This is a longer, more detailed version of "Two Days with Horses."
| “Bye, Mom.” I stepped out of the car, my riding helmet in one hand, and slammed the door shut with the other. I pulled my blonde, shoulder-length hair back with a hair tie and headed for the barn.
My mom called to me through the open window, “I’ll see you soon, honey.” She drove away, and I could hear the crunch of tires on gravel as she went down the long, winding driveway of Stone Ridge Stables.
Stone Ridge was where my horse, Star, was boarded. I took lessons four days a week with the instructor and barn manager, Lisa Smith. Located in the bluegrass state of Kentucky, in the famous area of Lexington, Stone Ridge was everything you’d expect it to be. Although most barns in and around Lexington are Thoroughbred facilities, there are a handful of hunter-jumper and eventing stables mixed in. Stone Ridge is one of them, and as far as I’m concerned, the best. A huge painted sign advertised the stables alongside the road, and its white fences stretched along for half a mile. The driveway was long, with a small bend in it as it approached the barn. It was lined with trees on both sides. The pastures were filled with horses, mostly Thoroughbreds and other warmblood breeds. Behind the barn was a large riding arena, and beside it a slightly smaller indoor one. You can’t see it from the barn, but there’s a cross country course set up in the huge back pasture. Lisa had paid to have jumps built back there for use in her eventing lessons. I had ridden over some of them, but I usually showed Star in jumper classes, so I did my riding in the arenas.
I walked into the barn, which was empty except for one horse, who had injured his leg and couldn’t be turned out. The barn had a cobblestone floor and stalls lined the sides. An office and tack room were at the far end. Lisa must be in her office, I thought as I grabbed Star’s lead rope from his stall and hung my helmet in its place. I headed back out to one of the pastures beside the driveway. Star, a sixteen-hand bay Thoroughbred gelding, was grazing. He looked up as I approached, and meandered over to the gate.
“Hey, boy. Do you want an apple?” I asked him, unfastening the gate and clipping his leadrope to his halter. Star nudged my hand and I led him over to a bucket of apples near the barn entrance. Lisa had an apple tree in the back pasture and had picked them all out to avoid the horses getting sick from eating them. I grabbed one for him and watched as he bit into it, white foam dripping from his mouth. “I bet that tastes good,” I said.
“Kayla! Hi! Are you getting ready for your lesson today?” Lisa appeared from the barn door. She was tall and had long auburn hair, which was usually rolled into a bun to keep it out of her way.
“Hey. Yeah, I was just giving Star an apple. It looks like he’s done, so I’ll go tack him up now.” Star had finished his apple and was munching on grass. I clucked to him and tugged on the leadrope.
“Ok. Emily and Karen are in the indoor already. They just finished tacking up. I think they’re warming up now. We’ll practice in there today, to keep out of the sun. It’ll just be a light workout since we have a show tomorrow.” Lisa smiled and started to head back into the barn. “I’ll go keep an eye on them.”
Emily Willoughby went to the same school as I did. She usually ignored me, but recently she’s been doing her best to annoy me around the barn. She picks on my riding and my horse. I don’t say anything; ignoring her is hard to do, but I’m too shy. You see, I’ve been at Stone Ridge for about a month, and Emily was there before I was. I don’t really know anyone yet because on most days when I’m here, only Emily and Karen are around. Karen seems kind of nice, but she hangs out with Emily a lot, so I’m not so sure of her. We all are in the same group lesson twice a week, Intermediate Huntseat, and we all take extra lessons two times a week for specific disciplines; I take jumper, Karen takes hunter, and Emily does eventing, I think.
Fifteen minutes later, I had Star groomed and tacked up and was entering the indoor arena. Lisa was at the center and Emily and Karen were walking in circles to warm up their horses. I checked Star’s girth, tossed my reins over his neck, pulled down the stirrups and mounted up. We joined the others, and after ten minutes of walking on a loose rein, Lisa had us take up contact and begin posting trot.
I love riding. I love posting trot, especially. Something about finding your perfect rhythm, and getting in balance with your horse, is so much fun to me. I love the fact that there is so much to think about when I’m riding; checking my balance, whether or not my heels are down, my calves are in contact with Star’s sides, my reins are even and the contact is elastic, my body is in the proper position, and ultimately, that I am in harmony with Star. That’s why riding is the best thing I do. Posting trot is even better than riding at the walk or canter, in my opinion. As I rise and sit with Star’s every stride, I envision the perfect rhythm and position for myself and I do my best to achieve it. Sometimes I feel like we are doing it perfectly; it lasts for only a few minutes, usually less, but it feels wonderful.
