He strode into the ring with 23 years of experience, slightly bored by the routine of adoration, alternately yawning and vogueing for the cameras. His variegated tail swung near his three white socks and the morning sun shone bronze on his dappled bay coat. He looked at once like any other horse (80% of Thoroughbreds are bay) and like my every girlhood fantasy come to life, Equus incarnate. 16-1 record. A Thoroughbred god. I cried. I cried like my mother cries in movies. When the show was over I hung around. I wanted to have a moment to myself, a moment I could look him in the eye and say, "Thank you for my life."
Standing reverently in front of his stall (still weeping for reasons I could not explain), thrilled to be pointedly ignored by a celebrity on my bucket list, I heard a woman behind me ask, "Would you like us to get him out for you?"
Did the single loss come against Alphabet Soup?!?!?! (The answer is yes.)
Which is how, aside from a loitering foreign photographer, I spent a blissful ten minutes alone scratching, petting, cooing to, and having my photo taken with Cigar.Horses exist to bring us joy. They exist to remind us what it's like to live moment by moment, to feel with our whole selves, to temper our weaknesses and do what we were put on the earth to do. Dozens of vendors are selling overpriced artificial aids and fancy tack, $450 boots, $300 coats, and $60 sweatshirts. $100 umbrellas, $2000 used stall doors. None of it will make people better riders. I got two autographs (US Eventing Olympian Boyd Miller and god of riding William Fox-Pitt), met wonderful people, and gained a lot of inspiration. That won't make me a better rider either. The only way to be better is to honor my horse as intently as we honor the cult of equistrianism.The horse is built like a girder; in the proper position it's quite difficult to fall off, but the horse is only able to carry weight over a certain section of his body. He is powerful, fast, tall, savage, and he knows it. He is curious, a herd animal who mistrusts the unknown and hates being alone. Those traits are why horse and rider bond so easily. Yet with all his physical prowess the horse molds himself to any task we set, from war or sports to police work and disability service ponies. They adapt to every rider, sold throughout their lives to adapt over and over to new feed, new herd hierarchies, new tack, new work. Sometimes they learn to retire gracefully. Sometimes they cope, just trying to get by.As a girl I wanted to be reincarnated as a filly trained by Carl Nafzger and bred to Cigar. If I'd had my wish I would only have seen him once. Thanks to Rolex I can see him every year. Thanks to Cigar, I have horses. Thanks to Rolex, I'm reminded why."Thou shalt fly without wings...."