Anyone who knows me or who’s been following this blog for a while knows that pretty much whenever I’m scheduled to go down a centerline, some sort of cataclysmic weather event is sure to occur. And the Derby was no different. Sorry, everyone—my bad.
Dark clouds and gale force winds were the name of the morning, flags whipping around, trees practically sideways. I couldn’t hear a thing Michael was saying to me in the warm-up, but fortunately it didn’t matter, because Midge was amazing. Focused, calm and cool. Didn’t even flinch at the weather. Who is this guy?
The test itself was, as overall quality of work goes, the nicest I’ve done. It felt organic, like all the things that I’ve had to consciously remind myself to do (neck down in the pirouettes, get the bend two steps before the corner for the half-pass, bend left in the changes, etc.) became my instincts. There were a couple of stupid little mistakes—he trotted weird out of the first halt; the change between pirouettes was wonky; we took a step of canter in his first extended trot; he bumped into trot for just a moment in the collected walk. They were all things that kept 6s from being 7s, and there were just enough of them to keep the score down.
But Midge won his first qualifier for the Developing Grand Prix Championships on 66.75%, and as we left the arena, Stephen Clarke, the president of the ground jury for the 2012 Olympics, said to me, “I think I’m in love!” Me too, Stephen. Me too.
As we took Midge back to the trailer, the sky got darker still. Midge, who is not normally super brave about trailer loading, flew on like the hounds of Hell were behind him. I took off my boots and jacket, threw them in the trailer, and got into the truck.
And not two seconds after the door closed, the skies OPENED. Belting rain, monster winds. Let’s just say we took our sweet time driving back to the farm!