I remember, as a young and eventing-obsessed child, lying in bed at night and staring up at the posters of famous event riders that I'd taped to the ceiling over my head: Karen O'Connor soaring over a massive hedge, Phillip Dutton coolly stepping off a drop the size of a small cliff face, Bruce Davidson making it look fun and easy on horse after horse after horse. At the time, I could barely jump 2'6" without dissolving into tears. The upper levels of eventing were so far away, it was like they existed on another planet or in another reality. I imagined myself at the foot of a very tall mountain whose peaks were hidden in swirling clouds. Somewhere up there, the upper levels loomed. All I could do, at the very bottom, was start climbing.
Over the next eight years I plodded along, sometimes improving in leaps and bounds, and sometimes wondering if I was improving at all. In 2003 I got Dually, and with his guidance I was able to climb faster and further up the mountain than I ever had before. He had gone preliminary before and knew the way; all I had to do was follow and learn. In 2006, I did something I never would have thought possible all those years ago lying awake at night looking at pictures: I completed my first preliminary horse trial. Less than a year later, I completed my first FEI event and qualified for the North American Junior/Young Rider Championships.
It was as if all of a sudden, after all that climbing, I had broken through the swirling clouds that had obscured the mountaintop when I'd first started. The summit was still a long way away--farther, in fact, than I knew it was realistic for me to believe I'd be able to go--but for the first time I could see all the way to the top. It was an incredible feeling.
When I first got Ringo, I thought for sure that he was going to be the horse that was going to take me all the way to the top of that mountain at last. Of course, that didn't end up happening. Instead of climbing to the top of the eventing mountain, we found ourselves back below the clouds again, an injury grounding us firmly on the valley floor and wondering which way to turn. Starting in dressage, it was like beginning the entire long, slow, climb all over again. I often wondered if, like in eventing, I'd ever even get a glimpse of that mountaintop again.
This weekend, after years of hard work, lessons, tears, and victories, Ringo and I cantered down the centerline of our very first Prix St George. Just like in eventing, it feels like we've finally emerged above the clouds. The very top of the mountain is still far, far, far away--farther than I will likely ever go. But I am proud, and overwhelmed with thankfulness for my horse, my parents, and the wonderful people in my life who got me to this place. The view is wonderful.
(Full show report to follow!)