Lisa began calling out instructions, “Karen, I’d like to see you sitting a little more gently. Close your hip angle until you find your balance. Kayla, see if you can get Star’s head down a little. Try carefully tugging the reins with each hand individually, alternating. Make sure you do it quickly, but don’t jerk on the bit. Emily… everything looks good.”
I did as she instructed, and Star lowered his head and tucked it a little.
“Excellent, Kayla. That looks much better.”
Emily came trotting up from behind me and cut in front. As she passed, she said arrogantly, “Having trouble with Star’s headset, are we?”
Star’s head came up and I repeated the rein signals to bring it back down. He sped up a little and I had to do half-halts for ten strides to get him back to a normal pace. Star is an ex-racer, and I’ve been trying to retrain him to be a jumper. He’s coming along pretty well, but one thing he doesn’t like is being cut off by another horse. He speeds up and thinks he’s racing again. Of course, Emily realized that and did it all the more. A little flare of anger rose inside me, but I squelched it down and concentrated on Star.
“Good, Kayla. He raised his head, but you saw it and brought it back down quickly.” Lisa was setting out ground poles on one side of the arena. “You all can start trotting over these poles. Remember to get into two-point as you go over them.”
Star was fine with ground poles. He usually kept his head tucked nicely, and he snapped his legs up high to avoid knocking them. That was one thing we could do better than Emily—her wonderful, high-dollar horse had been trained by a professional before he became hers, and he sometimes knocked poles that were on the ground. He was a great eventing horse, but I suppose he doesn’t think poles are worth extra effort. He didn’t always pick up his feet over them. Star was very conscientious when it came to poles and jumps.
After the lesson, I had Star in cross ties and was currying him when Emily came over. “You know, you really should put a martingale on him. It would fix his headset problem. But then again, he’ll always have a problem. Ex-racehorses are always crazy.”
I turned to face her, another bit of anger flaring up inside me. “Running martingales aren’t allowed in most of the classes I show in.” I squelched it. “Lisa says I shouldn’t practice in one if I can’t show in it. It won’t really solve his problem.”
Emily had pulled her hair out from its tie and was twirling a piece around her finger. She leaned back against a stall door and casually rested one foot on it. “Maybe so. But like I said, he will always have a problem of some kind.”
Just then, Karen walked over and stood by Emily. “What’s new?”
Emily crossed her arms. “I was just saying to Kayla that her horse is always going to have problems. Don’t you agree?”
Karen tried to look casual as she stood next to Emily. “Of course. Ex-racehorses are hardly ever show champs.” she said coolly.
I wasn’t sure what to say. I am a timid person. I’ve got some good friends at school, and I don’t usually have trouble making new friends. But I never know what to say or do when someone says something mean to me. Star is a good jumper; we are only jumping at novice level now, which is about two-foot-six, but that’s only because he hasn’t been off the track for that long. I got him from a Thoroughbred retraining facility, and they had been working with him for a little less than a year. He’s coming along really well, but we still have some issues to work out on the flat before we can jump higher fences. I’m okay with that, though. If we didn’t have a challenge to work towards, riding wouldn’t be as much fun. I think we’re working pretty well together.
“There have been some ex-racers that have been successful in the show ring,” I mumbled. I wish they’d leave, I thought. Emily really gets on my nerves.
“Mmm. Well, I should get back to Midnight. I have to get him ready for the show tomorrow. It’s been nice chatting with you.” Emily sauntered away, Karen in tow.
I sighed, glad to be alone again, and finished brushing Star.
Beep, beep, beep…The clock on my nightstand lit up my room. Five-thirty. I groaned, threw back my sheets, and climbed out of bed. I turned off the alarm, rubbed my eyes, and headed for the bathroom.
Half an hour later, I was on the way to Stone Ridge. My mom was going to drop me off, and I’d ride to the show with Lisa. I had my breeches on under my sweatpants, and my white show shirt protected by an oversize sweatshirt. The back seat of my mom’s car was filled with my stuff: my show helmet, hunt coat, tall boots, and show tack. I was gobbling down a cereal bar when we turned on to the Stone Ridge driveway.
I was positively thrilled. It was only my second show. I hated getting up so early, but other than that, it was great. Shows were so exciting; they give me a chance to compare my riding skills to those of local riders and to show off how well Star is doing. Lisa had the trailer hooked up and pulled out in front of the barn, and I saw Emily leading Midnight up the ramp. Karen waited with her horse.
