The Prelim Horse

I have a heck of a show recap to write about yesterday’s horse trial, our first Prelim. That will take me a little while though, and before I give you all the details of how it went down, I’m going to spoil it a little and tell you how it ended, and what a monumental moment it was for me.

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It was an extremely emotional weekend, bookended by the lowest of lows and highest of highs. A good friend lost her horse on Friday, and as horse people I think we all feel our friends’ losses almost as acutely as we do our own. It’s a terrible feeling, understanding just how heartbroken they are, and also knowing that you’re helpless to fix it. Nothing can fix it. All you can do is stand beside them and feel it with them. We anchor our hopes and dreams to another living thing, a fragile one at that, and we love them in a unique way that other people don’t really understand. When we lose them, the pain is acute and pervasive. It is the worst part of owning and loving these animals, and it absolutely sucks.

Those kinds of things always hit me hard, feeling like a sharp reminder to always keep perspective and to have gratitude for what you have. And when it comes to Henry, I find myself repeatedly rocked back on my heels by the enormity of the gratitude I feel for him. He carried me dutifully around our first Prelim yesterday like a heat seeking missile, never missing a beat. It was one of those cross country rounds that we eventers live for – not perfection, no, that’s not what we’re about, but it was one of those rides where I helped him and he helped me, and together we just absolutely slayed it. It was a team effort, and we were in sync every step of the way.

As soon as I crossed the finish I was overwhelmed with pride for him, and pride for us, and there my emotional state swung 180 degrees the other direction. Who cries the whole way back to the barn after their first Prelim because they’re just so overwhelmed with pride and joy and gratitude and awe? Um yeah that’d be me. And then I alternated crying most of the way home, sometimes out of joy for myself, and sometimes out of anguish for my friend. That’s an odd yo-yo of emotion, but that’s horses. Sometimes they break our hearts, and sometimes they make our dreams come true.

Yesterday Henry absolutely did make my dreams come true, although I’m not sure it’s even fair to describe it that way. This is not at all what I had in mind when I bought him 5 years ago, or when we switched paths from jumpers to eventing 4 years ago. I guess I never dared to dream big enough. This horse, in all of his imperfection and improbability, has expanded my ideas about what is possible. I never went looking for a horse like this, but how I got so lucky to happen upon him, why he fatefully ended up in my path, I’ll never know. And how I lucked into the support group I have – my trainer (who has believed in us from the very beginning, although I have no idea WHY, considering we were a messy BN pair when we fell into her lap), my friends, everyone who showed up or sent messages to wish us well and cheer us on… it’s incredibly humbling, and I’ll never stop feeling immense gratitude for all of it. It truly does take a village, and I hope that my achievement feels like your achievement too.

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We don’t get a lot of moments like this in our sport. We put in so much work, day in and day out, month after month, year after year. Progress often feels agonizingly slow, if it’s even recognizable at all. There’s always something that could be better. We question whether we’re good enough, whether we’ll ever measure up, whether our horses are capable. It’s a lot of blood and sweat and tears and money. We agonize over every decision. Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control, derailing our plans and sabotaging all of what we’ve worked so hard to get. But sometimes, on these rare occasions, the stars align just right, everything goes our way, and we’re rewarded for all of that hard work.

Henry and I officially have a Prelim under our belts, with a clear cross country at that. If this is a dream, please don’t wake me up. These are the moments we live for, and if you don’t mind, I’m going to relish it for one more day before we delve into a recap.

59 thoughts on “The Prelim Horse

  1. Congratulations! You have a lot to be proud of, both Henry and yourself! It’s so fun to read about you both, and cheer you on. Thanks for letting us all ride along with you on your journey! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations!!!! You two are awesome! Can´t wait for the recap!
    That said: @equestrianathart – I am so very sorry for your loss.

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  3. I am so sorry for your friend’s loss, and so stoked for you and Henry and your great day!

    In my unscientific opinion – this is what people who love the Thoroughbred love about them! The standard issue, straight-off-the-shelf model is amazing in heart and mind, as well as ability. It’s just all wrapped up in a bundle of energy and emotion that takes dedicated, skilled riding, attention and love to refine. But once a TB is on your side, wow!

    Hats off to your trainer for her vision and belief! And to you for making it happen!

    Y’all got this! Congrats and looking forward to the recap!

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  4. this totally brought tears to my eyes. it’s been really wonderful and inspiring to watch you guys get here, and it gives me hope for myself that I had kind of given up on. thank you so much for sharing and HERE’S TO NEXT SEASON.

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  5. so glad you made it to the top of that mountain. You guys just keep climbing and we just keep following you watching in amazement. Great job. I wish I had been there to film the crying just to have some leverage against you one day HA!

    Henry looks so great. Wrap him up in bubble wrap thanks! Horses are so fragile and I am so sorry about the loss of Hillary’s horse.

