Kim Meier
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Kim Meier

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EN Gives Thanks: The Extraordinary Life of Chobalt

What are you thankful for this year? That’s the question we asked EN readers for the 2018 Thanksgiving Challenge from World Equestrian Brands, and your responses were numerous and heartfelt. Over the holiday weekend, we are honored to share your special stories. You can view an archive of them here

Kim Meier and Chobalt. Photo courtesy of Kim Meier.

Today, he is unassuming in his muddy brown coat, yet still the boss of his three horse herd. He lives out like he has for most of his life, a tough son of a brumby. He could have more weight on, but for his human equivalent of 88 ½ years he looks pretty good. He is the reason I wheel down the ramp of my house and up the driveway most every day, to feed him jam on bread. I don’t know if I would care to come outside, if not for him. I would be sitting in my chair not moving very much at all. Put simply, he keeps me alive.

On May 2, 1989 (29 ½ years ago), a bright chestnut colt was born to Charisma by Lord Baltimore. I found him just after 11 p.m., all wet, in the makeshift broodmare stall in the garage. For once Charisma hadn’t tried to clone herself with a little brown filly like his three older sisters. He had a big fat star and a cheeky look on his face so I called him Bart after the Tracey Ullman show short cartoon The Simpsons, because I like the way the father barked out his name. His real name became Chobalt. All Charisma babies had names starting in CH pronounced like a hard K, and I added BALT from his dad. Cobalt was a shade of blue, and I have never won so much blue than on that little brown horse. Yet, he was most beautiful in the spring when his winter coat shed to reveal a bright liver chestnut like his daddy.

Kim Meier and her mare Charisma, whom she competed to the CCI3* level, at Blue Ridge Horse Trials in 1982. Photo courtesy of Kim Meier.

His cheekiness did not do him well during his breaking in, and he did receive his fair share of correction out behind the barn. In the long run, he learned it was easier to listen and do it right the first time, and as a mature horse he was incredibly easy to work with. He started his 4-year old year at training level and took to it like a duck to water.

Midsummer, he had a run in with a burr bush, which manifested itself in the form of an eye ulcer. A week later we were checking him into New Bolton Veterinary Hospital for a fungal infection. At megabucks per day that we didn’t have, we scrambled to sell another horse to save his eyesight.  

The time had come to sell him, and we found the perfect person with high ambitions and a small stature. His vetting brought to light low ringbone of textbook proportions that the doctor said was a “time bomb.” So that blew up the sale and I kept riding him until he won his first Intermediate and then again, his first Advanced. All along the way I had tried to sell or lease him with full disclosure, to no avail. But that was over now, I was getting more good PR every time I won something else with him. Tough luck, rest of the world, you had your chance and he’s mine now.

He placed 8th at the three-star at Kentucky and had gotten me noticed by the USET, landing us on the winter training list. I should have gotten the guidance to do the four-star the following year when it began, but I did the three-star again, placing 11th. Everywhere we went, he jumped around easily cross country with a good stadium record. So far, the “time bomb” had not gone off. His dressage was easy as well, when they introduced the flying change he laughed at the horses that couldn’t do them. Once we won the dressage by scoring straight sevens, beating a new USET member horse rumored to cost over a half million dollars. Bart’s mother, my first Advanced horse, cost $350, add his dad’s stud fee of $500. So, he may have been bargain basement, but he could hold his own.

Kim Meier and Chobalt. Photo courtesy of Kim Meier.

I was conflicted about running a four-star. I knew he was a great three-star horse, but I wasn’t sure he could move up. What did I know? I had never run four-star. But in 1999 I filled out the entry for Kentucky and we went to work. My final run was at North Georgia. For the first time ever, he lost his mind in dressage and barely stayed in the ring. His stadium was a combination of rodeo and bowling. He was living up to his cheeky nickname of Nubby, short for Nubby Headed Son of a Bitch.

The first five or so fences couldn’t have been better.  Fence six was a bank; on which I had chosen the hard option.  We had to jump up the bank, couple of strides, drop-down on a downhill, then two big strides to a large table which was also set on a big slope. The table also canted slightly right to left. Just as he had forgotten how to do the other two phases, he forgot how to read a fence.