My mom parked the car and we got out as Lisa came over. “Hi! Kayla, would you go get Star? We’re just about ready to load him on the trailer. There’s room for your stuff in the changing compartment in the trailer.”
“Sure,” I said, heading into the barn.
“You’re late!” Emily yelled after me. I ignored her, although I considered yelling back, “No, YOU are early. Lisa told us 6:15!”
I found Star in his stall finishing his breakfast. He raised his head when he heard me and nickered softly. “Hello to you, too,” I replied. I put his halter on him and clipped on the leadrope. “Come on. We’re heading out.” He stretched as he walked out of his stall, throwing his front legs out in front of him and sinking down until his stomach nearly touched the ground. We hurried to the trailer to find everyone waiting.
Lisa and my mom were talking. “All your stuff is in the trailer. We’re ready to leave,” Lisa said. I noticed Emily and Karen were sitting in Lisa’s pickup truck.
“I’ll see you this afternoon, Kay. Love you,” my mom called.
“Ok. Love you too!” I called back, and headed for the truck. Emily was in the passenger seat, so I sat with Karen in the back. The show grounds we were going to were almost an hour away. It was a long ride, with Emily and Karen talking to each other nonstop. On one hand, I was glad that they weren’t trying to bother me, and on the other, I felt left out and lonely. I knew it was still too early to text one of my friends from school, so I just looked out the window and watched the scenery fly past.
It was really foggy; a white mist hung low over the hills and you could barely see ten yards ahead of yourself. In early July, the Kentucky landscape was beautiful. The grass was still growing tall and lush, the trees and foliage were bright green and full of life.
When we reached the show, Lisa parked and we all got out. The atmosphere was damp and chilly, but as I looked around, I couldn’t help but feel an electric air of excitement. As the fog slowly began to clear up, I could see that there were crowds of riders clustered near trailers, people dashing here and there to get everything done, and horses being lunged in the arenas. Some showers had already gotten tacked up and were practicing for their classes. I squinted and scanned the grounds for a sign-up booth. I found it near a food stand not too far away from the barns. It was easily recognizable by the line that had already formed to pay their entries and get a number. Some people say that horse shows are too stressful, but I love the hurried feeling, of racing around to get your horse groomed spotless, tacked up perfectly, and warmed up, and then that wonderful “I did it!” feeling you get when you hear your name announced over the PA system as a ribbon winner.
Lisa began giving orders. “Get your leadropes from the trailer and start unloading the horses. I’m going to go find some empty stalls and after the horses get settled in, you’ll all have to go sign up.”
I opened the trailer compartment, which was a small, cluttered room in the front of the trailer that we used to store our tack and clothes. It was used as a changing room as well. I saw Star’s lead rope on the floor and picked it up, then jogged to the back of the trailer. I waited for Lisa to open it, and then carefully slipped in beside Star.
“Hey, Star.” I patted his neck, clipped the leadrope to his halter, and untied the trailer tie. He started backing out carefully, and when he was on the ground he threw his head up and began looking around. I lead him out of the way and looked for Lisa. I saw her talking to a woman and pointing to the stalls beside her. Then she turned around, motioning me over.
“Star can have this stall. I’m going to go fill the water buckets and tell Emily and Karen where we’re at. You should go get a spot in line to sign up,” Lisa said hurriedly. I grinned. The fun was just about to begin.
I waited in the sign up line for nearly twenty minutes. When it was my turn, I fished a few crumpled dollar bills out of my sweatpants’ pocket and paid my entries. The manager gave me a back number and show bill and I hurried back to the trailer. Lisa was putting Star’s water bucket in his stall and I paused as I went past. “Do you have any safety pins for my number?”
She looked up. “Yes, in the container on the floor in the changing compartment. It’s right below the mirror.”
“Ok, thanks!” I continued on to the trailer and found the safety pins. I pinned my number, which was seven-eleven, to the back of my hunt coat. Then I found Star’s brushes and took them to his stall.
I had just taken off Star’s protective blanket and had him tied for brushing in his stall when the PA system crackled, “Attention in the barn area. We will be starting in half an hour with class number one, Huntseat Pleasure, riders ages nine to twelve.” My class was number three, which was Junior Horse English Pleasure.
I had given Star a bath yesterday and blanketed him for the night, so he was mostly clean. I breathed a sigh of relief when I checked to make sure his braids were intact—they were. When I was done touching up his grooming job, his coat glistened and his tail hung free of tangles. I heard Emily and Karen talking to each other in the stalls nearby.
