Sunday, July 28, 2013

Again With The Champions

So, sports fans and friends, once again in the pre-dawn gloaming I have snuck into the Virginia Horse Center's Coliseum in search of a wifi called Vote For Obama.  It's the final day of pony club championships.

My daughter's event team is in the middle of the pack right now.  My daughter and one of her teammates went clear cross country, another teammate was eliminated, and the fourth had her second refusal on cross country dismissed when she successfully argued that, when her mare went sideways at the down bank, she crossed her right legs in front of her left legs, not behind.  Forty points-an entire middling dressage test-hinging on how a pony crossed its legs.  But such are the rules, and Katie's teammate knew them.

I wish you could have seen the barns this morning.  Horse show mornings are one of my favorite things in life.  I love the soft light, the horses murmuring for their breakfasts, the scent of hay and the slosh of emptying water buckets.  I love the anticipation.

Here, of course, I'm not allowed in the barns.  This morning I was one of a long line of pickup trucks pouring into the center, turning right, turning left, but only those lucky few with official passes going straight.  I stopped to let my daughter out and watched as she went into the barn, long-legged, square-shouldered, her hair in a bun at the nape of her neck, swinging her bag over her shoulder.  She looked insanely beautiful.  They all do.  Anyone who thinks horses are a waste of time or money should see these 500 teenagers gathered at championships.  See how hard they work, how dedicated they are.  How independent and strong.

Yesterday it rained most of the day.  I stood out on the cross country course draped in a Busch Gardens poncho, watching my daughter and her quirky little former racehorse.  Mickey wanted to run-he always wants to run-but my daughter held him in (you can get penalties for going too fast, as well as too slow).  He was brave to everything, even the Very Scary Bank.  When my daughter pulled him to a cautious trot in front of the Trakhener (yes, a Trakhener, which is to say a hanging log atop a ditch, on beginner novice) one of the women watching with me said surprised, "Is she worried about the Trakhener?"  Surprised because she had not looked worried about anything so far.  "No," I said, laughing.  I'd seen the slight flick of her wrist that meant my daughter had checked her watch.  "She's using up some time."

The lights area on in this quiet Coliseum.  The Games Organizers are chalking the lines onto the newly dragged arena.  Another woman, coffee in hand, is fiddling with the sound system.  In an hour I'll go watch my daughter jog her horse; after that I've got a volunteer briefing.  Then to watch the end of competition, then to take a nap.  It's a long drive home and we'll be leaving late.  It's been worth the trip.