Golden Moments August 26 2010, 0 Comments

Each horse show season, if you’re lucky, you’ll witness a few golden moments. The short-stirrup rider at her first horse show winning a ribbon. The kid who never pins finally getting a blue ribbon. The junior in her last year of eligibility qualifying for the finals. These moments send a shiver up your spine and bring a tear to the eye. They’re all the more poignant when you know the kid, the family, the trainer or the horse involved.

I was lucky enough to witness a golden moment this past weekend at our local horse show, hosted at our home barn, Missy Ann Stables. I was working the in-gate, one of those jobs (like braiding) that I started doing in my teen years and find myself still doing at 40 (what is wrong with me?).

It’s a big step for a junior equitation rider to go from fence heights of 2’6”-2’9” to 3’-3’3”. Many riders on our local circuit have made the leap this year, some more successfully than others. I’ve talked to moms and dads who haven’t adjusted to the step up as well as their kids and mounts. A three-foot course is big. Suddenly, your kid is navigating in and outs, tight roll back turns and complicated tests—and this is the same kid who claims not to know how to make a bed or a sandwich.

On Saturday, one of the young riders who recently made this leap competed in the NEHC Junior Medal class. At the last Missy Ann Stables show in June, this rider went off course two classes in a row, leaving her trainer literally speechless. I tried not to laugh, but it was funny. It was just a few schooling jumping classes and completely out of character for this experienced rider. Hey, everyone has a day like that. The look of total disbelief on the trainer’s face killed me—I love this trainer and held back the chuckles as she searched for words.

Today, our young rider, Piper, was competing in the NEHC Junior Medal class for only the fourth or fifth time. Piper repeated the course back to her trainer, Ashley, multiple times before entering the ring. I heard the phrase, “one more time,” at least four times. Piper went in and had a really great trip. Her horse pulled a rail, so Ashley told her to go back to the trailer rather than hang around for the test.

The class was small, and when the judge relayed the test, the riders’ numbers and order of go over to me on the radio, Piper was on top, but no where to be seen. The trainer was yet again speechless, but not motionless, making a light-speed jaunt back to the trailer. Piper’s horse was untacked, but thankfully not in the middle of being bathed or unbraided, only by a few minutes.

In no time, Piper was back on and trotting back to the ring, as the other three riders completed their test. As her jacket was buttoned and boots dusted off, Piper repeated back to Ashley: “Canter fence 1, canter fence 4, trot fence 6, halt. Sitting trot out of the ring.”

One deep breath later, Piper was in the ring. There had to be 20 or so of us collectively holding our breath—friends, family and barnmates. Piper rode well under pressure and nailed the test. The other three rides were also solid, so no one was a sure bet to take the class.

The judge got on the radio and relayed the results. Piper won the class and in doing so, qualified for theNew England Equitation Championships in Springfield, Mass., this fall.

This was a golden moment. There were tears—mom and rider, even the trainer teared up. I can’t deny that my own eyes filled and the hair on the back of my neck went up. Here was a kid who had worked hard, faced a challenge and performed wonderfully.

Our sport constantly forces kids to face challenges—even when they aren’t totally prepared. There will be times when the result isn’t what we hoped. But sometimes, it’s a golden moment. And when that happens, it’s a moment to be cherished and remembered.