It’s the waiting that gets you. I’m just sitting there shaking, I’m not sure if it’s from the cold or the nerves that are settling into my stomach. The announcer at the in gate starts to call out the order “Stephanie is at my gate, Sarah in one, Liz in two, Nick in three, Hadley in four, Morris in five to complete.”
Oh geez… I’m in four. My stomach turns again. My head is pounding inside my helmet. I can feel every place it connects to my head my hair is tucked up inside, and I can feel Carousel taking a breath underneath me; I give him a pat. He’s been so good lately I need to stop worrying. Carousel is my third horse and I have had him for just over a year. This is our first A rated show of the season and if I want to place at the end of the year I need to do well at this show. Carousel still has a lot to learn but he’s getting there faster than I expected, he is very honest and wants to do his job as best he can.
Deep breath Hadley, deep breath, Carousel will help you, deep breath it will be fine, what’s the worst that could happen. I keep repeating that over and over in my head, deep breath. My coach steps out from the announcer’s box and walks over. She just has to look at me to know that I’m freaking out, she has known me for way too long.
“Okay, breathe and let’s go over the track.” Andrea says. Right, where am I going?
“Pink going to the back, blue to the blue, gallop around to the yellow with the flowers, quick turn to the puzzle piece jump, left turn and gallop of the in and out, then steady for the green. The jump off is; blue, puzzle piece, green and the orange at the end.”
“Perfect you got it, once this horse goes it’s you, don’t forget to breathe.” Andrea smiles and goes back under the cover of the box.
I look out at the ring and go over the track again in my head. It’s okay, I know where I’m going, it’s going to be fine. I’m talking to myself, the nerves are definitely getting to me. My stomach does another flip, my heart beat is in my head, and the horse comes out of the ring and it’s my turn. Breathe.
I give Carousel a nudge with my leg to get him to go into the ring, we trot in and wait for the buzzer to tell me it’s okay to go to my first jump. The announcer calls “In the ring now we have Hadley Madden and Carousel’s Conquest” then the buzzer loud and sharp and it’s time to go.
I pick up the canter and head for the first jump. The first one is always the hardest. I’m holding my breath as my stomach flips around. I’m three strides out to my first jump, leg on for support and three… two… one… jump. We are in the air, I feel Carousel stretch out under me to get across the jump, his front legs come down softly first then his hind end. I feel the power underneath me and finally I breathe. We’ve got this. I put my leg on to encourage him to go faster, his step gets bigger and longer and we are covering so much ground every step, it’s like we are just floating across the ground. He is flowing and I can feel him having fun too. He is eating up the ground, each stride getting longer than the last one. We come to our second jump and he flies we gallop down to the third and soar over it. I push a bit harder to the yellow jump and I realize how well he is jumping. I slow down for the turn coming up so I can make it as tight as possible the next two jumps are a blur, it’s just so much fun to be out here with this horse, he is a once in a lifetime horse and he’s doing his job for me and with me. He wants to do his job, he wants to win just as much as I do and we are going to win that ribbon together.
We have a double clear round and when we leave the ring the announcer calls “Hadley Madden and Carousel’s Conquest are in the lead with the new time to beat.”
I can’t believe we are in the lead. He was such a good boy and he jumped his heart out. I’m so excited that was the best round I have had with Carousel all season. There is only one horse after us to complete the class. Andrea comes out of the announcers booth smiling at me.
“Great job! You both looked amazing, I told you there was no need to freak yourself out.” Andrea tells me
“Thanks!” I say, I just can’t wipe the smile off my face, even if we don’t win I couldn’t be happier with Carousel.
The horse is finishing up the jump off. The time is going to be close. There is only one jump left and the times are almost identical. I’m holding my breath just waiting to hear what happens. The horse’s back leg just hits the top rail on the last jump. The pole rocks in the cup for what feels like a year, but it drops with a thud on the ground.
We won! He won. Carousel was amazing and all the nerves I had before are gone and replaced with nothing but love and affection for this animal. He’s more than my pet, he is my teammate and I couldn’t have done it without him, he was a star. He won the ribbon.