I have a heck of a show recap to write about yesterday’s horse trial, our first Prelim. That will take me a little while though, and before I give you all the details of how it went down, I’m going to spoil it a little and tell you how it ended, and what a monumental moment it was for me.
It was an extremely emotional weekend, bookended by the lowest of lows and highest of highs. A good friend lost her horse on Friday, and as horse people I think we all feel our friends’ losses almost as acutely as we do our own. It’s a terrible feeling, understanding just how heartbroken they are, and also knowing that you’re helpless to fix it. Nothing can fix it. All you can do is stand beside them and feel it with them. We anchor our hopes and dreams to another living thing, a fragile one at that, and we love them in a unique way that other people don’t really understand. When we lose them, the pain is acute and pervasive. It is the worst part of owning and loving these animals, and it absolutely sucks.
Those kinds of things always hit me hard, feeling like a sharp reminder to always keep perspective and to have gratitude for what you have. And when it comes to Henry, I find myself repeatedly rocked back on my heels by the enormity of the gratitude I feel for him. He carried me dutifully around our first Prelim yesterday like a heat seeking missile, never missing a beat. It was one of those cross country rounds that we eventers live for – not perfection, no, that’s not what we’re about, but it was one of those rides where I helped him and he helped me, and together we just absolutely slayed it. It was a team effort, and we were in sync every step of the way.
As soon as I crossed the finish I was overwhelmed with pride for him, and pride for us, and there my emotional state swung 180 degrees the other direction. Who cries the whole way back to the barn after their first Prelim because they’re just so overwhelmed with pride and joy and gratitude and awe? Um yeah that’d be me. And then I alternated crying most of the way home, sometimes out of joy for myself, and sometimes out of anguish for my friend. That’s an odd yo-yo of emotion, but that’s horses. Sometimes they break our hearts, and sometimes they make our dreams come true.
Yesterday Henry absolutely did make my dreams come true, although I’m not sure it’s even fair to describe it that way. This is not at all what I had in mind when I bought him 5 years ago, or when we switched paths from jumpers to eventing 4 years ago. I guess I never dared to dream big enough. This horse, in all of his imperfection and improbability, has expanded my ideas about what is possible. I never went looking for a horse like this, but how I got so lucky to happen upon him, why he fatefully ended up in my path, I’ll never know. And how I lucked into the support group I have – my trainer (who has believed in us from the very beginning, although I have no idea WHY, considering we were a messy BN pair when we fell into her lap), my friends, everyone who showed up or sent messages to wish us well and cheer us on… it’s incredibly humbling, and I’ll never stop feeling immense gratitude for all of it. It truly does take a village, and I hope that my achievement feels like your achievement too.
We don’t get a lot of moments like this in our sport. We put in so much work, day in and day out, month after month, year after year. Progress often feels agonizingly slow, if it’s even recognizable at all. There’s always something that could be better. We question whether we’re good enough, whether we’ll ever measure up, whether our horses are capable. It’s a lot of blood and sweat and tears and money. We agonize over every decision. Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control, derailing our plans and sabotaging all of what we’ve worked so hard to get. But sometimes, on these rare occasions, the stars align just right, everything goes our way, and we’re rewarded for all of that hard work.
Henry and I officially have a Prelim under our belts, with a clear cross country at that. If this is a dream, please don’t wake me up. These are the moments we live for, and if you don’t mind, I’m going to relish it for one more day before we delve into a recap.