The Jumper Classic

March 26, 2012
By , Arden Hills, MN
Alexis tossed and turned in her bed. She was chosen as one of the top fifteen to participate in the High School Jumper Classics. She would be up against fourteen other competitive riders who are usually eighteen and nineteen and she was only sixteen. Although she had competed in competitions before, it always scares her that she is competing against older people who are possibly better, also scared of being badly judged, even though that never happened yet. She sighed and glanced at her clock on her nightstand next to her bed. “Four o’ clock… I need to get up in two hours… “she said. Sighing again, she got up and got dressed and retrieved her bag with some treats and her phone and a notebook along with a pencil. She quietly opened her door, moving stealthily to her parents’ bedroom. “Mom, I am going to the barn early, okay?” Alexis spoke. Her mom mumbled and said “Why darling? You still have two hours…” “I know, but I can’t sleep and I need to see Comet.” Alexis responded. “Okay, you can go. Be safe alright.” Her mom sighed. “Thanks.” Alexis whispered and left. She went down the stairs, out the door, and locked it behind her as she went out.
She jogged to the barn and got there in fifteen minutes. She knew that Jessie, who is a trainer and owner of Swallow Tail Stables, wouldn’t mind, but will be surprised. She pushed the two sliding doors aside and closed it to a crack. She flipped the light switch, turning the light on by Comet’s stall which was at the end of the aisle. Alexis heard him nickering and grabbed a small stool near her and brought into Comet’s stall. She set it down and sat on it. “Comet, I had to come be with you. I like to talk to you and have your company.” The stallion perked his ears to her voice. “This is going to be a tough competition and I don’t know if I can do it… I know you can, I am just worried that I will mess up.” She continued venting until she sighed and turned away, putting her head in her hands. She heard shuffling behind her and suddenly felt his head wrapping across her chest. She lifted her head finding Comet there nickering. She felt like he was putting her at ease. She traced her finger along the stripe down his black face; his brown eyes relaxed and content. “I guess we do have a chance, huh boy? You can make me look good and bad.” She smiled. “We will succeed whether we lose or not.”
“You’ll be fine,” a voice crept from outside the stall. Alexis looked up seeing Jessie. Alexis blushed. “How did you know I was here?” She asked. “I saw you from my window and decided to see what was on your mind.” Jessie answered. It’s the show… I am just nervous as always and wanted to see Comet,” Alexis explained. Jessie nodded understandingly and left her alone with Comet. Two hours later, they got Comet ready to trailer and loaded the truck with food, sleeping stuff, horse supplies, and tack. Jessie helped Alexis load Comet into the trailer and secured him. And off they went for a day’s drive to the show.
The sun was getting lower in the sky as they arrived at the show ground. Alexis shifted nervously in her seat as Jessie pulled into the grassy parking lot for horse trailers. They parked near the jumper barn, shaped like a letter T. Alexis heard Comet in the trailer let out a sharp whinny of curiousness. Alexis jumped out of the car and dashed to the side trailer door on the left. She opened it and was greeted by the black stallion. He nickered and nuzzled her affectionately. She felt herself relax realizing that she had been so rigid and the stallion’s presence soothed her. She smiled. “Here we are Comet… Let’s do our best tomorrow.” Alexis moved to the back of the trailer and unlocked the latches and slowly, with the help of Jessie, lowered the trailer ramp. The stallion quietly backed down the ramp with Alexis’ soothing words to keep him calm. She took a hold of the lead rope that was attached to him, and the tail of it hung over his back. She brought him to the side of the trailer to brush him up. He let out another shrill whinny to the other horses who responded. “I’ll go get your number and the course for tomorrow. You can go bring Comet to the barn for the night,” Jessie spoke as she walked away into the busy crowds that were getting their horses ready for tonight and tomorrow. The jumpers were required to come the day before the show, to prepare and the people who are doing hunters arrive tomorrow, since they are after the jumpers.
