Among The Stars - Part 5 of 8
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   3rd Mar 2019   •   672 views   •   0 comments
Among The Stars

After the setback with Moo’s suspensory ligament, I pretty much decided that 2017 was going to be a write-off. Because we have so few events, because I’d been so cautious in protecting both Moo’s confidence and my own, the idea of trying to actually achieve anything in only the second half of the year seemed ridiculous.

But that was okay - Moo may have had numerous unexpected hiccups and a lot of wasted time in his career, but he had also progressed quickly in between, and he was still young for his level of experience. We still had plenty of years ahead of us to prove ourselves... I thought, so one more wasted year wasn’t going to be that bad. But, once again, Moo had other ideas. From the first day I sat on him to bring him back into work (which was intended as a quiet bareback walk and ended up a bareback rodeo show – because Moo) he just felt amazing.

He was strong, he was keen

and when we started schooling again, he was absolutely the best he had ever been. I was feeling rusty after the time off, but Moo was done with my ‘wait until we’re ready’ attitude. He had matured from a talented but very stubborn and unforgiving horse, to the most honest, helpful and forgiving partner I could ever have hoped for. Every time I made a mistake, Moo had my back, and it was an amazing feeling. We had taken our partnership to a whole new level.

I felt fearless.

So, riding on that feeling, we did what we always did; got back on form just in time for the national championship, and entered the level we were comfortable at.

I can’t begin to explain what an incredible experience that show was. When Moo arrived after the long trip, he was stiff and ornery as always, and so he got spoiled with faradic treatment, as always. From that moment, he was a machine. He floated through the dressage to produce the best test of his life with a great score, and then continued to skip around the next two phases like a kid in a playground. He not only won the 1m national championship; he finished the event with the best score of the entire show - from 70cm to 2*.

Among The Stars

Among The Stars

It was my first national championship win.

Somehow, circumstances had always denied us the chance to compete when we were at our best, and we would often come out with a close 2nd or 3rd. Now we had finally done it! We practiced after the show, and Moo flew around the very tricky championship 1* course like it was nothing. I was giddy with excitement, and as we drove home from the event, my mom and I decided that we had waited long enough, and it was time to ride this high. She cracked open the piggy bank for me to hang on and chase the dream I’d always had that was suddenly unfolding, and before we knew it, we were one of those real ‘big match’ eventers - chasing down the big events wherever we could find them.

Among The Stars

It was September, so the eventing season was already close to over, but if we traveled far enough there were still a few exciting 1* events on the calendar, and if there was ever a time that we would feel confident enough to properly take on 1*, it was now. So we threw ourselves in the deep end, and entered our first 1* in about 2 years at an international FEI event - the Africa Eventing Cup in Kwazulu Natal. The course was beautiful, and challenging. We were up against some of the best eventers South Africa had to offer, along with some of the best visiting from Namibia and Zimbabwe - and because the Africa Cup event was run at one star level, the pool was full of 2* and 3* competitors riding for their respective national teams as well. We were playing with the big boys now.

The trip was long, and the travel had taken a lot out of Moo, so his dressage was not quite up to standard, and he landed in the middle of the class. It was disappointing, since I’d become quite accustomed to Moo always cinching himself a top 3 spot right off the bat - but the standard here was higher than ever before, and the competition was fierce. I figured we were out of the prizes for this one, but maybe that was for the best, since we didn’t want that kind of pressure for our first FEI 1*. In hindsight, I don’t think the pressure would have made a difference. Moo was magnificent. When we entered, the announcers asked each 1* rider to describe their horse in one sentence.

For Moo, this was “The only thing bigger than his ego is his heart”.

If you know anything about Moo at this point, then you’ll know just how HUGE a testament this is to his big heart - and he lived up to it in every sense that day. He blazed around that big, scary course and took everything in his stride like it was a stroll in the park. We ended up 5th - with everyone placed above us graded 2* or higher.

After that it was back on the road, heading towards the Eastern Cape for their provincial championship, also at 1*. We swept in and took the trophy back with us on a 10 penalty lead. Moo could not be touched. He was exceeding every expectation I ever had for him - playing over 1* tracks with the utmost ease. The days of being worried to move up had all been swept away, and suddenly we were excited to climb the grades faster and faster. 1* had gone from an imposing thought to an easy reality in two short shows, and now our sights were set on two star. I was finally on my way to achieving my goals. I finally had it - ‘The Horse’. That one in a million horse that looked like it could not only make it to the big leagues, but actually make it and win. The horse that made it fun, made it easy – the horse that was just perfect for me, in every way.

Among The Stars

A free thoroughbred - winning easily at one star. On his way to two star. Piecing together our dreams for 3 star. At last, it was all happening, my misunderstood Moo and me, against all odds, reaching our place among the greats. We finished the year ranked 2nd in the country for eventing, and with the way Moo was going, I was not planning to stay there. My mom and I sat down with all the savings and planned our eventing travel calendar for 2018 while Moo had his well-deserved Christmas break. We would start with a local event at 1m for an easy start to the year, then start travelling for the big 1* events, get the last of our qualifying rounds, and take on 2* for the national championship title. That was the plan. Not a dream any more, but a plan!

Because at last, I knew we would do it.

We were all so excited for the future - my mom and I, and all our supporters. Team Moo. We loved everything about our boy. He was a larger than life personality that we felt lucky to have as the axis our lives revolved around. We loved his arrogant, demanding ego, how he knew exactly how great he was. We loved his cheeky antics, and how he had matured with all of his character and attitude into a sweet and loving gentleman - a pleasure to travel with, a pleasure to handle, and a pleasure to care for. To ride - a dream come true.

Have you heard the quote, “Shoot for the moon, because even if you miss, you land among the stars”? I didn’t name Moonfire, but whoever did clearly saw the same greatness in him that I did. He was made of star stuff. He was always going to shoot for the moon, and I believe, to the deepest core of my being, that he would have made it. And even though his trajectory was cut short, he will always be a star to anybody who knew him. Moo was just like that. He lit up everything around him.

Among The Stars
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