By Shreya Yadav, age 16, New Delhi, India
My hands shook as I stood amidst a maze of people talking and laughing loudly. The sounds were a blur, and my ears were ringing. The thought of running away from here crossed my mind, but I stood my ground. I took a sip of water, the cool liquid giving relief to my dry mouth like rain to a desert. Finally, the storm in my head began to clear, and I pushed my nervousness away.
I was here, at Gurgoan Equistrian club for a race, and I was not going to just give up. I walked across the small enclosure, confidence returning to my manner with each stride. The familiar and accustomed smell of hay and horses filled the air as I entered the stables. My eyes met those of my mare’s, and I smiled. Her chestnut brown fur glistened in the small patches of sunlight that staggered through the broken window. I walked over to Havanna, my Havanna, and skimmed my fingers across the little, white patch of fur on her forehead. The feel of the rugged yet soft fur sent a wave of ease through me. Any nervousness or fear I had was gone as I admired my horse.
At that moment, an official entered the barn and muttered those two words I had been waiting for: “It’s time.” I let out a deep gush of air, zipped my boots, and slid on my helmet. As I opened the door of the stable, Havanna neighed in excitement. She was ready to run, and so was I. I led her to the start line, and putting my left leg in the stirrup, I pushed myself upward and onto the saddle. At that moment, there was no other place I would have rather been. I took the reins in my hands, my heart pounding against my chest—not with fear but with eagerness to get out there. I was so fervent that I could barely sit in my saddle. And then, at last, the sound of the whistle bellowed. I nudged Havanna with the corner of my foot, but she had already taken off faster than a plane on a runway!
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to fly? A rush, soaring through fast-paced winds, feeling as light as a feather, an ecstatic thing like no other. Galloping at this insanely fast speed was all of this and so much more. The wind hitting my face as I sped along the track, the audience cheering, gave me a euphoria, and I leaned forward and gave another nudge. Havanna went faster, and from the corner of my eye, I saw some horses. When I looked ahead, a gasp fell from my mouth as I realized I was coming first. My eyes grew wide as the finish line came into sight. And in the next second I had crossed the white chalk line. I pulled on the reins, and we steadily came to a halt.
The next 15 minutes were a daze, everything happening very quickly. I was led, on my horse, to the enclosure where the chief guest handed me a small gold trophy. I wrapped my palms around the cool metal, and I could almost taste the success. I patted my horse, and she twisted her neck and touched my foot with her nose. We were a team, and we had won.