I tell my clients, and my friends, and my fellow riders, the same thing, a hundred times a day: horses figure “it” out, whatever “it” is, exactly when they are ready to do so, and not a minute sooner, and there’s nothing to do except calmly and coolly soldier on until they get it.
But the same is true of riders, of teenagers in pursuit of maturity, of anyone in pursuit of anything, and it’s the beautiful thing about life, I think: we all trundle along, feeling like we’re stuck in the mud, or feeling like we’ve lost the path, and usually when it’s least expected, there it is. The rise. The jump to the next level.
Ella and I found it.
I came home from Florida really feeling like I’d figured the next level out, the level where the Grand Prix is just a little smoother, just a little more solid, NOT just a combination of movements that, only were the fates on my side that day, would work out, sort of. I felt ready to show that off as I warmed up for the Grand Prix, but then Ella saw whatever Ella saw and I had to triage instead of riding what I wanted to ride, and that’s just the way that goes sometimes.
And I know that. Horses are horses. Sometimes it ain’t your day. But there was that tiny nagging voice in the back of my head saying, “maybe you’re not what you think you are. Maybe you’re not at the level you think you’re at.”
And then the freestyle happened at the Omaha International.
Let’s be clear—I’m not done learning. I’ve got many, many miles to go before I’ve got this thing licked. But I had my horse with me in that big ring, and the test flowed out of us like water over rocks. Little things here and there, of course. But little things. There’s a smoothness now that wasn’t there a few months ago. There’s a level of control I didn’t have a few months ago.
And when we finished third, behind two Canadian team riders, just a hair’s breadth from 70%, I told that tiny nagging voice to go shove it.
The rest of the day is a blur. I got to participate in a press conference, which I realized I don’t think I’ve done in 10 years, and then promptly panicked about not knowing what I was going to say. I also cried a little. Very professional. (Whatever, I love my horse and was very happy. Cut me some slack.)
Then there was a failed effort to go to the VIP dinner because it was pretty much over, so a few of the other riders and I got a dinner of potato chips and booze and watched some jumping from the warm-up, and then I had a second dinner with Sue Stickle, one of my favorite people on earth, and then we packed and then we went to bed and then we accidentally overslept and chucked everything into the trailer in a frenzy and blew out of the showgrounds like a whirlwind and spent 21 hours over two days driving back home.
But some time on Saturday, trundling through Indiana, Michael sent me this text message: “Everyone who has ever done anything meaningful had their breakthrough show. I think this was yours.”
A quick thank you to everyone who made this show possible, in general—the International Omaha and the Omaha Equestrian Foundation, Thomas Bauer (of whom I am no longer afraid), the wonderful team of dressage stewards and TDs and officials—and for me specifically, including all my wonderful sponsors, and mostly to my incredible team at home, who not only let me escape for a week, but also sent clients to TWO horse shows at home, where we won everything and achieved all our goals for the weekends across the board. You all rock.