As some of you may know my children rode horses when they were young. My oldest still rides horses every chance she gets. The oldest started riding horses when she was seven years old, my son started when he was five and started with his older sister. My youngest started lessons when she was two years old.
My children would also show horses in english hunt seat horse shows. One of which we would be excited for every year, they had handmade fudge for sale and hats made of leather, pony rides of course and games to play and win prizes. The games were a great draw for my son and his best friend.
We would arrive at the show grounds by six in the morning to get the numbers for the children, the ponies in the show ring to school them and everyone ready for the show to promptly start around seven-thirty nine or so because they were never really prompt. (The show was supposed to start at seven o’clock) My husband used to get frustrated and say things like “Why don’t horse people not know how to tell time?”
My kids would be all jacked up on donuts, hot cocoa and horse show excitement. My son and youngest daughter would show in the mornings and my oldest daughter would show later in the afternoon. It was always a long day or weekend, depending. After my two little ones were finished they would collect their cash, from me, for the games, fudge and what other trouble they could find.
My youngest went off with her friend and her friend’s older sister. My son went off with his friend and his friend’s mom. The show grounds weren’t that big and you could see where they went at all times. My son was at the games and my youngest was over putting her pony on the trailer. I would relax because my husband was there too and he would be the go between with each child, but sometimes he would come back eating fudge and unsure where the children were.
My friend comes over and says “Do you know that our two little girls just put their ponies away and then spent all of their money on pony rides?” we both laugh at the irony, because these two girls could literally ride their ponies all around the entire show grounds for free and instead rode ponies that were attached to one another and went in a circle.
Next my son comes over with a huge smile on his face carrying several bags filled with something. As he approaches I can see that they are filled with water and swimming in the water were goldfish. Its summer and going to be in the nineties and they are handing out fish in a bag to children who are going to be here all day. Seriously all day, we will pack up ponies onto the trailer when it gets dark. Are you kidding me? Fucking fish? Who is going to be stuck carrying these damn things? Not me that’s for sure.
I look at my husband and he shrugs. I shrug too because we both know that this isn’t going to end well.
It starts with my son showing his friends the fish and one wants to open the bag up to get a closer look.
“I want to touch it!” the child says.
“Okay!” my son says and he opens the bag. All of the kids take turns petting the fish. They pet the fish so much that it dies because it’s not that kind of pet. My son comes over sad and crying because “Marvin is dead!”
“Who is Marvin?” I ask
“My pet fish!” He explains.
“I’m sorry bud. What happened?” I ask
“We were just petting him and he died, just like that.”
“Oh Bud, fish need to be in water at all times! You can’t take them out of the water because that’s how they breathe.” I explain.
He looks shameful. I hug him.
“It’s okay, you didn’t know.” I tousled his hair and asked “Where did you put him?” He takes the fish out of his pocket and shows it to me.
‘oh gross!’ I think, because it is.
“Maybe we can have a funeral for it.” my oldest daughter suggests. She gets off of her pony and hands me the reigns.
The funeral happens over by the big oak tree. All of the children from the barn are there burying this poor dead fish. My son is sad and they all clap him on his back because they understood that the fish, that he had in his possession for a total of twenty minutes, meant so much to him.
Later that day, my youngest daughter comes over to me and says “Do we have any more water bottles?” I look at her and squint my eyes because we had two cases of water in our car.
“In the car.” I announce
“Do we have others?” she asks.
I narrow my eyes and I ask “Did you kids drink all of that water already?” because that water was to last all weekend.
“We needed water for the fish.” she tells me.
‘oh for fucks sake!’ I think and maybe mutter under my breath because it’s that kind of day. I look over at the huddle of children by the oak tree and see that they are all frantically pouring water bottles in their hands. “Oh no!” I exclaim and off we go, me holding my youngest in my arms so that we can move faster, but not too fast to spook the ponies.
“What are you guys doing?” I ask because I need them to explain what I am seeing, because I know what I am seeing, but I can’t believe what I am seeing.
“We are petting the fish with the water in our hands.” one of the kids announces. This child must be the brain power behind this genius move because they are beaming with pride. All around them are two cases of empty water bottles that I bought for drinking.
*side note if you don’t want to spend your entire life’s earnings at a horse show bring your own food and water. Their prices for frozen soggy luke-warm chicken nuggets is extortion. I have three small children who get one order to share and a bottled water each and they come back with thirty less dollars. Ouch!
I don’t want to yell at the children and spook horses, so I whisper yell which is somewhat harder on my vocal chords. My throat hurts as I am trying to explain that the fish need to stay in the bags and fish don’t like to be pet, and that the bottles of water were for drinking and that there was a spigot for buckets of water for the horses and ponies that they definitely all knew about because we made them fill up buckets when we first got there and also stop dumping the water bottles into your hands to keep petting those dead fish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
My son looks at me and then turns to his friends and says “You can always tell when my mom is mad because her eyeballs shake!”
I stand there and look at this motley crew of kids all holding dead fish, all soaking wet and all kind of amused by my anger. I need to walk away. I need to just walk away from this scene. I need to get some composure before I really lose my shit. I go and purchase a four dollar dixie-cup full of luke-warm stale coffee and try to relax before I approach this situation. A friend of mine comes up chuckling about it and I honestly didn’t see how hilarious it all was before this point. We both laugh and I am thankful that I have friends there to help me get through this.
We then look over and the kids are having another fish funeral. Its sad and they are all bowing their heads. My son gets a hug from all of the girls there and I wonder if that is why he keeps killing his fish. I mean I know he isn’t doing it on purpose but the hugs from cute girls probably doesn’t hurt.
I walk over to the ring because my oldest is getting ready to go into the jump course. My friend and I both standing by the gate to encourage her. We watch my daughter do a clean jump course and we clap gently when she is finished. She comes out and we give her congratulations and then my youngest comes over with a dripping wet bottle of water for my oldest daughter. As my oldest daughter is gulping down water, my youngest announces that they are filling all of the bottles of water back up.
I hesitantly look over and see that these clever little shits aren’t using the spigot but a bucket….a horse bucket….that the horses and ponies have been slurping out of all day long, to fill up the empty bottles of water. Also when I run over there to tell them to stop I see a fucking fish swimming in another bucket of water.
Oh HOLY HELL, WHAT THE FUCK ARE THESE LITTLE KIDS THINKING!!!!!
I feel my eyes begin to shake. My youngest comes over and she can tell that I’m upset and she puts her arms around me and says this little gem “Fish in a bag is not a great prize, I think!”
I laugh so loud that I almost spook a horse near me. I laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh because she is right. These kids won fish and had to hang out with them all day. What the hell did they expect to happen? It’s hot, the kids are alland when the fish petting no longer entertained them, they then had the fish funerals to preoccupy their time.
We have been back to that horse show and my children would be asked “What are the rules when we get there?”
Rules: “No winning fish. You can play the games but you may not collect the prize.”
“No paying for pony rides, you have your own ponies to ride.”
“No filling up water bottles with the water in the buckets.”
and my personal favorite “Don’t get mom mad!” this was my youngest and she was very pleased with herself for that little addition.
Moral of my story: I’m sorry for the fish that died during this adventure and my children regret it deeply as well. They didn’t want to be fish murderers, they are very compassionate kids. Also one of the fish did make it home and it died the very next day. We aren’t great fish owners!
Until next time 🙂