Credit to ~inkd-in-bloodWay back in the day, when I was a kid in the hunter ring that rarely rode outside of an arena, I heard the phrase 'fly without wings'. For most of my life I assumed that referred to jumping. That certainly was the moment in my riding that felt the most like flight, particularly over a large oxer. It was thrilling, ignoring gravity for a short instant. My pony and I would, for just a second, fly.
Turns out I was wrong.
Fiona has taught me something that no other horse has ever managed. Today I raced her on the beach and felt her shift gears, drop down about six inches, and truly fly. I couldn't believe how fast she was going, or how effortless it seemed for her, or how safe it felt. We passed the other horses with wind whipping past my ears and the princess tugging at the bit and begging me to finally let her go completely. I wasn't willing to risk a bowed tendon in the sand, or risk the pedestrians on the beach if she spooked or decided to not stop politely, so I had to keep some hold. Even with that light hold, my mare flew and was nice enough to take me along for the ride.
It's incredibly thrilling. I'd never galloped on the beach before, or actually raced my horse in any setting. For the first race there were five of us. Four teenagers and me. I was facing the wrong way when my trainer yelled 'go' because of a false start, but Fiona made up for it. As the other riders told me 'she came out of nowhere and just flew right past us!'. For the rematch (which I requested due to facing the wrong way), there were only three of us. Three fit, well schooled thoroughbreds took off down the beach. It was very close, partially because all three of us had a hold. We were all riding our competition horses and didn't want to risk an injury. Fiona was declared the winner because she had a head in front when we pulled up.
I knew the three of us were lucky, lucky riders because we pulled up and then walked calmly back to the group on horses that had just a second ago been galloping as hard as we'd let them. There was very little jigging and for most of the walk they were on long reins. The entire trip to the beach drove home the idea that I am incredibly, unbelievably lucky. As far as I know, that was Fiona's first time seeing the ocean. She galloped alone and in a group, she went into the ocean up to her hocks and walked through the waves, and stood watching other horses gallop on a completely loose rein.
I don't know what I'm going to do with myself when she goes down to Aiken.