Alexis retrieved her grooming supplies from the truck and set them on the grass next to Comet. She grabbed the soft brush and brushed the dust off of the stallion’s ebony coat. After she finished, she tossed it back into the grooming bucket. She untied him, and led him towards the big, white, T shaped barn. The prancing stallion lifted his tail, like a banner, and arched his neck, showing off in front of everyone. His muscles rippled under his skin, showing that he had tremendous power and agility. “Show off,” Alexis chuckled and gave him a pat on the shoulder. They were greeted by a stable hand at the entrance he held a clipboard with the names of the riders and horses of the jumpers. He asked for her name and the horse’s name. “Alexis Brown and Comet, his show name is Storm in the Galaxy.” The man’s eyes lit up. “Comet, I have been searching for this big guy ever since I quit!” She stared at him, befuddled. He continued, “Long story short, I used to work where he was a foal. And one day, he was sold. I was so furious and I quit my job, and searched in vain for him. So I found this place, and gave up the search and worked here ever since. I loved this guy and saw potential in him.” “Wow…” Alexis said, not finding her words. “I am glad you found him. You guys make a great team.” He smiled. Alexis stared quizzically at him. He laughed and answered. “I have seen you at previous shows and I didn’t recognize the stallion until now. I have been rooting for you ever since I saw you guys jump.” He smiled. Alexis smiled, getting comfortable with the man. “Here is your stall number and it is just down the aisle on the right. Oh, and my name is Ryan.” Alexis shook hands with him. “It is nice to meet you Ryan. She smiled and walked away to the designated stall.
Comet tossed his head up, rigid with alertness. He gave a nervous snort and started balking. “Calm down. There is nothing to be afraid of.” Alexis murmured. She started talking nonsense to him to keep him calm and he tentatively moved forward. “Two hundred thirty-two” she muttered. “It must be my show number.” She continued with Ryan said it was located and found it. She opened the door, and unclipped the lead rope and Comet eagerly started to dig into the hay that awaited him. Alexis secured the door and walked away to unload. She unloaded her horse stuff to the tack barn that was separated from the original horse barn. To Alexis, she thought it was weird, but didn’t question why it was like that. Finished and exhausted she trudged around to find Jessie. She spotted the jumper’s arena and her stomach churned at the sight. “Those are huge jumps! It has to be near four feet or so!” She exclaimed quietly. She knew she has jumped this big, but it looking at it now is different than riding to and over them. Can we really succeed?” She questioned herself. She shook her head. She knew that Comet is capable of doing this. But there are tough riders going for the prize of a Jumper Classic trophy along with the grand prize of 5,000 dollars. She personally wants to test the trust between Comet and her and have fun. “I see you found the ring you are going to be in.” Alexis jumped and whipped around, seeing that it was Jessie with the course and her number which was 232. “You scared me, Jessie! Alexis grumbled. Jessie chortled and continued. “It is six fifteen; do you want to go eat?” Alexis nodded vigorously and followed after Jessie. They navigated around people and horses to their truck. Jessie opened the door of the Dodge Ram and retrieved a cooler of food for them for dinner and for tomorrow. Jessie placed the cooler on the grass and grabbed two ham and cheese sandwich and tossed one to Alexis. Alexis caught it, and they sat down next to each other, leaning on the side of the trailer eating in silence.
Uncomfortable in the silence, Alexis spoke up “Do you think we’ll have a chance at this?” Jessie stared at her thoughtfully. “Yes. But remember, keep him under control. He will get excited about this, because it involves speed and effectiveness. Besides, we don’t want you in the dirt like last time,” she winked and smiled. Alexis rolled her eyes at the memory. When riding Comet three months after they had first bonded and trusted each other, they were doing so well in training that they started jumping three feet. After the first three foot jump, he got excited and gave a buck that knocked her off guard. Comet took advantage of this and took off at a fast pace. She held on and tried turning him in small circles to slow him down. He stubbornly refused and aimed for the next jump and right before taking off, he abruptly stopped; sending Alexis over it horseless. Alexis smiled as she remembered staring at him dumbfounded and Comet stared back innocently. Alexis snapped back to reality and made a face at her trainer. They chatted easily and explored the showground before hitting the sack.