He stalled out on top of the bank and I really dug in with everything I had to motivate those two strides. He jumped down in slow motion, and despite my overuse of natural and artificial aids for a moment I thought he might put in three and bank the table. But he took off in two underpowered steps, slipped on take off and three legs jumped cleanly over the top. The right hind stepped down on the slippery wood and did not grab hold, but scraped from right to left, twisting him into horizontal flight. I, however, remained vertical and the first thing to hit the ground, was my right foot. A split second later, Bart broadsided the turf, pinning my foot underneath him and causing me to rotate right. He hit so hard he bounced, I landed with my right pinky toe and the front of my left shoulder on the ground at the same time. I do not recommend this.

Bart was fine, but my leg x-ray looked like a candy cane. They splinted, and drugged me up and sent me home saying I should prefer having surgery with a local surgeon for follow-up. The 13-hour drive with my head somewhere near the stratosphere landed me back in Maryland. Pins in my dislocated foot and a rod down my spiraled tibia kept me flat on my back in bed instead of riding at Kentucky.

Three months later, Bart and I were going Intermediate for the first time back. If left the box and took an uncharacteristic tug at the first fence. I couldn’t stop myself from doing the same thing at the second, an open oxer, which we jumped half of, landing in the middle. Trying to save the day, Bart reared up and backed away from the fence extraditing us. Out of the goodness of his heart, he turned around and jumped the whole thing despite me. The fourth fence was the first combination, and he sensed that I wasn’t with him and quit out. I retired, devastated that my own incompetence had possibly ruined him. I stopped competing the remainder of the season, and went into a dark emotional hole.

That winter I had the metal taken out of my leg and was talking to a friend about the lost confidence in myself. I had suffered a trauma, defined by unavoidable, painful, out of my control circumstances. Instead of any normal incident, which dwelled in the front of my brain a short period of time before relocating to the recesses of it, traumatic injury refused to go to the back of my mind, it was always there yelling at me to not jump again because bad things happen when I do. I learned from several event colleagues that it had happened to them as well, and I started making plans to work through it.

I was determined to start the spring season where I left off with Bart. First event back at Intermediate in Florida we started well a solid dressage and stadium. The cross country fourth fence was his least favorite, a ditch and wall. I barreled down to it like my old self and on take off he peeked down and must have dropped a knee, because I hit the dirt on the other side. Again, like my old self, I got right up and chased him down. Without thinking twice. I got on and rode the rest of the course, always hitting the forward distance and not even thinking about taking a tug. We were back!

Next event we were going Advanced again,  then before I knew it I was jogging him up at Foxhall 2000. I admit I was not up to my usual fitness after the last year off, and I got tired toward the last few fences. Luckily my old friend Bart bailed me out and when all I could do was steer, he took over and jumped a huge trakehner. It was if he was saying, “It’s OK, I forgive you, it was my mistake too.”

Quick look back a year earlier. My 9-year-old daughter Kelly had woken up in the car at 6 a.m. — “Where are we going this weekend?” she asked, while pulling the blanket out from under the dog she had been sharing it with. “Morvan Park,” came the answer she didn’t like. “Oh man, it’s my birthday and I hate Morvan! It’s always cold and wet …” she persisted. I agreed about the latter, and no matter how many posters, banners, streamers, etc. I put up on the trailer proclaiming her birthday it just wasn’t the same as a party with your friends. “I’ll make you a deal, if you stop whining right now, I will give you Bart for your 12th birthday present.”It worked, and I had facilitated a very helpful groom that weekend.

In 2001, Bart told me he was done playing the eventing game. He was a little fried from going real fast over really big fences. He preferred going to show jump rallies with Kelly, and he even took her Training level once or twice. He made the mistake of semi retiring sound, and so I decided to finish what I had started long ago with another horse; my USDF bronze medal. Before my first show at 3rd level, my dressage coach Donnan Sharp shook her finger at me and said, “Don’t pay attention to those big dumb-bloods, remember, you can out ride everyone there; including some of the judges.”

Kelly and Bart at USPC Pony Club Nationals in 2005. Photo by GRC Photography.

Bart got my 3rd level scores that first time out, and 4th level before the end of the year. Then we were into the cool stuff at Prix St.Georges. Kelly was doing double duty on him in pony club, showing off at 3rd level, and jumping 3’9″ at nationals. She groomed for me when Bart did “ballet,” including chasing down a copy of the new PSG test when the tests had changed that year and I realized this while watching the 1st test of my class. I learned the new pattern while warming up and catching glances at the next few horses in the ring. Little nubby did a clean test even though I was trying to remember where to go more than riding well. We placed sixth out of six that first try.