“Did you get a new hunt coat?” It was Emily.
“Yeah,” Karen replied.
“That one you used to wear is so old fashioned. No one wears green hunt coats anymore. Black is totally in right now.” I grimaced. My own coat was dark green. Upon second thought, that was probably why Emily said that. “My boots are too small. They don’t come up to my knees the whole way anymore.”
“They don’t come up as high once you break them in, you know.”
“I know. Do you think they’d look better if I got a taller pair?”
“I don’t know… would you be able to bend your knees? Mine are pretty stiff. I can’t ride with my stirrups any shorter than they are now or I’ll get sores on the backs of my knees.”
“We should get changed or we won’t have time to warm up,” Karen said.
“I’m not worried about that. Midnight doesn’t need warmed up. He actually does better if I don’t. But Cinnamon isn’t as experienced as Midnight, so you probably should go.”
I glanced at Karen, who was leaving Cinnamon, her horse’s, stall. “Yeah,” she said dully.
I left Star tied in his stall and grabbed his tack from the trailer. Karen was there, putting on her hunt coat. “Hello, Kayla. How are you this morning?” Although her words were friendly, something in her tone of voice wasn’t.
“Fine, thanks. How about you?” I replied cautiously. I found my coat and put it on, dumping my sweatshirt and sweatpants on the floor of the trailer.
“Good,” she said. As soon as I had my boots on, I grabbed Star’s show tack and managed to carry it all back to his stall in one trip, achieved partially so as to avoid a second encounter with Karen. Star was watching the horses and people walking past the barn. I studied him for a moment. He seemed alert, but not too energetic or scared. That was good.
Once I had him tacked up, I led him out into the commotion. He immediately perked up and began watching everything. I decided to lead him around for a few minutes to make sure he got to see everything and react to it before I was on him. The last thing I need is for Star to spook in front of Emily, I thought.
After I’d given Star enough time to settle down a bit, I tightened his girth and mounted up in the warm-up arena. Karen was already there, and I could see she was having problems. Cinnamon was cantering towards a three-foot fence, but she had her head up a bit too high. Her stride looked choppier than usual. I watched Karen circle her twice to bring her back to a nicer canter, then head for the jump again. Cinnamon threw her head up at the last minute and knocked a rail. Karen, visibly frustrated, tapped Cinnamon’s haunches with her crop. Then she stopped her for a brief rest. By the time I was halfway through my usual warm-up routine, Karen was cantering her horse in circles, her hands resting on her knees in an attempt to lower Cinnamon’s head. Cinnamon didn’t understand it, though, and kept fighting the reins.
I sighed, tired of watching Karen and Cinnamon going at it, and rode Star over. Karen looked up as I approached. “It might help if you do what Lisa told me—gently tug on the reins, alternating quickly. It worked well for Star.”
For a minute, I though Karen wasn’t going to say anything. Then she finally said, “I’ll try it,” and rode away. I kept watching her for a few minutes.
“Kayla! Are you going to work Star or not? Your class is coming up next!” I turned around in the saddle to see Lisa standing just outside the arena fence. She had a cup of coffee in one hand and she took a sip.
I stole one last glance at Karen to see if she was doing what I advised her to, and I saw with satisfaction that she was. Cinnamon’s head was indeed lowered and tucked. I pushed Star into a trot and steadied him for a few strides, then asked for a canter. Star brought his head up a little at first, but I was able to fix it using Lisa’s advice in a matter of seconds. When we’d cantered a few circles in both directions, I decided Star was warmed up pretty well. Lisa was waiting at the gate to let us out.
“You were looking good. They just started class two, so you’ll have a minute to let Star rest before you have to go in.” Lisa looked around. “There’s Emily coming now.”
I didn’t have time to turn around before Emily came trotting up beside me on Midnight. She stopped on a dime.
“How’s Midnight doing? I didn’t see you in the warm-up arena,” Lisa said. I could tell she wasn’t surprised.
“Midnight? Oh, he’s good. He does better if he isn’t warmed up.”
“Alright.” Lisa sounded dubious. “Sounds like you’re about to go in, Kayla. Good luck.”
I looked towards the main arena to see a stream of competitors flowing out of the gate. Some carried bright ribbons, holding them up to show to friends and family. “Thanks,” I said, and headed for the arena.
