Some weekends I'm just happy to get home. The Fork was one of those. On Wednesday, as I was supposed to leave, Cole suffered a bruise that left him 3 legged lame. To say I was I was upset was an understatement. To have your horse go lame 3 weeks out from the jog at Rolex is heart stopping. My immediate concern was for his welfare. Obviously I had to scratch him from The Fork. Then at night as I was laying in bed, I thought of the risks I'd taken this year to get Cole to Rolex and Liberty to Saumur, and wondered if I had just been foolhardy and over the top. Many of the risks had been of an extreme nature and everything had go to plan, no mistakes. Remember the polo helmet and competing with my broken jaw still wired shut? And just as it seemed as tho we may pull it off, this happens. Bugger. So the next morning Bucky, Liberty and I head off to The Fork, already a little on the under excited side of things (well I was under excited, I can't say Libery was, he's ALWAYS excited!). Both horses tried very hard in the dressage and showjumping and it was Bucky who found himself in a position to win. But somehow for the whole weekend I was fixated with the idea of getting home to a sound Cole and being able to get in a vital gallop that he missed. By Sunday morning, as I was walking my courses for the final time, I was beside myself with a feeling that I just had to get home and do it myself. Rhiannon is more than capable of galloping (and often does) however my feelings were so strong that called Beth (owner of Bucky) and Adrienne (active owner in Liberty) to get their input. Of course they both said it was my call and to come home if that's what I was feeling. This was particularly great of Beth as we would have won even if we were a little over time cross country. So with a feeling of melancholy I packed my stuff and headed home only to find out 10 minutes down the road that fellow competitor Will Coleman had lost his World Games hopeful and great partner, Conair, following a fall on the cross country. I have seen Joey, as he was called in the barn, at all of the shows Will competed him at since he was imported from England last year. I can only describe their partnership as epic, poetic and inspirational. One only had to spend any time around them to see the mutual connection and love for each other they had. Not to mention the desire for thrill that both horse and rider possess must possess to compete at this level. This came after the loss of Powderhound the day before at the same show. 'Carlos' was imported from Australia and, at 15, I had known him since he was 3 or 4. His death came as a shock as he had made the same journey as me and was one of the kindest, sweetest horses you could imagine.
The loss of a (or several) horse/s to a professional is part of the business. However, as a professional, they are your life blood and hold the key to all your hopes and dreams. Plus they keep you safe in this fairly risky sport. And as a rider you think that you can always protect them and keep the out of harms way. You can't. And that hurts. A lot.
So this time I don't have any photos of my horses jumping incredible obstacles at high speed. I just have a heavy heart and sense of loss for the two great horses who left us not to mention my roommates boss, Dickie Small (legendary MD race trainer, google him). I am happy to have brought the horses under my charge home safe, sound and willing to fight another day. Even if they are mad that they were dragged all the way to Charlotte, NC and dragged all the way home, without getting to do the cross country. I'll take the angry and feisty horses over the coming home without one. They'll live. And I am sad. For a lot of people.
This weekend I feel only an emptiness and subdued fortune. And, yes, Cole is sound and galloped with me today. I would've given anything to know that on Wednesday. Today I was just happy to see his face, reagardless of how his legs where feeling.
To the organisers of The Fork: Thank you for making such an incredible event and being so amazing to the riders. It is one of my favourite events and I'll be back next year without a doubt. I know that you're feeing the same pain as the rest of us, and I also know that every rider there is totally behind you and will be back given the chance.
This weekend I was happy to be home.
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