Thanks Tex :') I really appreciate everyone's comments. If it's okay with everyone, I might send some of your 'reviews' in with the story if/when I submit it-- please let me know if you would prefer not to have your comment sent in. The publisher was concerned that there'd be no audience for this kind of book, and I think I have proof now that there are people interested in reading this type of thing!
We drove in drowsy silence. When we got to the hotel, my dad let me off at the door and said goodnight, then left on his way to his hotel. I hurried into the elevator and seconds later was standing in front of mine and Carlie’s room.
“Hey,” she greeted me, “want to order room service? Tina invited us to her and Valerie’s room, and we were going to get a pizza.”
“US?” I questioned, “Why would Tina and Valerie invite me to come too?”
Carlie looked uncomfortable. “If you don’t want to, you don’t have to, but I thought you’d prefer that to being alone. I called Alex too, and she’s coming. We thought we could have a team dinner.”
Wait a second. Carlie came up with the idea to invite me? I was really confused now, but somehow I found myself waiting in front of Tina and Vanessa’s room with Carlie and a newly arrived Alex.
“Hi.” Tina said abruptly, swinging open the door. I stuck close to Alex and we shared a look. Kat would definitely have to hear all about this when I called her tomorrow.
As we walked in, I spotted Valerie lounging on a comfy brown chair, looking every bit of evil that she truly was. She didn’t speak. Neither did anyone else.
Tina chose to first break the silence. “So, the pizza’s probably almost here. I got plain cheese; that okay?”
Everyone nodded. Soon, Alex got us discussing Lauren’s mental stability on show days(always an interesting topic, as no one knew for sure whether or not she would say some… interesting things). Before long, Valerie and Tina got into their own conversation, Alex and I continued the Lauren debate, and Carlie hovered somewhere in the middle, mostly hanging out with her clique but occasionally popping into our increasingly animated discussion. The pizza came quickly and was delicious.
At nearly 10 pm, Carlie, Alex, and I left the room. Alex told us goodbye and left for her grandparents’ house, while Carlie and I went back to our room and fell into a deep, easy sleep.
I awoke at almost exactly 7 am. Carlie was still emitting light snores from where she lay, and I gave her a couple minutes before I roused her. Our show jumping class started at 11 am, and Lauren wanted us there at nine.
“How long until jumping?” Carlie asked nervously, stretching.
“We have to get to the show grounds in 2 hours. We’re fine, time-wise. I think we should get breakfast and then come back here and get dressed.”
“Yeah, eating breakfast in a public place with your pajamas on, that’s totally not weird at all,” she scoffed, “but why not, we should get there before all the good stuff is gone.”
Both of us hurriedly ran down the hall to the elevator and grabbed bowls of banana yogurt. I snuck over to the topping choices and sprinkled granola pieces onto my breakfast. Perfect.
After breakfast we showered and changed into our show clothes, then split up when my dad arrived to drive me to the show grounds.
“We can drive you, it’s no trouble,” Dad assured Carlie. But she insisted that she already had a ride, and my dad and I eventually drove to the show without her.
At exactly 9 am, I met Lauren in front of the stable.
“As soon as everyone else gets here, we’ll walk the course together. I’ve already walked it; it’s very challenging, so I’d like us all to see it as a group all at once. That way, we can discuss any problems or nervous spots on the course.”
I nodded in agreement.
About 10 minutes later, everyone was gathered in front of the stable, preparing to walk the course. Lauren led us to the huge arena. The light-colored arena dirt was raked smooth, and the footing looked perfect for jumping.
“So, the first fence is just a plain, simple vertical, but it’s very high. Also, right after you land there’s an immediate left turn, which could get you off-balance for the next fence. This second one is difficult-- it’s an oxer, which by itself is scary enough, but this one is almost 4 feet wide and at least 4 and a half feet tall. And all of that right after a sharp turn! You really have to set up the horses.”
All of us nervously glanced around at each other at the sight of the humongous fence.
“Then, there’s a triple combination. Try to put in one stride between each fence, I’d say, but maybe Carlie-- you could do two, since Kandiebar has such a short stride. The rest of you, definitely do one.”
I would really have to push Pride forward and open his step to get exactly one stride between each of the three fences.
“After that, it’s straightforward enough, there’s a roll-back, but the verticals are relatively low and it’s not like you haven’t seen them before. Next, a liverpool, not too wide, but they put in a couple floating ducks in the water—it’s supposed to distract your horses. Which it will not, since I spent hours with you drilling ‘scary’ water fences!”
She glared at the group as if daring us to disagree. I wasn’t worried; Pride had never looked twice at the long, low fences with water underneath.
“And then, with the drum roll of dread, is the wall.”
I stared at the tall bright red vertical patterned with light blocks, taking the shape of a wall. Pride had a random fear of these; honestly, I’d never met a horse who hadn’t for at least some period of their lifetime.
“Some of you,” Lauren continued, staring straight at me, “have concentration issues when it comes to wall jumps. Then you blame the horse on having a fear of them, when it is clearly, the rider’s favorite catch-phrase, ‘Always the rider’s fault’. So, just keep leg on Pri- your horses and focus very clearly on the fence. Though that won’t come easily for some.”
I turned red. Seeing this, Lauren laughed and said, “I’m just kidding. But do pay special attention. Anyway, after that’s a bending line to an oxer. I’d recommend sitting back a little and aiming for six strides instead of five, since that could get a bit strung-out. Then a triple bar, just watch the striding and you’ll be fine-- your horses are all athletic jumpers. Finally, the last combination-- first an ascending oxer, then a vertical, and the last fence is a parallel oxer. Very tricky striding, first one stride, then three, then two. Watch out during that, and don’t get all goofy just because the end of the course is there.”
So that was our course, plain and simple. Not.
We all headed to the stalls and quickly groomed and tacked up. I led Pride to the warm up arena, where most of the competitors were already warming up over the practice jumps. The entire ring was filled, and I had some difficulty finding a spot on the rail for us. Once cantering, I found the practice fence open for a moment and we hurriedly leaped over it. Luckily, Valerie didn’t cut me off again!
“Number 561, Angelina Rubin, on Wild Card.”
The buzzer sounded and the pair calmly moved into a slow canter. In this round of jumping, speed didn’t matter as long as you finished within the allowed time. Only those who rode clear would get to the next round, which was measured in both speed and accuracy.
Angelina gently piloted Wild Card around the course, and they finished with a clear round. How many hours a day did the girl practice?!
“Number 927, Thomas Yoncin, on Dawning New Day.”
After his disaster in the dressage round, I knew that Thomas would definitely not get into the top 5 at this show. However, his show jumping round was beautiful with only one knockdown and I applauded with the rest of the crowd when he finished.
“Number 475, Madelyn McCarthy, on Pride in Hunyuwatt.”
This time, I didn’t need Lauren to shove me forward. I gathered my reins and gave Pride a light squeeze, permission to enter the ring.