Many feelings come to mind when reminiscing about the happenings that occurred this year in 2013. Truth be told that when I really sit down and reflect on the difference this one year has made in my life, I keep coming back to the same nagging notion: 2013 was a year of “unfinished business.”
That isn’t to say that I am unhappy with the wins with Al this year, it’s just that the success was so short-lived, being that I only had three advanced runs with him before his season was over. I feel like I have so much to prove and that I am finally beginning to ride the horse the way he always should have been ridden and I only hope to be able to pick up in Florida where we left off following our most honorable performance to date at the American Eventing Championships. Winning the Gold Cup aboard Al was not only a dream-come-true for me but for my closest supporters, ahem my mother and my grandparents, it was a time where we ALL shared the spotlight. Coming back from my accident in 2008 was obviously difficult to face on a personal level, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it took even more guts for my family and friends to watch me fall and WANT to try again.
My unbridled passion for horses has been apparent ever since I was a small child chasing after my mom alongside the abandoned rail road tracks in Shingle Springs, California. Despite tossing me into every other sport in addition to persuading me to join the theater and acting class, nothing could trump that need to gallop across the countryside on horseback. I had to learn at a young age (as every horse lover learns sooner than later) that falling is a frequent occurrence when dealing with horses and in order to be the best, I had to push through those fears and mental struggles and just RIDE. And that’s what I love so much about the sport of eventing. The very thing that nearly took my life is what actually GIVES me breath by providing me the internal strength and motivation to succeed. “Eventing” doesn’t care about what level you participate, what breed your horse is and how much your saddle costs...rather, it’s sole focuses are grit and determination: the two ingredients that separate us event riders from the rest of the sane and financially stable world.
The sudden loss of my Lyle (aka: The Big Island) is another reason why 2013 left me with sense of incompleteness. Lyle was an off-the-track Thoroughbred that towered over his counterparts standing eighteen hands tall. After bypassing him three times, my mother was guilted into buying him when he would not stop following her around his pasture. After having him only a month, mom flew me out to California where I competed him at novice level at his first event at Woodside. Immediately it was love at first ride. Fast forward two years and Lyle was dominating the intermediate level as a six year old long-legged steed with a heart as big as his stature (and in a loose ring snaffle I might add). Losing him didn’t only create a void in my eventing horse arsenal, it dislodged a large piece of my heart as a part of it died with him on that damp and misty Ocala morning in February.
My mother has always reminded me that “when one door closes another one opens” and that I should always be ready with a backup plan. Losing Lyle was a door I was not ready to have slammed in my face, however welcoming my four year old Jockey Club registered homebred, Calling All Comets to my east coast farm was one door I could not wait to open! I am so lucky to have a youngster as talented and eager to learn as he and the fact that he is bred by my mother AND that he’s full Thoroughbred is only icing on the cake! Although mom and I have believed in him from day one (literally), it’s always nice to hear that reaffirmation from someone as all-knowing as William Fox-Pitt. I am now eagerly awaiting the moment I get to canter down the centerline with him at Rolex, most likely competing against Mr. Fox-Pitt...now if only I could fast forward another four to five years!
2013 might have not been my banner year to date, but it’s left me with a taste of victory and a yearning for more. I am hopeful that both Al and I can finish what we started this year at Rolex in 2014 and after that...well that’s for the eventing gods to decide. Until then, sit back, gobble up and enjoy the downtime with your family and friends. Enjoy the holidays, the desserts (sans the extra lbs) and the awesome movies that celebrate the festive season. I hope you have the “hap hap happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny (bleep) Kaye”. Thank you Clark Griswold. Thank you. See you in the gallop lanes in 2014!