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The Best Ride Of My Life

Hello, my name is Genevieve de Fontaine, and I am 15 years old. I live in Sebastopol, CA and I attend Credo High School in Cotati, CA. I recently had the great honor of participating in the Rocky Mountain Horse Association International Grand Championship in Lexington, Kentucky at the beginning of September. I would like to share my experience with you. Here’s my story:

We took a hard landing into the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky on Tuesday at 12:00 midnight. We finally made it after several delays and 7 hours of flying. I was exhausted, so my mom and I drove straight to the hotel. All I wanted was to climb into my bed and fall asleep, but as soon as I got into my bed, I couldn’t fall asleep. All I could think about was that I was going to show my new horse in the RMHA International Grand Championship, the top-level show for the Rocky Mountain horse. It took a long time, but at some point, I finally closed my eyes and fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning with a sudden burst of excitement. The room was filled with morning sunlight. I quickly jumped out of bed and got ready while my mom was still getting up. We grabbed some breakfast on our way to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY, where the Championship was being held, and where my new horse was being stalled. My new horse is a Rocky Mountain mare and her registered name is “Having a Big Time”, we call her Big Time.

The moment I saw her I could see that she was tall, with a beautiful chocolate-colored dapple coat and a long white mane and tail. She is beautiful! A True fairytale horse. She turned her head and sniffed me. She had the most elegant face I have ever seen. We spent some time grooming her and giving her treats, and then I was ready to try her out, to ride and get a feel for her. We tacked her up with saddle and bridle and lead her to the arena. I got on and took her a few times around the ring, the ring that will be the show arena for the championships. I don’t think I have ever ridden a horse with so much power, but still easy to control. I had fallen in love. After the ride, I took her back, untacked her, and put her back into her stall.

I rode her like this a few more times in the next two days leading up to the championships. Each day the show goes from 9:00 in the morning to 10:00 at night, sometimes later. I rode her after show hours, sometimes at 1:00 in the morning, in order to build our relationship, so that we would be ready for the big day. The Grand Championship would be held on Saturday. I wanted Big Time to get to know me well before our big ride.

On Saturday, I woke up ready. Today was the day that I would have the best ride of my life. We grabbed some breakfast, something small of course since I was still very nervous. We drove to the Horse Park once more, got out of the car, and went to see Big Time. She had already eaten her breakfast. I had the whole day to watch the show since my class, Youth 12-17 Show Pleasure Grand Championship, wasn’t until nighttime, the second to last class of the day. 

The whole day I watched some of the new friends I had made show their horses. My class got closer and closer. When it was finally time to get ready, I walked to the barn and got changed into my show clothes: a dark purple suit and vest with bowtie and put on my black top hat--a requirement for the grand championship class. I was really, really nervous. Once Big Time was all tacked up and I was ready, we walked down to the warm-up ring. I visualized my ride as I walked. Visualizing my ride always seems to help calm me down when I am preparing to compete.

When I got down to the ring, I looked into Big Time’s eyes, she knew what was coming next. I got on her and started walking her round and round the warm-up ring. There were so many riders in the ring, it was hard not to bump into anybody. Everyone was warming up for my class. Each and every rider with a championship on their minds. Some of the competitors wished me good luck as they passed by me. Was I ready? I had been training for this moment at home for many years now but I questioned myself. I had only ridden Big Time a handful of hours. 3 hours total to be exact. But, I had to trust. I had to trust Big Time and believe in myself. I came all this way for the biggest Rocky Mountain Horse show in the United States. I’m here to have the best ride of my life.

The announcer called the class. One after the other, the riders took to the show ring. I followed the horse in front of me. I could feel Big Time’s excitement coursing through her body. My heart was pumping so fast I thought it could explode. They called for the show gait, which is the slower of the two gaits. Big Time was moving out and lifting up her legs so high, it felt like we were floating. Then they asked for the pleasure gait, the faster gait. Big Time knew this was her que. She continued her high step and went even faster, faster than I had gone with her before. She passed everyone that got in our way. She knew exactly what I wanted, what I needed her to do. We were connected now, I could just feel it. The crowd roared as we passed them. I could hear my name being yelled out.

At this very moment, I felt free. I was a part of something bigger than me, something that I will never forget. Then the announcer called for the trail walk and I slowed Big Time all the way down to the flat walk. We were then asked with the others to walk to the middle of the ring to line up for the judges. We all sat on our horses and waited for what felt like an eternity for the judges to announce their results. I was exhausted. I looked over at the other competitors and they seemed exhausted too. Their horses were breathing heavily, nostrils flaring, their sides breathing in and out rapidly. I could hear Big Time breathing hard too.

It felt like thirty minutes until they were ready to call the results. With 10 of the best Rocky Mountain horses and youth riders, this was a hard class to judge! I wanted to know the placings but I also didn’t. They called the number for Grand Champion. It wasn’t me. But then I heard my number, 236, for Reserve Grand Champion. Then I heard the crowd screaming, yelling, and applauding. What had just happened? Did I really hear my number? I couldn’t believe it, I had just been called for Reserve Grand Champion! I came out of the show ring with a huge smile on my face. I can't even put into words how I felt at that exact moment, I was so overwhelmed with joy. My mom came running over congratulating me and taking thousands of pictures. I got off and gave Big Time a huge hug and of course lots of treats. I am so lucky to have this incredible horse who made my dreams come true. I’m so grateful to my mom who made this possible. I can’t thank her enough. This is why I love to ride horses because there is never a dull moment. Best ride of my life.

I would like to thank my Mom and Dad, Amity and Stephan de Fontaine, and my little brother Xavier, for helping make this dream come true.