Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Two Names on the Same Big Trophy

The first day I clearly remember my daughter's friend Missy (whose name is not anything like Missy, but this is how I amuse myself, by creating wildly inaccurate pseudonyms) she got dumped by a pony in the jump field at our farm.

We were holding a very small, very amateur, very low-key horse trial. Missy was perhaps eight years old--no more--and riding a small elderly grey pony named Dancer, who'd carted many pony club kids around in his day. Dancer loved jumping, so when Missy attempted to trot him over a very small crossrail, he jumped it with vigor and might, and Missy sailed over his head and landed on the ground, bawling. It's not fun to fall off, especially not at your very first competition.

My daughter, about 9 at the time, had just switched from her own small elderly grey pony, Shakespeare, to a full-sized square-bodied quarterhorse named Pal. Pal had already been canonized--a true saint of a horse--but he was much farther from the ground than Shakey and my daughter hadn't gotten the hang of him yet. When he got going she tended to panic. When she panicked, Pal felt that his only responsible course of action was to quickly get them both back to the safety of the barn. So after we picked Missy up and dusted her off, my daughter set out on Pal, and pretty soon was being galloped up the hill to the barn, bawling.

You wouldn't think that would be an auspicious way to start a friendship, but it turns out you would be wrong. Missy and my daughter hit it off. The following year I drove Missy and her mom with my daughter and I to quiz rally--four-and-a-half hours each way in the car. Missy and my daughter passed the time by playing a game they made up, an equine take-off on "Rock, Scissors, Paper" that involved a lot of chanting and hand-waving and was marginally less annoying than the song, "99 Bottles of Beer on a Wall." I didn't know Missy's mom at all then; we made polite conversation until she started to feel sick and threw up on the side of the road. After that I just drove.

By my calculations Missy and my daughter have since been on seven quiz teams together. They both do very well. They love quiz, they love learning, and they remember everything they learn. Two years ago, in an effort to keep more older pony clubbers interested in quiz, our region created an award, and with it a great big trophy kept in a display case at the Virginia Horse Center, to be given to the highest-level high-point competitor at quiz rally. Quiz is primarily a team competition, but this trophy is for the single child in the highest division who does the best.

With a trophy on the line, Missy and my daughter went head-to-head for the first time last year. All day long they switched leads back and forth--my daughter better at the written test, Missy better in the barn phase, Missy better at classroom, my daughter edging ahead in Megaroom. As a two-person team they were over 100 points (out of 500) higher than the second-place team, and in the end my daughter edged Missy by a single point.

We admired her name on the trophy last time we showed at VHC.

This year there was a lot more competition in the highest division, and Missy, who passed one of her national horse-management exams last summer and therefore has to answer more difficult questions than my daughter, was at a distinct disadvantage. Which didn't stop her from whomping my daughter and 14 other competitors. Missy's name goes on the trophy this year.

I looked at Missy's Mom, who since that long-ago car ride has become a close friend. I said, "Their names will always be there--right next to each other." We both got a little teary-eyed, because it seemed so perfect, so exactly the way it should be.