The sun had gone down and the lights from the barn and several other places gave some light to help them see. They were going to sleep in the truck for fun. Alexis changed her jeans and blue shirt to a black sweatpants and a long sleeve purple shirt. Jessie swapped to grey sweatpants and a black, loose T-shirt. They unrolled their sleeping bags they packed. Alexis volunteered to sleep in the passenger seat, knowing that Jessie likes to lie down and prefers the back. In the dim light that the barn provided, Alexis curled up in the passenger seat and drifted off with an uneasy thought. It just awhile ago when she went to see Comet to say goodnight and give him a carrot she saved for him, he was pacing and obviously uneasy. He would not accept the carrot. And it happened once before that when he entered the barn. I wonder if he senses something that I don’t? She wondered to herself and shifted uneasily. She closed her eyes and slowly drifted off.
A piercing scream rang in her ears and she jolted awake, shaking the car slightly on her sudden movements, she stared in shock and fear at the sight before her. Flames crackled and roared with fury. The horses screaming with terror filled her ears, piercing her in the heart. She started screaming at Jessie to wake up, startling the sleepy trainer. Jessie mumbled and snapped awake at the sight of the fire. Alexis opened the door and sprinted off before Jessie said anything. She heard her say something but she could form it in her head. All she was thinking of were the horses. She reached the barn entrance where she met the stable hand. She knew Jessie will get help, but they may not make it in time. She felt the intense heat. She braced herself and slid open the big doors, blasts of heat and smoke puffed out, leaving her coughing and backing away. She filled her lungs with the clean air, pulled the collar of her shirt over her nose and dove into the burning barn. Fire was burning all around, above mostly. Some burning debris was on the cemented floor. “I can’t let them die, I can’t let tem die.” She thought. There were fifteen horses and luckily they were all in one aisle. She veered around the debris and reached the first horse of fifteen who was a chestnut gelding. She grasped the latched, it burned with heat, she winced and pulled the door open and the first horse bolted out to safety. Alexis continued down the aisle releasing them one by one. She released the twelfth horse and came up to Comet’s stall. He was screaming loudly, eyes rolled white. Her skin felt on fire from the merciless heat of the flames. Her hands burned from handling the hot, metal latches. She opened his door and encouraged him out. Once he was out, he didn’t run. “Go Comet!” Alexis screamed. He would not budge. She screamed again, this time smacking him on his flank. The stallion flinched and hesitated, looking at her, making her choke up with threatening tears. She smacked him again, and he finally sprinted out to the door to safety. She moved on to the next one that contained a grey mare. Once the door opened she squealed and dashed out after a pile of fire debris fell down from above in her stall, sending ashes everywhere. The smoke thickened, her eyes burned from the smoke making tears streaming down her cheek. Her hands felt like they were on fire once she opened the last stall containing a horse. The palomino backed away, eyes rolled with fear. She grabbed her halter and pulled. The mare backed away even more. Alexis heard the groaning of the building and knew they had to get out. She struggled to stay calm and spoke softly and encouragingly to the terrified mare; slowly they got out of the stall. All of the sudden, she bolted for the exit knocking Alexis down. She heard the breaking of something above her and curled up, covering her head as it fell from above. It crashed with a loud hiss. She screamed as searing pain coursed through her left arm. She rolled away from the object that fell and put out the small fire the caught on her long sleeve, but it had already burned her. Struggling to breathe and tears streamed even more at the pain and ashes surrounding her. “This is it…” She thought. “I am going to die…” She closed her eyes as she reflected at her memories of her and Comet.
She had rescued him from slaughter, retrained him and he was a really fast learner. Through the good times and bad, they had bonded, they were inseparable. He came from a violent and terrified horse to a horse that is loyal, smart, loving, and even stubborn and most of all, her best friend. Alexis realized that she had already won. Their trust didn’t need to be tested. It had been tested and they had passed. A clatter of hooves startled her as she snapped out of her trance to see a figure come towards her. She gave a raspy gasp. “Comet, you came for me…” She spoke, her voice breaking. He nickered and knelt down for her. Alexis forced her weakened body onto his strong back and grabbed a handful of his mane to hang on. The building started crumbling behind them, forcing them to find another way out than the main entrance. Comet took off at a gallop and he turned to the left of the T-shaped barn aisle way and was immediately stopped by a chunk of ceiling that fell. He screamed and reared. He whipped around with Alexis clinging on, letting him find the way. He dashed the opposite way and Alexis saw a glimpse of the opening where the doors used to be. She guessed that they might have collapsed. Their breathing quickly was succumbed by harsh coughing. When they got near to the exit, a flaming pole crashed down from the side, sending flames up to three and a half feet in the air. Alexis felt the dark stallion falter. She spoke soothingly and urged him on. He flicked his ears and snorted. He understood and mustered his strength together and soared over the flames and landed smoothly.
