An Unfortunately Fortunate Day (3)
The moment I stepped out into the arena, I immediately regretted even coming. There were rows, and rows, and even more rows of people surrounding the outside of the course, all staring. At me.
At first, they were all still murmuring, and there was a general hum about the audience, but as soon as I started trotting around some of the more dodgy jumps, waiting for the bell to ring, the hum gradually simmered down, until there was complete silence.
I had walked the course even before warming up, but now I felt I would forget everything. I had an awful feeling that something would go wrong.
Oh, come on, Freya, you haven’t even jumped the first jump. Suck it up and act cool. Like Carissa.
I erased that last thought from my brain, and instead, swallowed the huge lump in my throat. At last, just as I was dreading, the bell rang.
The first jump was easy-peasy. An ordinary, small 50cm jump from which I had a long trek of canter to the next jump, which, unfortunately, was at quite a tight turn and had a height of 80cm, so from then, a hectic course was just set out there, ready to make me embarrass myself.
Maisie jumped the 50 with ease, at which I blew out a sigh of relief. I told myself not to rush at the jump whilst I calmly cantered up to the 80, as the jump-off would only start after the first 10 jumps. Luckily, she jumped it, only with a slight ping.
Phew. It was the second jump so far, and I’d made it! Okay, don’t get ahead of yourself, Freya, you’ve still got 15 more to go. Next, we had a straight triple, all 70cm, over all of which I held my breath and braced myself for any knocking Maisie would do.
Nothing. Yes. Only 5 more to go. I now had to travel around the edge of the arena to get to the next 80cm jump, during which I took a quick glance at the audience; they seemed quite bored, and maybe a little cold.
Seeing the 80, I suddenly realised it was a spread, and had a strange sort of decoration on either side of the jump. I was sure she would spook, and instinctively tensed.
Now, either Maisie didn’t like the idea of me tensing up, or she just wanted to show off to the audience (unlikely), but she decided she would throw in two rather sheepish bucks that threw me completely by surprise and off-balance. I so nearly lost one stirrup, but grinded my teeth and kicked with determination. I heard some murmurs from the audience and saw some people raise their heads. Here was where it would start to get more interesting.
For the rest of the course she was abnormally perfect (only throwing in one other minor buck), as they were mostly 60-70cm, but then the jump-off started; and I was being timed.
I kicked extremely hard, and she surprisingly raced around the course at a comfortably fast rate; at one point, I even started to enjoy myself – I had a feeling I was going to soar out of that arena with a 1st place sash on Maisie’s neck and a red rosette on her headpiece.
Even though at a couple jumps she wobbled slightly, and felt a bit unsure, I kept encouraging her on, knowing I would have to get her into the spirit for the last double 90cm jumps. The last, and hardest two jumps.
Thank goodness there was a long path where I could pick up speed before the jumps.
With this in mind, I took advantage of the chance and kicked with all my might up until the jump. I still kept on kicking as hard as I could, but I felt her slowing down very slightly, and starting to wobble.
Seeing how fast the looming jumps came, I tensed up again, and slightly lost contacts on my reins. The jumps looked far bigger than when I was only walking the course.
I could practically hear the audience hold their breaths.
And, suddenly, the first jump was right in front of me.
Maisie, for a split second, hesitated, but I gave her a huge smack on her hindquarters with my jumping whip, and she pinged it (only just!) with only centimetres left between me and the jump to the left of me. As expected, due to the force of the ping, I was thrown onto her neck after the jump.
Now the next 90cm jump was only two strides away, but poor Maisie was huffing, and her strides were lazy. Even so, I kept kicking, and threw in another few smacks.
There was no chance.
With me already half on her neck, and my reins all loose, she, right before the jump, swerved out violently to the left of the jump, making me lose my left stirrup and dangle dangerously close to the other jumps, with her ears far back and a face that clearly told me, You really thought I was going to jump that? You’re joking.
As if the audience hadn’t gotten enough entertainment from the crazy Maisie. Absolutely no way. Unfortunately, the craziest part then started.
She decided to start broncing around the arena – not the most fun or comfortable experience ever. I got thrown back and forth in the saddle, still one foot out of the stirrup (now on her hindquarters), and my whip somewhere on the ground in the arena.
Then, the best part came (for the audience anyways). Maisie thought it would be hilarious to make the biggest buck in human history, throwing my already emotionally and physically mangled body over her neck, doing a mini flip mid-air, and (thankfully) landing on a soft and quite a big, pillowy pile of arena sand. On my buttocks.
In fact, I think my life flashed before my eyes.
To be continued.