I wasn’t fully aware of anything that was happening aside from Star and I until we were stopped in the center of the arena, lined up to hear our placings. It always seems like a long wait before they call out the results. I ran through Star’s performance; there was only one time when his head came up, and he dropped it quickly when I tugged the reins. He hadn’t tried to race any of the other horses, either. I subtly scratched his neck while I waited and listened.
Finally, I heard a much-welcomed sound. “We have the results of class 3, Junior Horse English Pleasure, eleven entrants. In first place, we have entry number three-sixty-one, Deanna Whitely on My Cashmere Dream. In second place, we have entry number seven-one-one, Kayla Anderson on Solar Star…”
I heard some cheering and clapping from Lisa as Star and I made our way to the exit, with me patting his neck the whole way. I reached down to receive my bright red second place ribbon. It fluttered gently in the breeze as we headed back to Lisa, Emily, and Karen. I couldn’t have been happier with Star.
A short while later, Emily, Karen, and I were riding into the arena again for our equitation class. As we stopped along the rail, we took in the competition. Eight other riders were in the arena. By the time the gate was closed, two more had come in. I groaned. It was a large class.
As Star and I trotted along the rail, I concentrated on perfect balance. I felt in harmony with him, and I did a quick mental check on my posture. All was good. Star had his head tucked in and was looking as good as he had in the pleasure class. At first, his pace was a little too quick, but I adjusted it and we fell into a nice rhythm. As we went past Lisa, I heard her murmur, “Looking good.” I smiled.
Just then, I heard hoofbeats coming up from behind. I shouldn’t have, but I lost focus and rhythm. I sneaked a peek beside me and saw Emily coming up. I also saw the judge turning in our direction. Emily reined Midnight in front of Star, coming close to bumping his head off Midnight’s side in the process. I knew what was coming. Star’s head came up, and I was got it right back down. But when the judge called for a walk, Emily slowed almost immediately and Star nearly hit Midnight again. His head came up and I fixed it. Emily stayed in front of us for the rest of the class, not letting us pass, and causing problems every time we changed gaits.
When the results of the class were called, I listened patiently to hear my name. But it didn’t come. Karen got fourth place. Then the PA system called fifth place… and it went to Emily. How could she do that? Just when Star was behaving so well! It’s her fault we didn’t place, I thought angrily.
I watched Emily receive her pink ribbon and head out of the arena as the riders who didn’t place exited behind her. I was right behind her. When we made it back to the barn and dismounted, I let loose. All the anger I had stored up inside me came pouring out.
“How could you do that?!” I yelled, glaring at her. “You deliberately knocked me out of the ribbons.”
Emily looked a little taken aback, but quickly recovered. “It’s not my fault Star can’t live up to his name.”
“It’s not Star’s fault, it’s yours! You know that.”
“I can’t help it if he can’t keep his head down,” she said back, “or change gaits quickly enough.”
“Why do you have to be so mean to me? I came to Stone Ridge not knowing anyone. I tried to be friendly. But what did you do? You did your best to cause trouble!” I knew I was making a scene, but I didn’t care.
“What’s going on here?” We both turned around. It was Lisa.
“Did you see what she did in the class?” I asked Lisa.
“Yes, I saw. I’m disappointed in you, Emily. I thought you were above playing such childish games. Perhaps I should call your parents to take you home?” Lisa replied calmly. “Or suspend you from lessons for a while?”
Emily looked stunned. “I—no—I shouldn’t have done that! I mean, it was stupid of me to do. Star was going well for you. I should have just stayed where I was. I’m sorry.” She seemed truly sorry.
I felt some of my anger washing away by the sincerity of her voice. “It’s ok.”
Lisa seemed to sense that we needed a minute. “Don’t be late for your next classes. We’ll leave at lunchtime if we can get packed up by then.”
We nodded. Emily continued in a lower tone, “It’s just… you’re rich. And I figured all rich people were rude and stuck up, and I guess I just jumped to conclusions. I was just jealous.”
I didn’t expect that. “You were jealous of me? You’re the one with the high-dollar horse!”
“My aunt gave him to me. She had an accident and couldn’t ride anymore, and she wanted me to have a horse to compete on. I used to ride Lisa’s school ponies. All my tack and clothes, I mostly had to get myself. Then I saw you with your expensive stuff and I got jealous.”
“My parents do have a lot of money, and they get me lots of stuff, but they don’t really do things with me. They bought me Star and all the stuff I need for him, but they don’t come to the shows or anything. And I’m not stuck up!” I was beginning to see Emily’s side of things. By now, all my anger had washed away.