    So now what’s next for you!?? 🙂

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    1. Well, we have a lot of smoothing out to do, and there’s always a whole lot left to work on, more venues to go to, etc etc. This was a good first Prelim, with a relatively soft course, so there’s still a lot of possibility for what’s next!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So excited for you!!!! I remember your earlier blog posts when you were headed toward BN and your ambition was to get to Novice and now you’re rocking around PRELIM!!! Congratulations!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My heart hurts for Hillary right now, but I am also so happy for you and Henry! What an amazing testament to the importance of heart and try in eventer. Enjoy the high, you guys have definitely earned it!

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  8. Tremendous!! You make us all want to be braver and try harder, after we cry for those lost and found.

    I love the juxtaposition of stories of Henry the delicate flower and celebrate when he shows his talent and heart.

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  9. I couldn’t help but notice the indoor jump with about 2′ clearance under Henry’s girth….perhaps that boy wants more height! Beautiful picture of you two. Heartbreaking for Hillary and you are her Rock, take good care of her and let her know we are heartbroken about her mare.

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  10. Sorry about our friend’s loss.

    Congrats to you on all your hard work and dedication paying off big time. Henry is a special horse, but I doubt he would be doing what he is now with a different rider/owner in his corner. You two are a great partnership and you deserve to revel in it for as long as you want.

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  11. who does that? me! I weeped when I crossed the finish after my first Prelim. And I can still close my eyes and feel that moment 13 years later. There have been a few pretty stellar moments first (and some awful ones) but I think it was my best horse moment ever. Congrats!!

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  12. Well that hit me really hard in the feels and now I’m gently crying in my cube at work. So, thanks?
    Just kidding. I relate so much to everything in this post and I’m really proud of you and Henry even though we literally met once at a taco party at Rolex (and I’m certain I was very shy and awkward lol). I just. I love this blog and I’m really happy for you. And that’s plenty of emotion for one comment. Congrats!

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  13. I said it last night and I’ll say it again. Watching you walk off course I had tears in my eyes but they weren’t just for Annie. I was so proud of you guys. You have worked so hard to get here and you deserved that run. I was worried about being at a horse show after Friday but I don’t think anything could have cheered me up, even if just briefly, like seeing the gratitude and joy you had for Henry after your dreams came to life.

    And having followed your journey from the beginning I don’t feel like my dreams are so out of reach. I might not get there how I planned but I know I can get there if I want to and that is truly something.

    Being friends I know you would smack me if I called you guys an inspiration in person so I’ll just drop that here. Here’s to the good ones. Henry deserves his weight in German horse cookies.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I was terrified when you came back in full blown sobs. I cry when I am exhausted or so angry I could punch someone. Had to think about it for a moment and then decided I better ask how it went. He totally looked like he could go around again. What a pair you two are. No reason not to bask in that glow for a while.I hope staying busy helped Hillary a little bit, she had her hands full at the bit check booth when I stopped by.

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    1. I don’t cry very often but when I do it’s usually because I love my horses to the point of being goddamn ridiculous and I am really proud of them about something, hence blubbering crazy horse lady.

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  15. I’m so, so, SO happy for you! This is awesome and one of the things I love so incredibly much about this blogging community — it’s pretty cool to feel like you’re along from the ride, a thousand miles away and to be super happy for people you’ve never met, and at the same time be inspired by them. So I guess I’m saying OMFG CONTGRATS!!! And also thanks, for sharing your journey — the good, the bad, the ugly and THE BEST too ❤

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  16. This is amazing. I know the crazy amount of pride I had in Pig when we finally finished out my bronze and went on to show at 4th. My heart swelled up so big I thought maybe I would need to go to the doctor. These horses, they’re worth all the heartbreak.

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  17. You dealt with bitter and sweet in one fell swoop! No wonder tears poured out. We all have dreams of that one memorable ride that will stay with us forever and propel us forward seeking new heights of fond memories. You are on your way with your lovely Henry. Congrats!

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  18. Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment. I totally get where you are mentally and you should be there! I cried after a really good dressage test last summer LOL You’ve worked your ass off and achieved your goals. Enjoy it! I can only hope Penny and I do the same this summer.

    I feel you on the horse loss too….having just lost mine, and my best friend also lost hers a week ago. Its tough.

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  19. My heart plummeted when I saw Hillary’s post. I really didn’t expect that outcome for her. Devastating.
    But you and Henry?! Holy crap! I’m so incredibly happy for you. You guys work so hard, and it’s HUGE to do prelim (and successfully at that)! I’d need to change my pants to do whatever comes before elementary, so major props to you for being a total bad ass!

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  20. So cool!! So bad ass- Henry and You!!

    Your sentence about how slow progress can be hit me!! It’s SO true and yet I forget that all the time when I’m in the thick of it.

    Congrats girl, you have worked hard and consistently for this and it’s SO cool to see your success.

    Like

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