New Pony, No Limits

BY Lyla Winneker

“1, 2! 1, 2! 1, 2! 3, 2, 1, JUMP!” My voice echoed through the indoor horseback riding ring.

“Release!” Eleanor called. She was the tall professional horseback rider who was currently teaching me at that lesson. Turner, my bright reddish colored maybe-pony’s hooves thundered on the soft sand. Quickly, Eleanor loosened one of the metal cups that held the jumps together with a loud click! The white and blue jump fell to the ground, one thump after another on the tightly packed sand.

Turner’s hooves landed on the sand about the same time I saw what the next jump was. I looked up from the silky reddish mound of pony hair flapping wildly around my face. Eleanor was now standing in the small watching room that parents usually sat in. To Turner, the gigantic mound of wooden poles was probably nothing more than a small X-shaped jump.

After all, he had done this all his life. But to me, the oxer (two jumps smushed together that made one) was like the giant kind of oxer that Eleanor and her young Warmblood horse, Jermaine HX jumped in the Grand Prix, but it was really just a normal Hunter-Jumper jump. And then time seemed to speed up. 

She trusted me with an OXER! I thought, my mind racing faster than ever before. In a flash, I was thrown up on Turner’s neck. Flying might seem like too much to describe a jump, but that’s what it felt like. Flying. Jumping the jump, time slowed down again. When I landed off, I was still in my 2-point, the position that a rider makes while jumping. It’s kind of like slouching on a horse’s neck, only far more elegant. 

“Again!” Eleanor yelled. I had more confidence about the oxer, so I jumped with ease, but Eleanor simply wasn’t satisfied with my position. 

“Again!” 

“Again!”

“Again!”  

By the fourth try, I had no longer pictured the oxer as a monster made of wooden poles and pictured it as a simple X-jump, which is really called a crossrail. 

“Again!” Eleanor called. 

“OK!” I replied. I pushed Turner into a canter and looped him back to the oxer. 

“Wait!” Eleanor instructed. “Make him wait!” 

Immediately, Turner slowed when I gave him the aid to. And then the oxer loomed nearer than it had in the last second. 

“RELEASE!” So that’s what I did. I could feel stiff pony hair creeping up my arm and the airy thud of Turner’s hooves propelling me off the ground. My own deep auburn ponytail flapped wildly in the wind. 

Jumping the oxer, I realized it was smaller than I had thought it was. Or maybe it was always small. I’ll never know. It no longer looked like a big, terrifying wooden pole monster. Landing down, I drew in a breath. The smell reminded me of molasses grain and treats and thin, soft wooden shavings. The barn.

I could hear the pesky grain thief birds’ calls, the calls of those brown sparrows that live in the ledges of your door at home, the odd-tailed barn swallows that swoop through the air as you pass, and the red-headed wrens that lived in the horse stalls and pens. 

I wanted to say “thank you” or “oh my gosh, what just happened?” but what came out was, “I did it.”