I GOT TO RIDE!!! YAYY!!!!
So basically this weekend has been one of the most up and down of my entire life-- and I know I came on here pretty much every Sunday last fall saying that, but GOOD GOD, it's like the universe just keeps finding ways to top itself. Serious lows so far:
--Going to a dance club with my friends on Thursday night and getting a bottle thrown into my face in a total random act of violence by some drunk guy, with the result that the entire left half of my face swelled up, I briefly couldn't see out of my left eye, and I now have a WICKED impressive shiner. Thanks dude.
(Directly after a girl pointed at me and screamed at the train station on the way to Ascot - way to throw salt in a wound, little girl. This is actually not as black as it is now.)
--Learning that I won't be able to get media accreditation at Badminton this year (they have a few spots for student journalists for which I applied but sadly didn't get in) -- though the email I received back was very nice and came complete with an offer to get a tour of the media centre, so definitely not all was lost on that one!
--Almost burning my dorm down (and requiring all 47 of us to evacuate in near-freezing temperatures) when I went to the bathroom while steaming some vegetables and, in the intervening 2 minute period, they inexplicably caught fire. A definite first, that one.
BUT, to counter those downs, there were also some amazing ups:
(Mimosa look alike!)
--Playing polo on Friday!! It was a bright and cold day on Friday and me and two other people from Oxford Polo piled into a cab and drove out to the ridiculously beautiful English countryside, winding down classic one-lane hedge-lined roads until we got to a little farm in Wycomb. There we each got a polo pony and were turned loose in an arena (that had some seriously lovely all-weather footing that, as a constant mud-watcher at Stanny, made me drool a little) with our own ball and the invitation to work on whatever we wanted. Sebastian, the instructor, rode around to each of us in turn as we worked and gave us pointers. I felt a little rusty but not as bad as I'd feared (I could post the trot! Seriously I was afraid I would have forgotten), and was able to hit the ball from the canter pretty well, though when Sebastian set up a little pressure drill at the canter I fell apart pretty quickly. He was super nice, though, and in general pretty complimentary of my play -- always nice to hear! We then played a quick chukker at the end which was fun though I was definitely feeling VERY rusty about that (and was tired at that point as well) so played pretty terribly. But still, SO. MUCH. FUN. By far the most fun I've had at Oxford so far!! I get to play again on Tuesday; very, very excited =)
--Having a GREAT DAY at the races at Ascot yesterday. Folks, I finally get what the big fuss is all about. The display of athleticism, grace, and skill that I witnessed yesterday was simply awesome, in the most traditional sense of that word. I wasn't even planning on watching the races after the disaster at Warwick but still somehow found myself at the rail at the start of the first race, a handicap 'chase, and suddenly found myself watching breathlessly as a massive-strided jumping MACHINE led effortlessly from wire to wire, getting to every fence on perfect stride and making even the widest open ditches look easy. It was some absurd combination of the accuracy of a great hunter round and the speed and thrill of a great cross country round, and I was totally captivated. I'd never seen anything like it.
(I love capturing these quiet moments between the horses and their grooms - I want someone to take a picture of me like this someday! ...Though maybe lose the weird tie-in earplugs next time.)
(Another huge cutie in an Ozzie noseband - do you think I could fit him into a suitcase to take him home with me??)
Every race I watched had the same magic to it: unlike at Warwick, where it seemed like every horse had been struggling over every jump, and there was at least one horse fall per race, here the horses popped around like it was a hunter track, and even over the last few fences when they were clearly going for broke they still managed to jump cleanly and easily. There was only one fall the entire time I was there, an innocuous trip up mid-way around that left both horse and rider safe and ready to fight again another day.
(This guy saw me taking photos and so I was able to get this nice double portrait - love the tie!)
Plus, I got to see AP McCoy!!! Even to someone as relatively uninitiated in British National Hunt Racing as I am, this name was familiar. AP McCoy is arguably the best jump jockey of all time, having smashed pretty much every record in the books from most wins in a season to most lifetime winners, etc, and has done so over the toughest races in Britain. I got to watch him in three races, where he won or came second in each, and it was a seriously impressive display. Plus, it also seriously helps that he's pretty easy to look at!! I love that jump jockeys are actually of a pretty normal height (McCoy is 5'10") and so are on the whole an incredibly drool-worthy bunch; a serious upshot to any day at the races, for sure, when you can admire the horses and the riders =)
(Marry me Tony!)
(I absolutely do not care that this man is one inch taller and about 20 pounds lighter than I am; he's dreamy, and anyone that can ride like that has a good vote in my book)
(A different guy - we're shiner buddies! I'm going to take a WILD guess and venture that he probably has a less pathetic story behind his.)
I only ended up staying for four races because it was absolutely freezing and I'd forgotten gloves so my hands had gone completely numb, but it was so worth it. I didn't get as many action shots as at Warwick because the set up of the stands made it impossible to get close without having the white rail become pretty intrusive, but I did have a lot of fun getting photos of the horses in the paddock pre- and post- race. Sadly this might have been my last steeplechase visit as my weekends are now insanely busy from here on out (I might get to Cheltenham but we'll see), but what a good way to end.
(Get it McCoy!!!)
Today I'm just trying to close the weekend out with a little less drama than it started with. My eye had been feeling better but is feeling gunky today so I'm a little worried that there might be something going on, so I might get that checked out. I might actually have to use those eyes for studying one of these days...