I can tell it’s time for cross-country. Her calves are squeezing my ribs tight enough to just about take my breath away, but that’s okay. Once we leave the start box, she’ll finally relax, and I’ll be able to get my job done – the absolute best part of my job description: gallop over the hills and jump anything in my way.
Number 124 is on deck!
Oooff! We must be 124 because the grip just got a little tighter, and I can feel the tension in her neck and shoulders all the way through my jawline. Settle down, kid. I’ve never let you down, and I never will.
In my previous life, people used to say things like, “oh, what a beautiful Arabian,” when they met me, and I tried hard to live up to their standards. But truthfully, I’ve always been more of a function-over-form kind of guy. I never really understood all the hours spent with the spray polishes, shiny creams, and the obsession with the length of my tail. To be honest, it turned me into quite a grumpy guy. Until I met Audrey, I thought all kids did with horses was complain about our deficiencies in the ring, beg their parents for a better horse and poke and prod at us until all we wanted to do was swat them with our tails like a swarm of summer flies. Hmmm…perhaps long tails have their place after all.
But then I stepped off the trailer and into the arms of Audrey. At 13 years old (pretty cool that we’re the same age), her warm arms provided my first real hug, and if you promise not to tell anyone, I’ll confess that I find it pretty endearing that she loves to kiss my muzzle. Between the love she has for me and the curry comb and brushes she uses on me everyday, I know my chestnut coat and four white socks glow more now than any can of glossy spray could ever provide. And all the carrots…
Two minutes, Number 124!
Right! Focus! Based upon the past two years of my Eventing career, I know we’ve got about 15 jumps ahead of us and tons of galloping track to tear up. I can feel her thinking through the course, and apparently there’s a good question about two-thirds of the way through. I hope she’s not still worried about the water obstacle. I know I gave her a hard time the first time we had to go through one, but come on, give a guy a break. I thought she wanted me to step off into the depths of a bottomless, horse-eating hole! How was I supposed to know it was only fetlock deep?! Well, now I know. No need to go over that again. We must have some fun fences after that, though, because the joy that’s bubbling up is pretty evident through the reins now. The big pat on my neck and the whisper of “good boy, Junior” means she’s remembering what a good team we make. We may not be fancy enough for the best dressage scores, but we do our very best. And tomorrow’s stadium jumping will be a reminder of all the fun we have together. But in just over a minute from now, we’ll do what we do best: leaping over big logs, stretching over wide ditches, bouncing up bank walls, splashing through the water and galloping over the seemingly endless terrain.
Audrey always thanks me for giving her wings to fly, but she deserves thanks as well. She found something in me that so many others never even looked for, and I wasn’t even sure existed – pure happiness. So many people, and certainly a lot of my stable mates, laughed when we first tried this jumping thing. Conformationally, I may not be the best-built horse in the ring to do this job, but I can guarantee you I’ve got more try in me than the rest of them put together. Plus, if I remember correctly, there are some extra carrots and apples in it for me at the end of the day if we come home without any jumping faults and under the optimum time. Consider it done. Carrots or not.
Thirty seconds, Rider 124…
And there’s the spike in her heart rate, but it’s good adrenalin now. Warm-up jumps are done, and our trainer is satisfied. I popped over the cross-rail like it was a mere pole on the ground. At the vertical, I got right to the base and snapped up my shoulders and knees, reminding her I can get us out of any tight spot. Then over the oxer, I tucked up all four legs cleanly and cleared it with a foot to spare; they can throw the biggest table they want to at us. We’re ready. I was born to do this.
And get ready to go in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Have a good ride!
Read all ten finalists’ entries from HorseChannel’s 2013 Fiction Contest >>