It's a rare event rider who isn't nervous before cross-country. I'm sure it's even worse for rodeo cowboys and for steeplechase jockeys. Strapping on all that protective gear and preparing to run at high speed over solid jumps is about as close as modern riders come to gearing up for armed battle.
In Shakespeare's Henry V, it's the night before the battle of Agincourt. The English and French armies are so close they can see each other's fires and hear the sounds from each other's camps:
In eventing, throughout 2001, we witnessed full tides for several ventures and rising tides for others. They're of a scale I've never seen in my 40 years of involvement with this sport. As usual, William Shakespeare wrote it most eloquently in Julius Caesar:
"There is a tide in the affairs of men Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures."
For thousands of years, the transitory nature of human glory has been a favorite theme of authors, poets and songwriters. I remember having to memorize Shelley's "Ozymandius" as a 15-year-old at Andover Academy (N.H.).
"And on the pedestal, these words appear: My name is Ozymandius, King of Kings, Look at my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away."
Last month, I heard an advertisement on my car radio promoting Fannie Mae, the home-mortgage company. It stated, gleefully, that the U.S. population is projected to grow by more than 30 million people over the next 10 years.
This rather shocked me, so I went to Google Search and looked under population projections, and, sure enough, there it was. The 2003 U.S. population is about 281 million, and the projected 2013 population is 305 million.
Ever since the U.S. eventing team last won a gold medal, at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, it\'s been a continuous struggle to climb back onto the highest step of the victory podium. And in 2002, our team of John Williams, Kim Severson, David O\'Connor and Amy Tryon did just that, with expert and gritty riding in all three phases.
Some of my most vivid school-days memories were my attempts to become invisible during math and Latin classes. The teacher would ask a question, then gaze across the room full of pupils, seeking a likely victim. I would sit cowering at my desk, praying fervently it wouldn`t be me.
Old sayings, axioms, quotations and adages have the power to encapsulate whole ideas in just a few well-chosen words. In this way, they can focus our thinking and crystallize our evaluations of various subjects and situations.
Many sayings that are part of the general American culture can also include the world of horses. "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" can refer to a horse or to a valued client. "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched" can refer to a pregnant mare or to expectations about an upcoming show.
Bouncing around the pasture beside his dam is the foal of your dreams. He's alive and well, his legs are straight, or becoming so, and, at least in your eyes, he's the cutest, most handsome little baby in the world. For a while, just the pure, vis-ceral pleasure of watching a mare and foal leaping and cavorting in grassy, green meadows ought to be enough for any horse breeder, and it probably is. For a while.