August 12, 2008 | | Comments 0

Horse Stories: White as a Ghost

Horse and Rider ReadyWritten by: Chenay Jordan

Walking around in the holding area waiting for my number to be called, I could feel my palms start to sweat. Here I was, fourteen years old, in Ft. Worth, Texas, at the 1998 APHA World Championship Show. It was my last class of the show and I had cried many tears preparing for this moment. My trainer, a former World Champion in the event, and my horse, a natural in the event, had been relentless trying to prepare me for this class, this class they call: Western Riding.

“Chenay, are you okay,” a fellow competitor said snapping me from my daze and catching my attention, “you look like you are going to throw up.”

“I think I am,” I replied.

As I walk Bambi around, I keep going over what I am to accomplish in my class. I have eight lead changes to nail, a pole to trot and lope over, and I have to do it all without puking. I had never shown Western Riding prior to showing Bambi. And I had only showed Bambi at one little show before the biggest show of the year that I was now sitting at.

I hear the steward call for me: “Number 1350 in the hole.” That means there are two more horses in front of me. It didn’t help matters that all my competitors were on horses they were comfortable with, had been showing all year, and worse yet had been showing Western Riding all year.

I feel a lump in my throat. Please don’t puke, I think.

I hear a faint voice say: “Chenay, you’re white as a ghost,” but I don’t respond.

I’m on deck now. I can see the girl ahead but I don’t recall her pattern. I’m scared to death. As soon as the gate opens and the stewards clear me to go I panic. I can feel my heart beating out of my chest. I bump Bambi to get her attention walk into the John Justin arena and begin my pattern.

We jog over the log, she doesn’t hit it. I pick up my lope on time, take one final breath and begin. As I see the line of orange cones ahead of me, I prepare for the worst, but the worst never comes.

First line change: perfect, second line change: perfect, third line change: a little late, fourth line change: a little early.

We got through that part.

Now I have four crossing changes to deal with. My first two are near perfect but now as I round the turn I see the dreaded lope pole ahead. I prepare her for it and we lope over without a click. I wish I could exhale but I haven’t yet and really can’t seem to.

“Two more Bambi,” I whisper.

We finish our changes pretty decently, lope to the center of the arena, then stop and back up.

I breathe.

I look at my judges. I nod. Smile.

I hear my trainer hooting and hollering in the distance as well as the rest of the coliseum.

As I trot off to the exit gate I start to cry. I don’t puke.

The whole barn greets me with “That was awesome,” “you nailed it,” and other words of encouragement and pre-congratulations.

I bet you are thinking we came home World Champions but we didn’t. We ended up fourth overall (missing Reserve World Champion by mere tenths of a point) but it was by far the best horse riding experience of my life.

And here is why I will never forget it.

Bambi was not my horse.

Chenay Jordan and Bambi
(Chenay and Bambi pictured left)

My gelding Snickers, and I were off to a killer 1998 show season. But about six weeks before we were to leave for Ft.Worth Snickers became injured and terribly lame. When it became clear thirty days before our departure that Snickers just wouldn’t be able to make it my trainer’s mom offered me her mare, Bambi.

I took the offer (obviously) and the mare and I came home from the World Show with five Top Ten’s two of those being Top Five’s.

The Western Riding class was by far the most important to me as I worked so hard for it and remember clearly being literally ill before the class because I was so nervous.

Unfortunately, Bambi passed away later that year due to a rare illness. But I will never forget the horse that gave me the best riding experience of my life. I cherish the memories we made that year and I watch our videos and look at our pictures now and smile remembering the only class I showed without breathing once. I’m just glad I didn’t puke.

Chenay and Snickers

Chenay and Snickers

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