Paula was a classmate of mine. We were good friends. She was/is good at everything she does. She won state championships in dog showing. She won state championships in horse showing. If we would have had state championships for girls basketball, she would have won several in that discipline. Her tall, thin, cute appearance was deceiving to an extent because deep inside she was a fierce competitor. I remember seeing her the first time on her horse and thinking, “That girl is going to give me a run for my money.” And so it was true. For years, we competed against one another. Paula and I remain friends to this day, and our parents became best of friends over the years.
There was a show ring where all of us locals went when there wasn’t a bigger horse show going on somewhere. It wasn’t fancy, but it attracted all the great competition from Portage County. Mr. and Mrs. Finnegan ran an honest show and it was always fun, the judging was fair, and we could try new things and tune up for the bigger shows without losing a lot of money or pride. On this particular day, Vern Dutter was the judge. Mr. Dutter was from the northern part of the county and he had a great reputation with Arab horses. He was a fair and honest man who not only judged well, but he also would give us tips on how to improve. It came down to one of the last classes of the day, horsemanship.
There were about 35 horses in the class. Horsemanship was judged on equitation, pleasure and the ability of horse and rider to work together. This day, Paula and I were running pretty even. Mr. Dutter had called out the other three places, but he couldn’t decide between us for first and second place. So he dismissed the other riders and it was just Paula and me in the ring. He had us do a couple of things individually and still couldn’t decide. We had lined up in the middle of the ring, side by side. Mr. Dutter told us that he wanted us to break into a canter from a standstill, making sure we took the lead to the left, meaning the front left leg of the horse must advance first when cantering. This is a particularly difficult request, especially from a standstill.
Paula went first. Her horse took a couple of steps before cantering. I saw my chance if I could get my particularly lazy horse, Wimpy, to canter in the correct lead on the first step. Mr. Dutter was standing off to my left. When it was my turn to go, I said a little prayer and kicked Wimpy as hard as I could with my right heel, in a way that the judge couldn’t see it. Wimpy farted so loud that everyone laughed, but he immediately went into the canter correctly. We loped our victory lap around the ring and came in beside Paula and her horse. Job 39:19 asks: “Have you given the horse strength? Have you clothed his neck with thunder?” Maybe not, but it sounded like thunder. It was the fart heard around the ring.