'Do not mess this up Korie, Do not mess this up now. Everything is sitting on your shoulders.' I thought to myself as I waited for my name to be called over the loud speaker. 'Nationals are on the line here, please do not mess up now.'
“Korie?” My coach Carl called my name, taking me out of my trans.
“Those are some big jumps out there, I just want you to be careful, okay, now take it slow at the start you want to preserve Shadow's energy, it's hot and we cannot burn her out before tomorrow.” He said staring right into my eyes.
I was part of the Canadian National Youth Equestrian Team. Me and my six year old Thoroughbred mare, Shadow, worked for three years to get to where we are. If we won this we would secure a spot in the National Equestrian Championships in three months time. Currently I was at the top if the National Youth Standings and if I got this I had a chance at the Olympics.
“The seventh jump has been causing trouble all day. It's a big drop into the water and horses have been balking at it all day. Also, fence thirty one, by then she'll be really tired and she's not going to want to spread out that far. Really set your leg and drive with your seat. Three riders have fallen there, and you Are Not going to make it four. Alright Missy, be careful and really set her pace. We do not want a tired horse. This course is designed so that it's more difficult towards the end to really leave only the best horses fault free and under time. Shadow is a good strong horse, she's meant to run but that still doesn't mean she won't get tired, this is hilly terrain and it's really long and gruelling.”
“Number Three-Seventy-One, Korie Khale, Riding Shadow Puppet, Please come to the start box to prepare for your ride.”
“Alright kid, take it slow, at first, after fence thirteen really let her out and let her go, you'll do great.” He smiled.
I walked Shadow to the starting box. When she entered she vibrated with excitement. She pawed the ground anxiously.
“Rider Three-Seventy-One, you have five seconds, four, three, two,” Shadow tensed underneath me, ready to go. “One!”
Shadow sat on her haunches and trust herself forward, pushing us away from the start box at a fast gallop. “Easy now girl Carl said pace it.” I closed my fingers around the reins and she slowed her pace. “Okay Shadow here’s the first jump.” I half halted as we cantered towards the large roll back. “Easy Shadow, Good girl. Good Girl. And...Go!” She took off at exactly the right moment. We flew through the air landing safely on the other side.
We came up over a hill top to see jump seven staring right at us. “Okay girl this is the one Carl warned us about. In the milliseconds that I had I set my legs on Shadow's side letting her know that I was there. I drove my heels down and sat deep in the saddle. I felt Shadow hesitate at the wide ditch, “Ah Ah! Don't you even try!” I yelped. Clucking my tongue I signalled her to keep moving forward. She obeyed and she pushed off the ground, for a split second we were falling. I loved this. Shadow's front hooves hit the water and we were splashed with the cool water. I tightened my reins and collected Shadow so she was nice and rounded so she was lifting her feet out of the water instead of dragging them through it. We floated through the water and jumped a goose shaped jump before cantering up the bank and out of the water.
Fence number twenty eight, nine, and thirty were coming up. I had the choice of jumping a bounce or a corner, whichever one I didn't choose I had to jump the next time. I chose the corner first to get the wide one done. We soared over the corner landing in time to take five flying stride before I collected Shadow in so she could jump the bounce. I rose out of the saddle as we lifted of the ground, settling back down only long enough to land and the rise again over the second part of the jump. When fence thirty one came into sight I saw why Carl warned me about it. It was easily four feet high and three feet wide. I really urged Shadow on with all the energy she had left. We were strides away from the jump when I noticed I was nervous. “Calm Down.” I told myself. I took a deep breath and exhaled as Shadow threw herself over the jump. When we landed safely in the other side I really let Shadow out as fast as her Thoroughbred legs would take her. “Easy girl.” I wailed. I had never gotten that speed from her before but I couldn't wait to try it out later.
We finished the course with plenty of time. We had a long stretch before we reached the finish line and Shadow was still going strong. I asked her for the speed that I found earlier and let her out even more than that. We were flying! The gasping crowd blurred by my peripheral vision. The finish line was in sight, Shadow saw it too and kicked it into high gear. I had never gone that fast on a horse before. I checked my watch and we were almost fifty seconds under time. “Oh my god Shadow! We're winning!” I said to her. We whizzed past the finish line with exactly forty six point three five seconds under time and fault free. Securing our first place position. “Yes!” I whooped. I stood in my stirrups absorbing the shock of Shadow's strides with my knees as she slowed down slowly to a walk.