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.