They continued running until they stopped in the river that was slightly downhill from the used to be barn. The water went up to Comet’s knees. They stopped, breathing heavily and coughing. Comet and Alexis shook with the aftermath of fear. She gave Comet’s shoulder a shaky pat, trying to calm down. The stallion nosed the water and started pawing at it. He buckled down to roll in the water. Alexis jumped off, her legs gave away and she plunged under. She sat up spluttering and coughing out the water. She laughed and sighed as she sat there. It felt so good in the water. She winced as the pain returned into her arm. She pulled up her left sleeve revealing a burn shaped like flames. Alexis gave a sigh, “That will remain there forever…” The drenched stallion came up behind her and wrapped his neck around her chest just like he did the night before they left for the show. The moonlight peeked out from the clouds making everything a bit brighter and the water shimmering. The cool breeze blew gently, making the surrounding trees rustling in the wind. Alexis closed her eyes again and absorbed this memory. She smiled and stroked the stallion’s face. “I suppose we should be getting back.” Alexis said finally pushing his face away and hoisted herself up. She signaled him to lower for her to mount. She hopped on to the seventeen hand stallion. She nudged him forward into a canter. He picked it up and started cantering up back the way they came. Alexis saw a crowd of people before the burnt down barn and two fire trucks sitting near the debris of the barn. The firefighters worked on what is left of the fire. All the faces turned to Alexis and the Comet. Their faces coated with shock. They slowed as they approached the crowds. Jessie quickly approached them, with her jaw dropped. Alexis slid of the stallion and nervously looked at her trainer. Jessie stretched out her arms and Alexis ran into them embracing her, even though she was still wet. They braced each other tightly. “I thought we lost you in the fire. Comet reared and broke loose from me and went into the fire again. I thought he was out of his mind. But he must have gone for you, Alexis.” Jessie choked at her words. Alexis clenched her teeth fighting back more tears. “I thought I was going to die.” Alexis replied, her voice breaking. “It’s alright now. Everything will be okay.” Jessie said softly. The night began to lighten, signaling that a new dawn is coming. “Are all the horses safe?” Alexis asked concerned. “Yes, although they are still fazed by the experience. Thanks to you, Alexis, they are all alive and uninjured.” Ryan answered. “The show will continue, if things go well.” Ryan spoke again. They put all the horses into a different barn that was on the showground. Everybody went back to their sleeping lairs. Jessie and Alexis settled down again to gain a few more hours of sleep.
Jessie was up and going at six. Later, she came back to find Alexis still asleep. She smiled, opening the passenger door and woke Alexis gently reminding her about her big day today. “What time is it?” Alexis mumbled. “Six-thirty,” answered Jessie. Alexis heaved a sigh. “I don’t want to get up…” She mumbled again. “I know, but I am sure Comet is looking for you, especially after the fire last night.” Jessie reasoned. She sighed again and sat up. Jessie moved out of the way and Alexis stumbled out and reached back for her show clothes to change into after she finished up with Comet. She grabbed her tall, black riding boots along with her too. She slipped on her mud boots and made her way to the different barn that the horses were lodged. It was a bit further than the one that burned down. The sun beamed down, warming up the air. She could tell it will be a hot afternoon and was glad the Jumpers were in the morning. When she got to the barn, and found Comet’s stall. She stared in surprise at the sight before her. Her tack and grooming stuff were there already. “I brought it all in for you while you were asleep.” Jessie explained. “And I groomed him up for you.” A voice announced behind them. She turned, seeing Ryan smiling. A smile spread on her lips, “Thanks you guys.” Alexis looked at Ryan, “He remembers you Ryan. I know it.” He shrugged and nodded with a twinkle in his eye. “Oh and here is the schedule for the riders.” Ryan handed her a paper. She looked at it, spotting her name immediately. She is going to be the eighth person riding. The Jumpers start at seven-thirty and end at eight thirty with the trophy ceremony. The Hunters start at nine and end at noon, since there are more people for that. She didn’t need to worry about Hunters, since she is doing Jumpers. Alexis hung around the barn for a few minutes and changed to her nice long sleeved collared show shirt, put on the navy blue show jacket and white breeches with black gloves. Everyone had to wear these kinds of clothes for shows Classic shows. Usually Jumper shows allowed collared short sleeve shirt. She gave Comet a carrot before going out to walk the course with Jessie, figuring out the best strategy for Alexis and Comet. She was comfortable with all the verticals, but was intimidated by the three oxers, especially the last jump which was an oxer. There was a big spread too; she knew Comet could handle them all. Alexis started doubting herself again. Jessie sensed it. “Alexis, you have jumped them all and rarely mess up, don’t worry yourself about it.” “I always worry about it until I do it.” Alexis admitted, blushing. “Remember; keep him in control when you come into the combination of three jumps and you will go clean. Also, don’t go too fast to the last jump. That is one of the mistakes riders make, when they are anxious to finish. Just trust yourself in what you know, and let Comet take care of it all.” Jessie informed sternly. “No negative thoughts up there, got it?” Alexis nodded understandingly. There are nine jumps, and two you go over again. There are a lot of tight turns and difficult jumps.
