By DAVID GREEN
Just a week after the Pickles family acquired a new horse that they named Patch, Allison (Pickles) Ott had some news for her parents, Doug and Londa, news that was going to change a lot of things, including her time in the show ring.
Allison and her husband, Joe, were going to be parents.
Move forward a couple of years and Allison is now a working mother of a toddler, with limited time for training and competing in the national pinto shows.
Allison loves heading out for a competition and spending time with the “extended family” of horse show people, but it’s a different story now with her own family—especially her two-year-old son, DJ.
Here’s her description of life on the road.
“When you are gone from Friday evening until Sunday evening, it is exhausting, as showing is exhausting. You don’t sleep well as it is not your own bed. You’re scared you are going to be late to get up, DJ doesn’t sleep well, the dogs rustle at every movement outside the trailer, etc.”
And then there are the thoughts of returning home to catch up on laundry, cooking, cleaning—all before getting ready to go to work Monday morning.
It doesn’t end there. Monday evening is designated as the time to clean the trailer so it’s ready to go for the next show. The catching up continues Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and then it’s Thursday.
“That’s packing the trailer night so we are as ready as we can be to pull out after work.”
That’s a routine that just doesn’t work like it used to. In year’s past, Allison averaged three competitions a month. Last year, the pace fell to just eight total.
That’s why she thinks it’s so remarkable that she earned enough points to place second in the national pinto organization standings. The winner attended 45 shows.
The title she and Patch earned is second place in the Junior Amateur High Point—2007 Horse of the Year standings for pintos, and third in the Junior Amateur Challenge 20.
“All of this was achieved with no practice, just honesty and trust and the willingness to work together as a team,” she said.
She’s referring to Patch in that statement, because motherhood doesn’t leave time for training and caring for a horse, either. Patch now lives about three hours away with a trainer near Mansfield, Ohio.
Allison describes Patch as a gentle giant. DJ walked with Patch in lead line competition and received a letter of achievement—at the age of 18 months.
Allison showed very little in 2006 with a baby in the house, so 2007 was somewhat of a return to the ring.
It also brought some changes that she was fighting.
She travels with her mother, Londa—an essential component to competition with a toddler in tow—and one day when they were on the road, Londa suggested competing in showmanship and Western events.
“I went through a pile of excuses,” Allison said. “This discussion went on for two hours.”
When they arrived at the show, some friends also started putting on the pressure and Allison gave in.
“This horse has a forté for English events,” she said. “He is 16 hands high, which is pretty big. For him to slow down to compete with the smaller stride horses is a big challenge for him. Showmanship is something that requires a horse to compete an accurate pattern at my command, while I lead him. It takes skill and respect from the horse.”
Horse and trainer never had any practice in other events except at shows, but they gave it a try and the challenge was a good thing.
“It shows how easy he is to work with and willing to try new things,” Allison said.
Last year they competed in both English and Western showmanship. There’s a difference in attire, equipment and beat of the pattern—an extended trot for English, a smaller stride jog/trot for Western.
They also entered a variety of other events that test both horse and rider.
The new challenges brought a fresh face to competition. They made her feel young again, said the 29-year-old. It was showing for the fun of it.
As for her versatile horse, the two will be parting ways.
“He enjoys people’s attention and I just cannot commit to him,” Allison said. “This is the reason he is for sale.”
That won’t put an end to her showing—she still has six other horses to choose from—but she’ll never return to the heavy schedule she once enjoyed.
There’s more work on the farm with some expanded cattle operations and there’s DJ who likes to play at home. But horse and rider won’t be put out to pasture yet.
“We’ll go to some shows for sure,” Allison said.