April 2007
Lady "C", Center Stage  

         By Suzanne De Laurentis, Imagine A Horse   
Lady “C”, Center Stage
By Suzanne De Laurentis, Imagine A Horse © 2007
  
As the horses started to descend into the tunnel, into the darkened Reliant Stadium, their eyes were wide. The circle of light from the spotlight was just ahead of them on the dark floor. Entering on cue is one reason Monet, or MISTER Monet as we often call him was right next to Lady but out of the spotlight as she made her concert debut. Monet stepped out into the dark carrying Allen, and Lady “C” mustered her nerve and went with him. Lady “C” carried her human mom, rock star, Sheryl Crow and this was their initial appearance in public. Lady is a black and white Tennessee Walking Horse mare who has been Sheryl’s companion for several years. The mare was trained here at Red Horse Ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas as an exhibition horse, almost by accident. She was here for a tune up under saddle and demonstrated a very high curiosity factor along with a great desire to please. As a fun way to engage her, we began teaching her tricks. Soon Lady “C” was on her way to being an accomplished exhibition horse.

The addition of the mare to Sheryl’s appearance at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo seemed a natural fit and the work began. It is a lot to ask of a young horse to appear, let alone perform amidst an array of spotlights, a pyro show, loud speakers and music with almost 50,000 cheering folks in the stands. Lady is a very calm and willing horse with a level head but even the most rock steady horse could decide at the last minute that the spotlight wasn’t for her. Preparation had to be made one step at a time.

We hired Marc McCord, an armorer and special effects specialists to help us acclimate  Lady to pyro displays. Lady took the sight, sound and smell of the blasts in stride and by the second session was performing her tricks as Mark set off the blasts at varying distances from her. We also took advantage of every opportunity we could find to take the mare to events crowded with people and sights and sounds that would unnerve many an equine.

In February Lady “C” was a main attraction at an event for Animal Trustees of Austin’s Petcasso Pets. She sat on her beanbag in the reception line as guests arrived who would bid on paintings by the pets of some famous folks including Ray Benson and Sara Hickman. Lady “C”s painting, Sand and “C” went for $2,500 and all proceeds went to the ATA spay and neuter clinic.

Lady and Monet are both pleasure horses who are accustomed to a pretty comfortable horsey life. They really don’t travel much and are not confined to stalls. When we arrived at the Reliant Stadium, the horses were stalled next to each other with Longhorn steers across the aisle on one side, calves for the calf scramble and bucking stock on two other sides. The remaining aisle was the main entrance to the rodeo arena and had a steady stream of animals, people and very strange equipment coming and going all day.

Graeme Langden and Nancy Davis-Langden and staff were very accommodating and made certain we had everything needed to make the horses comfortable

During practice time the day before the concert, we rode Lady “C” and Monet in the rodeo arena where the concert would be held. The loud rehearsal music didn’t really bother either of them and neither did all the strange vehicles and equipment being moved around. After a short warm up period, Sheryl mounted Lady “C”. Since the mare had been with me at the ranch for some brush up training it had been several weeks since Sheryl had ridden her but they were soon working well as a team.

In the practice arena were Staci and Jerry Diaz warming up for their nightly show in the rodeo. Staci and Jerry both grew up in the show and horse business. Jerry is a multi champion of Charro Completo. Their three-year-old son, Nicholas was with them as they rehearsed with their horses. Nicholas’ laughter filled the giant rodeo arena as his father executed some very fine spins on his performance horse as Nicholas sat in front of him in the saddle. As Staci and Jerry put their exhibition horses through their paces Nicholas was right there, enjoying every minute. It was fun to watch the Diaz family obvious delight in their roles and also for Sheryl to see other exhibition horses perform.

Here’s what Chris Hudson, Sheryl’s tour manager had to say about Lady “C” s debut:  At the strike of 9pm the lights dimmed, pyro went off and Sheryl and Lady C entered the ring, did a loop around the edge of the arena and stopped near the edge of the stage. Lady C, with encouragement from Sheryl and trainer Sue De Laurentis reared up, pawed or should I say 'hooved' the air, and then took a modest bow.

It wasn't a slam dunk that Lady C wouldn't take matters into her own hooves and bolt at the sound of 50,000 people cheering or the first close range disposable camera flash, so when Sheryl swung her leg over the saddle and slid off Lady C to head to the stage, there was a collective sigh of relief from those of us 'in the wings' so to speak.

With all the lights off, and the spotlights blinding her from all angles, Lady C did well, especially considering that in those conditions she could hardly see and was stepping into the virtual unknown.
Ironically it was about the same experience for the rest of us.

After the concert, I overheard a band member mumble something that sounded very much like “being upstaged by a horse”.

For us, the trust and confidence and willingness to step out into the darkness that Lady “C” showed was the payoff for all the time consuming preparation.

The two Lady “C”s made a spectacular sight.


   
   

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