At seven-fifteen, they went back and tacked up Comet and brought him to the warm up ring, which was next the Jumper ring. Jessie helped her mount the seventeen hand stallion and gave her a pat of encouragement on her leg. Alexis walked, trotted, and cantered Comet, warming up his muscles. Jessie set up a simple 3’0 vertical jump. She aimed Comet towards in and he perked his ears and popped over it like it was a smallest jump in the world. Boy he is going to have a ball of fun jumping those monster jumps. Alexis thought, smiling at the thought. When Alexis’ number was called it was seven fifty. She exits the warm up ring and entered the big arena filled with jumps. She looked at Jessie, who mouthed good luck. Alexis gave a nervous smile and turned her attention back to the course. She breathed out and asked for a canter. Comet snorted and picked it up. They circled before the first fence. She heard the bell rang, signaling the count down for her to start. She aimed the stallion at the first white and blue vertical. He lifted off smoothly and landed, tossing his head in pure excitement. Alexis soothed him gently and closed her fingers tighter on the reins to avoid him going faster. The second jump ahead loomed and she guided him there and he jumped over and when the landed Alexis immediately steered the stallion in a tight roll back and jumped the big oxer. Comet landed with a snorted. The next three jumps were organized on a circle. Alexis looked ahead to the next jump to her right. they cleared it with ease. She continued and turned to the jump at a slight diagonal. Clear so far, Alexis thought satisfied. “Good boy.” She murmured every once in awhile on the course. She continued turning him to the right over the third jump again. After landing they continued straight to the spread ahead of them. Alexis could feel the stallion’s energy ready to explode soon. She started murmuring nonsense to keep him focused and they cleared the spread with little difficulty. The hard part for them is ahead. The combination of three jumps in a row, between one and two fits one stride and between the second and third fits two strides. And three more jumps after that comes up quick. She stared at the next obstacle on her left and Comet threw his head and started going faster. Alexis sat deep and closed her fingers tight on the reins, struggling to maintain the powerful stallion. Finally, he gave up and listened with a huff. One, two three, release, Alexis counted as she came up to the first jump of the three. Land, one, and up, land, one, two and over, she counted. And they cleared the three. She gave a short breath of relief and focused on the last three. Alexis and Comet cleared the two, and she turned Comet sharply to the left, facing to where she entered. She gave some rein and let the stallion speed up a notch to the last jump. One, two three, four, and they soared over the last huge oxer. Her heart sank as she heard Comet’s back hooves hit the pole and hoped that it did not fall. They landed and she let Comet go out fast to finish. She glanced at the last jump and was satisfied that the pole stayed. She gave the big pats and praise to Comet. They slowed and walked out of the arena. The next rider who came in rides the palomino whose name was Diamond in the Rough.
