Chink, chink, chink; the overhead lights illuminate the arena. Her feet pat, pat, the ground as we enter the canter.
Turning to our first obstacle, we become one. Our bodies move in a synchronized motion, our minds meld together.
Within two minutes, every ounce of breath has escaped my lungs, my heart races as though it’s running its own marathon.
“Relax, relax, enjoy this,” I murmur to myself. “This is our final hour.” The clock above the raised tables ticks off the remaining moments.
Tonight marks the end of my junior eligibility; after tonight I will become an adult and there’s no turning back.
My eyes emit one perfect tear that rolls down my face like a snowball down a mountain, constantly growing larger.
The distances find themselves; Charlotte’s feet never miss a beat. Her back is arched and supportive, her mouth barely touches the bit.
She nickers softly as we become airborne over the final obstacle, knowing something is different this night than it’s been before.
My reins are long, her neck is outstretched, her walk animated and we exit the ring. I turn back to watch the last competitor tackle the
monstrous course. She curls her smoky grey dappled neck around to bite at my boot. I roll my eyes, my heart begins to
flutter, the next two minutes will feel like infinity squared.
The announcer calls the top twelve back, my number among them. I quake waiting for my number. They continue toward the top; why haven’t
they called me? After an eternity, my number is called, glancing around, it hits me we’re the only ones left in line.
I hold the silver trophy and stand beside Charlotte for our picture; I’m hoisted back up and the notes of the anthem play through the cackling
loudspeakers. The judge nods to me and I turn for our victory lap. We canter once with everyone, but then alone. She stretches her neck out like
a slinky, and shakes her white mane from side to side, my heart’s pounding fast, her body floats beneath me.
This day, in this moment everything becomes clear. Today makes all the bad days’ worth it; the frustration, the mistakes, the awful rounds, have
led to this split second, the one that made it all worth it. We walk from the ring and head back to the stalls alone. As we’re crossing the street, I
glance up and see a full moon flooding our path, I look back down to her; my bright spot in all the darkness.