A Challenge

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One and a half years later

The horse that moved beneath me rippled with power as his mane flew back in my face. I steadied him, asking with a half halt for him to come back to me. He raised his head and tossed it but let me check him.

The wooden oxer loomed before us. This was the jump I’d been worried about. But now, flying up to it, I felt fearless.

Challenger slowed his stride, showing some of that characteristic nervousness. But I urged him forward. “Come on boy, I know you can jump this.”

Taking my word, he went for it. I grabbed the neck strap and rose in tune with him as we jumped. This was the same power I’d felt when he jumped his first log.

We landed and cantered on flawlessly. I patted his neck. “Good lad, I knew it!”

I steered him to the right, to the water complex. This was always my favorite part.

With a snort he bounded it, showing no hesitancy. The water splashed up as his big strides disturbed its peacefulness. We cleared the jump in the middle easily. Now for the bank.

“3, 2, 1!” I counted strides up to it. Challenger leapt upward as I gave him his head. “Good boy!”

As we cantered away I looked at my watch. We were a little bit ahead of schedule, just the way I liked it.

Challenger is now my best event horses. While he still spooks and bolts, he trusts me enough to take every jump in stride and every test with grace. Yes, we still have our bad days, but those are getting better.

More than once my family has had an offer from a buyer for him. His strength and speed makes many want him. But they don’t see the fearful horse beneath all of that. They don’t realize that if he didn’t trust me, he wouldn’t be flying over those jumps so bravely.

He helped me grieve and heal after Jigsaw’s death. He taught me so much, the first being that trust must be earned. And when it is given, treated like the jewel that it is.

Which is why I will never sell him, and very few will ride him besides me. I am honored that he trusts me so, and I will do everything in my power to prevent breaking that trust. Together, I think we’ll achieve much.

He is a challenge, but more than that, he is my challenge.

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