After all the riders rode their course, only five had a clear round. One was the chestnut gelding, the grey mare, the palomino mare, a bay mare and her. She hugged Comet once she heard she made it to the next round, but it also made her nervous. They are shortening the course, but raising it higher and those who knock it down are eliminated. It almost went backwards, starting with the finishing jump and ending after the combination of three. They made the turns a bit tighter, but not impossible moved all but the combination jumps a bit closer. Alexis was listed to go last. She watched all four of the riders attempt it, only one succeeded in staying clean. The gelding knocked a pole down and the palomino refused and her rider fell off. Alexis swallowed hard. If she makes it she would go against the grey mare who is an excellent jumper, and the girl riding her was a good rider. If she didn’t get a clean round she will be second, depending on her points. She entered the ring again; she whispered encouragement to Comet, giving him pats before starting. After they went over the first jump, Comet decided to be a good boy and responded to all the things Alexis asked him to do. They cleared all three and were quickly approach the combination. “Over, land, one two, over, land one and up…” She whispered aloud. Cheering was getting louder once they finished. Now it was down to her and the girl riding the grey mare. They both went again twice and got clears even though the jumps were raised up each time. They took a five minute break for the horses and adjusted the jumps which were 4’9 and 5’0 jumps. Sweat started to drop down Alexis’ face. She gave another pat on Comet’s sweaty shoulder. Jessie handed Alexis a water bottle, she took it with gratitude and drank it thirstily. “They raised it and it is not just going clean, it’s going for speed too.” Jessie explained. “Oh joy… Comet’s favorites combined in one.” Alexis sighed with a hint of worry. Jessie gave a smile, “Don’t worry, you guys can do it. I have no doubts, I have faith in you. Again, the mare went first and got a clean with the time of 24.48. The crowds cheered happily for her. When she walked out, they actually looked at each other. “Great round,” Alexis said, attempting to get to know her a bit. She just nodded. Alexis looked away and nudged Comet forward into the arena.
“Hey.” Her voice called meekly behind Alexis. Alexis twisted to look at her curiously. “Good luck,” she spoke shyly. Alexis gave a reassuring smile. “Thanks.” They parted and Alexis turned her focus to Comet who was starting to prance and Alexis tried to relax to calm him, but she was shaky and nervous. Alexis nudged his side and the stallion responded with a flick of his tail and cantered off. Alexis turned to the first jump and cleared it with inches to spare. She allowed him to get faster as they approached the oxer; they landed and continued to the next one on the opposite side they were on. Comet’s huge strides got there really quick and they jumped a bit too early. Oops! Please stay up. Alexis begged as she heard the touch of the pole. She didn’t dare look back. They approached the combination and Alexis slowed the stubborn stallion with difficulty, he quickly listened and shortened his stride. Time seemed to slow as Alexis approached the combination; cheers seemed to be muffled as she listened to the rhythms of the hooves pounding the dirt. They leaped over the first, clearing it, and the second, after he land Alexis felt Comet take a huge stride forward and soared over the last jump. They landed and she didn’t need to look at the clock timer. She knew they had won. She heard Ryan and Jessie hollering with excitement. She leaned down onto his neck while he was still cantering and stroked his sweaty neck, murmuring good boy over and over. Tears streamed down her face as they slowed and exit the ring. They had done it; finally she saw what the time she got, it was 22.09. It felt like flying. A smile spread across her face as she saw Jessie and Ryan running towards her.
She hopped off Comet’s back and hugged them tightly. Finally they released each other. “I am so proud of you. You guys did great!” Jessie complimented. Alexis smiled appreciatively. “Excuse me; I am going to go say hi to the girl with the grey mare.” Alexis turned and walked towards her who apparently was waiting for her attention. “You did great.” She said, stroking her mare’s damp neck. Alexis shook her head. “We did great,” she corrected. “My name is Heather.” The girl introduced. “I am Alexis, nice to meet you and great job.” Alexis replied. They embraced each other and walked with the other thirteen riders into the arena with their horses. The palomino got a bronze medal for third, Heather got a silver medal, and Alexis got a gold medal, along with the silver trophy the say ‘Jumper Classic Champion.’ She also received the five thousand dollar prize, which she insisted sharing with Heather. The camera men took pictures of them and soon the all brought their horses in to clean up. Alexis was excited for her new friend, Heather who was looking for a new place to ride is interested in Swallow Tail Stables. She finished grooming Comet and paused to stare at him. He lifted his head from eating hay, turned and thrust his head gently into her folded arms. She gave a laugh and scratched his forehead. “Yes, we had indeed already won before the Classic.” She thought aloud.





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