The daily visits Kim makes to Bart in order to feed him treats and the “kisses” she receives. Photos courtesy of the Meier family.

Going to an average of two shows a year made it so we didn’t rush to finishing our silver medal, but it happened eventually. My unassuming 15.3-hand, half-Thoroughbred had risen to the challenge against all the warmbloods and made himself into a real dressage horse. He had now done well in two FEI disciplines, when most horses just make it at one. Secretly, I’m delighted he didn’t pass his pre-purchase exam at 5 years old.

His only job now is to give beginner lessons to some kids who adore him, and to try to keep weight on, despite the fact he has very few teeth left. He makes me happy when he takes the peppermint from my lips each day and gives me a big sloppy kiss with his tongue. He is the reason I wheel outside with soft cooked apples and carrots to appease him every day. I am thankful I have such a cool horse in my life. I am thankful I still have Bart.

Test Run’s Comeback Story

Kim Meier's eventing career spanned from 1969 to 2007, and from the 1980s on, she rode mostly homebreds. Early on in her career she rode with Denny Emerson and then mainly Ralph Hill and Donnan Sharp Jones. She made six Advanced horses, started all of them, broke five of them and bred four of them. She has shared her with us in the past, and now she returns to discuss Test Run's comeback story.

Kim Meier and Test Run at Rolex in 2004. Photo used with permission from Dean Graham. Kim Meier and Test Run at Rolex in 2004. Photo used with permission from Dean Graham.

Tall, gray and handsome, Test Run had a banner year in 2004 when he was nine years old. “Merle” had placed 10th at Rolex Kentucky and completed Burghley. He fit that cliché of young and strong with a brilliant future ahead of him. He was easily my horse of a lifetime, especially because I bred him.

I was 45 years old and had spent my life working and breeding to reach this point. I figured we would both retire when I was 50 and he was 14. The big dream was to do Badminton to complete the classic big three. And there was no reason to think we couldn’t do it.

But two events into the next year, and one away from Kentucky, he was sore after a gallop. I had turned him out for a while, and when I went to catch him I hopped on him bareback to ride back to the barn. Even though it was quite slight, I felt it immediately. Ten years together certainly had us in sync.

That was a long drive back from Florida to Maryland. There would be no Kentucky 2005, no second Burghley. I set my sights on fundraising for Badminton 2006. But I was stupid and believed a veterinarian because I wanted to, and I ran an event in the fall, re-injuring the tendon and ruining the plans for 2006.

How could things be any worse? Well, I’ll tell you how. Just after the new year I took in another unbroken race baby. I already had two from this same trainer. She had come from Florida to Pimlico to me. The trainer told me to turn her out with the other two fillies, and so I did.

A couple of weeks later he called to tell me that the barn she had spent the night in at Pimlico now had a case of EHV-1. Probably nothing would come of it, he said. But maybe I should start taking temperatures.

There was a horse due to be vetted for sale that day, and sure enough she had a temperature. We went around and checked everyone on the property, and there were no other temperatures except the three race fillies. Although they were turnouts, I put them in an unused barn for quarantine.

The worry was on.

Over the course of the next six weeks, I was in a whirlwind of hell. Twenty some horses on the farm and only me to take care of them. Half turnouts, half stabled. Temperatures taken twice daily, crushing various medications, quarantine, no riding, intravenous DMSO, two horrible deaths, two more with high temps — and they were all full siblings, my homebreds, my babies. And Merle was one of them.

It was maybe four in the morning. I don’t think I slept more than three hours a day at this point. I got up and marched out through the barn and straight to the indoor where Merle was. After we had to drag the first one out of the stall after … you know … they went in the indoor when they had high temps. I flipped on the lights and peered through the purple glow of the mercury vapors. He was laying down. Question was, could he get up, or would it go to his brain?

I knelt down by his head, rubbed his little ears, kissed him on the poll. I slipped the halter on, stepped back and tugged gently on the shank. Slowly he brought his forelegs up in front of him and I pulled a little again. “Come on buddy, you’ve got to try,” I begged.

He tried to push off with a hind leg that was under his body, and rose a little, only to fall back. We tried again, and again, until finally he was teetering and I was hanging on to the halter, leaning back to try to balance him, and then he was up staggering backwards, toward the wall. If he hit that wall and fell down and got cast …

Then all of a sudden the hind legs caught his weight. He stopped and I stopped pulling, and we stared at each other, hoping the worst was over.