“I can see that now,” she said with a sheepish grin. “Hey, can we be friends?”
“If you stop sabotaging my classes, then yes!” I smiled back.
“Do you want to take a break and grab a snack from the food stand? I’m starved. We can ask Lisa to keep watch of the horses.”
“No. Show food is terrible.” Emily smiled again. “I brought my own. I have enough extra that you can have some too, if you want.”
“It is? I’ve never tried it before. And sure, I’ll come.” I noticed Karen tying Cinnamon in her stall and glanced at her.
“Yes, it’s greasy and it makes me sick. Plus it’s overpriced. We can invite Karen, too,” she said, noticing the direction of my glance.
Star picked up a canter, his head in a good position, his stride floating. I checked his stride and aimed him towards the middle of the first fence. Just as he was about to take off, I snapped into two-point position and rested my hands on his neck. We hit the ground and I knew we hadn’t knocked a rail; I had felt the surge of power as he leapt. We sailed over jump after jump, cutting corners of the course where we could to save time, and not hitting a single rail. As we landed after the last obstacle, an ascending oxer, Star powered forward. A few strides after it and the timer stopped. The loud speaker announced, “That was entry number seven-one-one, with a time of fifty- four seconds.” I knew it was fast, but was it good enough to win Novice Jumper?
I walked Star over to where Lisa, Emily and Karen waited outside the arena.
“That was really good!” Emily said. Karen nodded in agreement.
“He looked like he was going well for you. It seems that jumping agrees with him,” Lisa said in praise.
“How many more riders are there? Does anyone know?” I asked. I had been keeping track of the competitors who went before me and knew I was in the lead now.
“I think there are four more.” Lisa replied, watching the next competitor completing his round.
I watched carefully. The horse was a dapple grey and its rider looked good. I watched her reach for her crop after a fence and tap her horse to keep him going, then fly over two more fences. I looked at the electric timer. One more fence to go and it read fifty seconds. I held my breath. As the pair sailed over the last fence, I heard the clatter of a hoof hitting wood and I silently cheered as a pole hit the ground.
“That was competitor five-fifty, with a time of fifty-seven seconds with one penalty,” the loudspeaker crackled. “In the arena we have number one-thirteen, with three-seventy-four on deck and our last competitor, number one-eighty.”
We all waited under the shade of a maple tree, watching the last competitors make their rounds. A speedy chestnut horse was setting a new time to beat until it knocked a pole on both jumps in a combination. The second to last rider, on a horse that almost looked like Star, made a quick and clear round. “Fifty-four seconds for rider number three-seventy-four.” That meant that we would both have to go back and compete in a jump-off, which was a shortened course with slightly higher fences. It would determine the final results.
As I watched in disbelief, the last rider made a tight turn at one point in the course that I wouldn’t have thought possible, shaving almost three seconds off her time. The horse she was riding looked too good to be in a novice level competition. “Time of fifty-one seconds for number one-eighty.” The announcer went on to list the results for first, fourth and fifth places, and then continued again, “We will be having a jump-off for competitors seven-one-one and three-seventy-four. Please be at ringside.”
“She shouldn’t be in this class,” Emily commented.
“Yeah, but there’s nothing we can do about it. They didn’t set a limit on this class, so she can’t be disqualified,” Lisa said. “Sorry, Kayla.”
“It’s ok. I’m still in the jump-off for second and third place. Star did really well, which was my goal anyway.” It would have been nice to get first, I thought. But then again, I wouldn’t have a lot to work on with Star. We’d have to move up to a higher jumper division, and I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.
“I better get down there.” I nudged Star forward and headed for the arena gate.
“Good luck!” I heard Lisa call.
The jump-off course looked similar to the original one; only a few jumps had been removed, and the rest had been raised a little. I felt Star’s energy rising as we entered the arena. He picked up a canter and I aimed him for the first jump. He gave a powerful leap, but it wasn’t high enough. I heard the dull sound of a pole clattering to the ground behind us. I gave him a tap with my heels and he jumped the rest of the course clean and quick. But rider three-seventy-four was a little quicker. Her horse knocked a pole as well, but she made up for it in tight turns and a faster pace throughout the course.
Star and I got a long yellow ribbon. Although it’s not what I was hoping for, it wasn’t too bad for an off-the-track horse that hadn’t been shown much. I patted him; I knew he had tried to do well for me. We would just have to practice a little more before the next show. Emily said she could help me.