Eliz & Treasure's first barrel run
They had walked and trotted the pattern several times, both were familiar with it, Treasure more so than Eliz. This was evident by the way that Eliz kept trying to turn the wrong direction on the last barrel. It was almost comical watching Treasure fight with her to go the correct way and then giving in to Her Little Human(that's what Eliz has decided Treasure calls her), knowing it wasn't right. It was just after midnight when they did their run; Eliz was exhausted after a week of riding hard. She seemed so tired I broke my rules and gave her a Mt. Dew just before her turn. The thing most concerning to Eliz going into the arena was that Treasure was obviously ready to run hard and fast; she had been occasionally breaking into a canter from a trot without Lizzie telling her to. Earlier in the night, she galloped. Eliz knew she couldn't handle Treasure's jets. My advice was to do her best to trust Treasure, & hold the horn of the saddle if she had to. They went into the ring, Eliz obviously nervous, and Treasure ready to go. They did the first barrel, and then Treasure started to canter on the second barrel, and they went too wide and crossed the timer again.
At this point the run was officially over, but they finished the pattern, Eliz trying to keep Treasure slowed down. When they finished, Treasure began to run large circles. Eliz told me she was “Holding the horn for dear life and thinking, 'I need to stop her!'”
Treasure came up to the fence and started a sharp turn, however, Eliz didn't turn. Eliz came off the front of Treasure and landed, quite literally, at her Aunt's feet.
By The Teacher's recounting, Eliz had a big smile on her face while on the ground, and as The Teacher tried to grab Treasure's reins, Eliz jumped up smiling and said,
“I'm fine!” and took Treasure's reins.
As soon as Eliz came off, Treasure came to a stop, and looked at Eliz if to say,
“What are you doing on the ground? You're supposed to be up here with me!”
Of course, everyone watching had gotten quiet and was watching to see if Eliz was okay. I had started to run out, and when Eliz jumped up, Vaughn(we board our horse at their ranch) told me to calm down, she was fine. The announcer said over the loud speaker,
“Way to cowgirl up.”. People all around were clapping as Eliz started to walk Treasure out, but then Vaughn started hollering,
“Get on that horse! You're not walking, you're riding her out!” Once Eliz heard Vaughn, she stopped and started to try to throw Treasure's reins over her neck. As she was struggling, Vaughn walked into the arena saying,
“I'm comin'.” But Eliz got them on before he reached her, and so he paused and watched. Then Eliz put her knee into her stirrup, pulled herself into her saddle, and rode out of the arena to all around applause and whoops of congratulations.
People were saying, “That's a lot of horse for that girl” and “That horse has a motor!” Since Eliz hasn't been ready to really run, we'd never seen Treasure go all out, and I don't think we have yet. As much as Treasure loves Eliz, I think she still held back, even though she probably wanted to run into the moonlight.
Eliz is young enough that even though she knows something great happened in those few minutes, she doesn't understand how much meaning there is in the experience. People came up and told her good job, and she had to give out high fives-well, low fives for her on the horse, high fives for those on the ground- to people. So she knows other people think she did something extraordinary.
I told her that people were more proud of her for getting back on than they would ever be of her running a good time; that even if she had run barrels in 10 seconds, people would always be more proud that she got up on her horse-especially by herself.
While we untacked Treasure I asked her how it felt to come off her horse like that. Her response?
“Kind of awesome.” Once we were in the car and on the way home, we talked about what had happened. She asked me,
“Mama, why do I feel so amazing?!” I explained to her all the possible negative ways a person could respond to coming off their horse, and that she hadn't done any of those things. I tried to help her understand that getting back on after a fall like that was something that some adults wouldn't do, so being 9, her first time ever coming off this horse at her first barrel race with a horse she's only been riding a few months, was a very big deal. Some people would have said, 'Never again. I won't ever ride again.' She told me,
“She's my gift from God, I have to treat her like the gift she is. I have to learn her heartbeat, and the motor in her legs. So we can go fast together, because that's what she wants. That's what I want us to do together.” Can I just say, I have never wanted to pull over and squeeze my daughter while sobbing tears of joy and pride more in my life.
She fell asleep for the rest of the ride home, leaving me to consider the events of the evening. My little girl has proven that she's meant to be on a horse. She's a cowgirl, through and through. Her recently deceased Great-Grandmother would have been proud of her determination and adventurous spirit. That's the Grandma that wanted to drive her son's racecar, mind you.
There was also Treasure to consider. She didn't do anything wrong, just ran fast. The moment Eliz came off, she stopped. She didn't move, stamp her feet or toss her head. She waited for Eliz, and never gave any sign that she was going anywhere without her. She stood still while Eliz climbed her way back on and walked out and went straight to her stall. I've always known that Treasure loved Eliz & vise versa, but I think I saw the beginning of a beautiful partnership. Some of that definitely comes from Treasure having had a wonderful previous owner, and I will always be grateful for that. My Dad and I were talking about it, and he made the observation,
“Treasure and her the girl that owned her obviously had a great relationship. They probably got to run full speed down a dirt road, and in a field, and she wants to do that with Eliz. She remembers and wants to do it again.” So now we have to find a dirt road in Indiana. Shouldn't have a problem with the field, though.
And here is the sad part of this story. Bry-D and Lex weren't there. At midnight, Bry-D & I put Lex into Bry-D's truck, because Bry-D had to work first thing in the morning, and Lex needed to sleep. Oh. My. That boy needed a good night's rest. So five or so minutes after they drove out of the Fairgrounds, I had to call and tell him about his daughter's amazing feat. He was, of course, very upset. He exclaimed,
“I missed that?!” I can't rewind time & give him the joy of seeing his daughter prove herself a cowgirl, but maybe writing it for both of them to go back to will help. Just as getting Treasure is a reminder that God answers prayer, getting back into the saddle will be a reminder that Eliz can do whatever she decides to do.