It was four in the morning. I was anxious and couldn’t sleep. Had I packed everything I needed? What if I miss my flight? What if I don’t do well? What if I randomly slip and fall in the ring?
I was to travel from Wisconsin to Raleigh, North Carolina, to show my friend’s Morab stallion in the 2015 Arabian Sport Horse Nationals.
The logistics were daunting.
I’d recently started a job as a medical laboratory technician. But because I’d been injured four weeks prior while showing in a yearling halter class, I’d spent a week with my arm in a sling, resting my sprained shoulder while I tried to learn my new job one-handed.
Then, just days after I was freed from the sling, my friend Wendy Konichek sent me an email that rendered me almost speechless.
“How would you like to show Thunder at the Nationals?”
‘Would I Ever!’
Montego’s Thunder, her dark bay Arabian/Morgan, was one of the first stallions I’d ever fallen in love with, after watching him in a liberty presentation at an equine expo 10 years before. Now 20 years old, he was still lovely and enthusiastic. I said yes, of course. Then reality set in. I had an injured shoulder and only a few accrued hours of time off from work. I’d have to fly to Raleigh, show Thunder, and return within a day.
Work flew by the morning of my flight. Nearly sprinting, I clocked out at the end of the day and bolted to my car for the drive to the airport. A detour had me arriving barely in time, looking so pathetic that security didn’t even bother to slow me down.
It was almost 10 p.m. when I landed in Raleigh. Exhausted, I struggled through the empty airport, head down. Someone touched my shoulder. It was my husband! He’d caught an earlier flight to cheer me on. What a wonderful surprise!
The next morning came early. Again I was anxious. It was the biggest event I’d ever competed in, and I felt a crushing obligation to do justice to my friend’s unwavering faith in me. I watched other horses being shown in sport horse in hand. It was simple, really. Stand the horse up for inspection at the apex of the triangle, then lead him at a walk, then trot, around the triangle so judges could see the quality of the gait, elasticity of movement, and manners.
How Could I Leave?
When our time came, Thunder strutted like a colt. The two judges glanced at me while scrutinizing Thunder’s conformation. I tried to hide my worried expression. Then, as Thunder and I walked the small triangle, he pranced and jigged. I sighed. He stuck his tongue out and shook his head. I tried not to shake mine.
Finally, it was time to trot. He floated! I ran faster, trying not to loolame. He nearly pulled me off my feet with his powerhouse movment. Then it was over and the wait began. After all the individual presentations, scores had to be tabulated and verified.
Time dragged. And I was in a time crunch! I had to catch that flight home to return to my job…but how could I leave without knowing the verdict?
We were all called back into the arena for the top 10, as it was a small class. We showed our stallions off proudly and posed with our top-10 ribbons and plaques. At the photographer’s corner, Thunder’s magnificence and my beaming smile were duly documented. Yet still we waited to learn who would be champion and reserve.
And then: “Montego’s Thunder.”
Really?, I thought. Reserve national champion? It was incredible but true. We took a jubilant victory lap. Thunder strutted for the audience. In a typical klutz move, I dropped the ribbon, but I didn’t even care. We’d done it!
Within 24 hours, I’d cut out from my new job, traveled to an event a thousand miles away, and shown a stallion to a reserve national championship. Those hours were some of the most memorable of my life, made possible by people coming together to help me achieve a dream. Thank you to all.
And thank you, Montego’s Thunder.
Nyssa Sheridan and husband Dustin live in Stoughton, Wisconsin, with their two Arabian horses, Dancing Gdynia and No Greater Honor. When Nyssa isn’t busy working in the hospital laboratory or with her own horses, she can be found volunteering as a director with the Wisconsin Arabian Horse Association and Horse Power Healing Center.