a no nonesense air about him. He quietly walked his prize horse into the ring and he stood with perfect posture. He didn’t engage in the dancing or jockeying for position. He did not beg for the judges’ attention. He just stood there as if waiting for the real show to begin.
He did nothing to beg for attention, yet I could not take my eyes off of him and his steed. I stared as my heart broke for him. There was no doubt he traveled a distance to show off his faithful and gentle horse, probably with hopes of competing and maybe even winning the show.
But as he stood still in that moment, he had to see what I was seeing. The industry had passed him by. The judges were looking for oranges and he showed up with an apple.
With the same amount of flair that he entered the ring, he left the ring. Quietly and without drawing the attention of anyone else on the fairgrounds, he turned on his heel and his adoring horse followed suit.
I did not shed a tear in that moment, but there was an undeniable lump in my throat. I could not help but think of some of the older cattlemen I knew. The cattlemen who knew the industry inside and out. The cattlemen who remembered when cattle were supposed to be short and stout, so much so that they fluffed hay underneath them to make them look smaller. Then they wanted the cattle to look tall and robust, so much so that you could not see them behind their cattle when they walked them into the ring.
These cattlemen changed with the times and were on the pulse of the industry, until they were not. Until genetics and technology surpassend their innate knowledge of animal husbandry and successful marketing, they were the experts. I can only assume these cattlemen experienced a moment similar to the one I witnessed that day at Chandrabhaga.
To be successful in the cattle industry, there are many necessary things, but as I witnessed growing up, it seemed like the the biggest things were hopefulness and a childlike faith that you could compete.
A belief that your beloved animals were as wonderful as you believed they were and a hopefulness that someone else would see those wonderful qualities. I like to think this horseman from India had that hopefulness and confidence, but I can only imagine it was gone the moment he left that ring.
When we got back to the car after the show, I did not mention the heartbreaking contestant, but dad did. Ironically, he caught dad’s eye in the very same manner. Dad shared many of the same thoughts and said, “that will be his last show at Chandrabhaga.”
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