I rode my Wonder Horse last month in the Cavalry Games in our first field jumping event together. We were magnificent. The competition was held at Fort Robinson, Nebraska (a province in Canada, I think). After entering the arena, we circled gently at a trot for a minute to help loosen up for the course. When I felt that Wonder Horse was ready we rolled out toward the first jump and transitioned smoothly to a steady canter hitting the jump perfectly. Landing lightly, still in the two-point stance we accelerated slightly to close the distance to the next jump, cleared it and lined up for the in-and out. Wonder Horse bounced over the two obtacles with ease, slowed his gait slightly to help me S-turn into the next offset jump...blah...blah...blah.
Well, that is how it was supposed to go. The reality was far uglier. Wonder Horse began jumping in the entry chute before we even entered the arena. The gate keeper climbed over the gate and pulled it open from inside the arena to protect himself. Yeah we circled a couple of times and rolled out on the first jump but Wonder Horse applied the brakes and tried to get me to go over it by myself. Fortunatley, my trousers snagged on the brass plate on the pommel shield or I would have plowed a deep furrow across the arena with my chin. After compelling him to go through the first jump and knocking down one of the cross bars we lined up on the second jump where the SOB ran out to the right hoping to duck out and return to the arena gate. Wrestling him around again we cleared the jump by about 300 vertical yards. I was so high up in the air I had to go on oxygen. I used my cell phone to call Houstin Space Center to request re-entry instructions. Slamming back down to earth both stirrups shot out off my boots like missiles. Wonder Horse, now thoroughly into the game, sped to the next obstacle while I was looking down trying to fish the stirrups with my toes. I finally got one back as this mentally disturbed animal launched himself over the next jump. Only massive cheek-clenching action kept me attached to the saddle as we sailed over the horizontal bar and crashed down on the other side. Gaining traction now, Wonder Horse exelerated to Mach 1 as I started reciting the Lord's Prayer. My next jump required a 180 degree turn so I started hauling on the right rein to bring him around. It was like steering the USS Enterprise. I think we may have crossed the state line and entered Wyoming briefly before lining up on the next jump. We knocked down everything we could see. Poles, standards, fence rails, spectators, and stray dogs went flying. We knocked down a building. The judges wept. Finally, mercifully, it was over.
I quickly looked down to see if maybe I had accidentaly mounted a rabid rhinocerous. My now, perfectly calm, Wonder Horse looked back at me with love and amusement in his eyes. Due to the requirement to apply a 1,000 pounds of pressure to the reins, my arms had been significantly lengthened and were dragging in the dirt. A broken jump pole was wresting in my lap. A picket fence was attached to Wonder Horse's left rear hoof. Smoke rose from my clothing. We did not win the event. We did set a new record for faults in a single jump course. Every object in the arena and several outside, including an ambulance, had been kocked down. The town mayor had been bitten. And apparently you can't yell, "mayday!" as you go over each jump. We finished in eighth place and would have finished lower in the standings but several of the other riders fled the area without competing.
And all I can think about is...when can I do it again?