We’re pleased to be bringing you the first entries of our International Equestrian Blogging Contest. Remember, you can still enter as long as all three of your blogs are submitted by September 30. You can find full rules here.

Heading to Jumper Land, by Leah Levert

When I was four years old, I had the pleasure of meeting Big Ben in person. I don’t remember much of the day, except that Big Ben was huge, but I do remember walking away with a goal: I was going to be a Grand Prix Jumper.

Flash forward to my twenties. I have (finally) bought my first horse, her name is Belle. She’s an Arabian/Quarter Horse cross who, even though she is genetically grey, is quite determined to become a palomino paint. I bought her as a four year old. Even though I was fairly inexperienced with green horses, I knew she was the horse for me. Her basics were solid and best of all she has a great temperament. She’s brave, forgiving, eager, and always willing to learn and the only thing she doesn’t have is a stain proof coat. Best of all: she loves to jump. (Besides, she’s adorable, who can say no to that face?

We had a rocky start getting to the actual jumping part of our career though. Nothing wrong on her end, but I am not the bravest of riders and I’d never ridden a green horse over fences before. It was outside of my league to help her along, and at the time I didn’t really have a coach that could help us either (One was the scary type who thought yelling and demeaning was a helpful teaching method, while the other was kind, but we just didn’t have the time to properly work through things before I headed off to college). But, eventually we did land at an amazing stable with an amazing coach (who happens to be the one I bought Belle from and was very happy to learn she now had a boarding stable!), and we started to finally figure out this jumping thing!

First we hit up hunter land. Our first over-fences show we ended up only competing in the flat classes. Because suddenly those two foot fences felt like five-foot monsters, and falling off twice in the warm up had my coach convincing me that jumping today was just not going to happen. We ended up sitting out the rest of that season (I ended up with a fractured wrist and ankle, oops?) and decided to focus on basics before attempting again.

Next season started with me still grappling with those pesky nerves. So we started with just the hack division, just to get out there, and decided to hit up a later show that offered a cross-rails division. There, not only did we finally click (and canter a full course for the first time) we managed to win Champion! That boosted our confidence a lot, and we headed up to the two-foot fences!

We finally had our rhythm. Thing were going great for us, we were improving so quickly, that my coach and I decided that we should aim for the jumpers next season. That little four-year-old me inside was super excited at that prospect! Finally! The Jumpers!

We had success doing the In House Shows hosted by my coach and trained hard throughout the winter. Belle was fit, strong, and showing me just how capable she’d be of handling to jump off turns (She was amazing at them!).

But, it turns out, our luck just wouldn’t hold out.

Come spring we went out to a local show grounds to do some schooling over their jumper course. Belle felt incredible. She attacked those jumps with such skill and enthusiasm and felt so good. I felt so ready for that first show.

Unfortunately though, she put too much effort in that day and actually tore one of her suspensory ligaments in her hind right leg. The goal I’d had for myself since I was four years old was suddenly torn out of reach and I was staring down a long road to uncertain recovery for the best partner I’ve ever had.