The Arabian Race

May 19, 2010
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I flicked my ears back and forth to try to listen to what Sheebon, our tribe leader, was saying to our tribe. My heart was racing and it was hard for me to focus with the excitement I had buried inside me. I heard Sheebon say my name, and I flinched with joy and astonishment. I couldn’t believe it. I would be the one to compete in the Arabian Race.

I was the youngest colt ever to be picked to compete in the race across the Arabian Desert, and in fact, the first yearling to ever race in the history of the contest. The Arabian Race took place once a year and has been going on for thousands of years. A horse from every tribe is chosen by its elders to race. It is the greatest honor a horse can be given, and to be given to me at such a young age meant the elders had complete faith in me.
Many years before I was born my father was chosen for the race as well, so racing was in my blood. He came in second place to the racer from our rival tribe. For the last twenty years our rival tribe had beaten us and come in first, while we came in second. I knew I must beat our rival tribe this year to restore our honor.
The entire tribe looked to me with open eyes, contemplating whether they thought the elders had made the right choice to choose such a young colt to race. But they would never be sure until the race is over.
The prize for the race was that the winning horse received 100 acres of land to share with their tribe. But everyone knows that the motivation needed to cross the finish line was not the land, but the pride, honor, and respect that they received.
Everyone started filing out of the clearing and back to their homes. As I slowly made my way over to my tree, I thought of the monumental day ahead of me. I laid down under my tree and settled on the thick grass. The sun was setting over the mountains, bringing darkness to the field. I watched the other horses quietly settle under their own trees. I could feel many of their eyes looking my way, still thinking whether or not tomorrow would be a day to remember for the better, or the worse. And the entire responsibility rested on my shoulders.
I was exhausted, excited, jumpy, and nervous, all at the same time. But I knew that I must sleep if I planned on winning the next day. As my eyes closed slowly I thought of my father, and what he would say to me if he were here.
I awoke as the sun was rising up in the sky. The field was humming with the music of silence. The morning dew was beginning to seep into the ground, accentuating the smell of the grass. I tried to take in the bliss as much as possible, because I knew I would not have that kind of peace for a long time to come.
Many of the horses began to rise as the sun did, and so I finally got up. Our tribe gathered and we all made our way to the race. Sheebon led the way and I followed quietly behind. I could hear the noise of a hundred tribes from miles away. With every step I took, the anxiety got worse. I could feel my legs shaking.
Sheebon sensed my fright and said, “Good things happen to good horses, Dalgo.”

We rounded a turn and the race grounds opened up to us like a flower. There were thousands and thousands of horses everywhere. As we passed, many glared at me with mixed emotions.
Sheebon whispered, “They stare because they are intimidated by you.” The word had gotten out about the first yearling ever to compete in the Arabian Race. On a normal day the attention would have been nice. But every horse I heard whispering sent chills down my spine. The next few hours were a blur, and before I knew it we were lining up at the start line. There was a huge black horse next to me, who was racing for our rival tribe. I knew right then that he would be the biggest competition. As I looked down the line of horses, I saw that I was one of the smallest. My teeth started chattering and the black horse turned to me.
“Looks like we have a scared little pony with us here today, boys.” Some of the other horses around started snickering.
“Vongoon! Stay focused!” screamed the tribe leader of the big black horse. Vongoon, now that was a brutal name. I wished I had a name like that. But no, I was stuck with Dalgo. Before I could react the shot was fired and the horses lurched forward into combat. I jumped at the noise and got a late start. But I couldn’t let it bother me because I knew it was a long race.
With every stride, I tried to push harder and harder on the dry sand, trying to build up speed and catch up to the other horses. We rounded a turn out of sight of the race grounds and right away some of the horses began pushing and nipping at others. Sheebon had warned me about the illegal things that went on out of the sight from the crowd. The sun was beating down on me as I pushed myself harder and harder. I started passing a few horses, and before I knew it I was in the middle of the pack. I looked ahead and saw Vongoon at the lead of the pack. A grey horse came up beside him, looking to pass, but he seemed oblivious to Vongoon’s intentions. In only a second, Vongoon body-slammed him, harder than I’ve ever seen a horse do before. There was a loud cracking noise as loud as lightening, and with it the horse fell to the ground. We were running so fast I didn’t even have time to see if the horse was still breathing from the blow.
As the race continued, our pace began to slow, but the brutality got worse. More and more horses began to fall. I was smart enough to stay out of the middle of the herd of horses. I stayed on the outside and tried to will myself to keep going. Many horses slowed to a canter and fell behind. I kept thinking about what it meant to me to win the race.
We had been galloping for miles and miles and miles. I couldn’t even give myself an idea of how far I had gone. For small periods of time I had basically zoned out and left my legs to what they had been doing for hours. The pain was gone by now and I couldn’t feel a single bone in my body, let alone my legs. I had no idea of how I was doing it, but somehow my legs took one step after another. Somehow, and I have no idea how it happened, but I got into second place behind Vongoon. Many horses had fallen, and many had fallen too far behind to ever catch up. I never looked back, but I could hear by the hoofbeats that the rest of the frightening pack was around twenty yards behind Vongoon and me.
I was gaining on the huge black horse, until I was only a few yards behind him. I came up on his side and he glued his ears back in anger. I was being cautious, but he was faster than I gave him credit for. I saw a blur of motion and before I could move out of the way he had taken a chunk out of my shoulder. Blood started to run down my leg and the pain felt like little needles jabbing me everywhere. My whole left side started to burn, but my legs kept striding ahead. It was as if they didn’t know how to stop because I had been running for so long.
I gave another yard or so of space between Vongoon and me for my own sake. The expression on his face was priceless. He looked so angry that it must have hurt his face to give me the look that he did. It would have made me smile if I hadn’t been in so much pain. I could tell he was about to try something else to get me out of the race, but before he could, we rounded a huge turn on a mountain side and I could see the ocean. The finish line was at the tower ahead on the beach. I knew Vongoon would never try anything with thousands of horses in sight, so I focused every cell in my body on the coastline. We were running so fast that I became blind. There was no wind, but the wind we were creating was forceful enough to send tears streaming down my eyes. My hooves were moving so fast that my stride had turned into one beat. All four legs pounding on the ground sounded like one step, and it felt like one too. My heart was running so fast that I couldn’t hear it. I could not tell one body part from another. It was as if my entire being had turned into one force with its one and only goal. The crowd of horses became clearer, but I stayed focused on the waves crashing on the shore. I blocked out all the noise, all the irritating sounds, and tried to listen to the ocean as it called out to me.
My brain could not tell my legs to move faster, so I basically prayed they would carry me into victory. The ocean was so close that I could taste the salt. We had finally reached the rows of horses, the last hundred yards. I prayed with my entire soul. Then, I could no longer see Vongoon in the corner of my eye, but I did not dare look back. The ocean was still pulling me towards itself. I passed the tower and didn’t stop. I crashed right into the ocean and went under. I could finally hear my heart, but it was so fast that I could not tell one chest-thrusting beat from another.
I had to come up for air because I think I had basically forgotten to breathe for the last stretch. I looked out into the never ending ocean, and then turned to view the sea of horses racing towards me. The very sight was frightening and exhilarating and a pure phenomenon all at the same time. I froze that moment, because it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It would last an eternity in my memory, and forever in history.

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