It was. He was the last one to fever, and in a few weeks the quarantine was lifted and we all began hacking out. I did three Intermediates that year in the summer and fall, planning my big comeback at Rolex in 2007. We did one Intermediate, and that next Tuesday I was doing a jumping school when IT happened.

On the way to a vertical he stepped on his bell boot when he should have been leaving the ground, went down on his knees and took down the top rail with his head. At the same time, I slid down his neck and caught the rail on the base of my head. I was paralyzed.

Needless to say we weren’t at Rolex, but a year later I did ride him again, with someone behind me holding my limp body up. He didn’t care if we were galloping down to the Head of the Lake or if we just walked around the indoor for 15 minutes. He was always there for me, and this time he came back to help me feel alive again.

Charisma: A Horse With No Name

Kim Meier's eventing career spanned from 1969 to 2007, and from the 1980s on, she rode mostly homebreds. Early on in her career she rode with Denny Emerson and then mainly Ralph Hill and Donnan Sharp Jones. She made six Advanced horses, started all of them, broke five of them and bred four of them. She has shared her with us in the past, and now she returns to talk about Charisma.

Kim Meier and Charisma at Blue Ridge Horse Trials in 1982. Photo courtesy of Kim Meier. Kim Meier and Charisma at Blue Ridge Horse Trials in 1982. Photo courtesy of Kim Meier.

There were no windows in the bottom of the bank barn. The only light came from a row of yellowed light bulbs down the center aisle, and those were covered with hundreds of little brown spots, as if the flies had taken a census. There were 10 tie stalls on each wall. Here and there a low wall separated the horses, but mostly, it was fencing boards nailed to a beam or hung from the ceiling with baling string.

The old horse dealer backed out a skinny little mare. “Now I know she ain’t big even though she’s only 3, but you like ’em young and unbroken and she is that. She’s been stuck in here with strangles for a month. He led her out into the light of the open door, something she hadn’t seen in awhile as she rapidly blinked her large brown eyes. Nice eyes, I thought. Intelligent. She was barely 15 hands, I wanted 16 ideally, but those eyes … Something about them.

“How much?”

“Four hundred”

“Three hundred.” Big pause. Staring, eye to eye.

“Three-fifty then.”

“And I can bring her back.” It was a statement.

“You can always bring them back.” He liked it when I brought them back. They were always fatter and wormed and better schooled.

It was done, the spare spot in my trailer had been filled, and the scrawny mare traveled home with the school horse I could put to use right away. On the way home I named her Charisma, because those big eyes screamed class beyond her non-impressive little body.

She was easy to break, afraid of nothing, least of all me. By summer she was ready to go in the school horse string, but I was the only one who taught off her. Most would think it was scary to put such a baby under campers, but I would rather have them nicely broken by me. I used her as lightly as I could and rode her myself when the campers went to lunch, to keep the schooling up.

By her 4-year-old year I’d figured out she was quite a good jumper and although I was obliged to keep her in the school, I found myself competing her on weekends. At that time I had a nice Preliminary horse named Moon Pilot. He had been a trade for a school horse. After a couple years of hard work we had made him into a Prelim horse and he would be taking me to the Junior National Championships at Radnor that fall.

I had a very disappointing Radnor, as poor Pilot irritated an old tendon injury shipping down and couldn’t complete more than the dressage. If fall was disappointing, then winter was dismal. Pilot colicked badly in January when colic surgery was very young and I was not very lucky.

For over a month it was all I could do just to feed the other horses and turn my head as I walked past his empty stall. But somehow during the March thaw the omnibus arrived and I looked around the barn and there was Charisma.

I called up Denny Emerson and said I had a horse to go Prelim on. Our first lesson commenced with her running around the ring like a sewing machine. He watched for all of three minutes and then, using every ounce of tact possible, asked, “Can she jump?”

At Hitching Post, I found myself standing in the lineup at the end of the day. Denny looked around and his eyes landed on me. “Did you win?” he asked in disbelief. I vigorously nodded my head with this stupid smile on my face. I had never won Preliminary before. Little Charisma had rewarded me for saving her out of that dealer’s barn two years ago.

But she developed an aversion to ditch and walls and left me in the toilet more than on the podium many, many times. Denny sat me down and said, “Look, she isn’t going to do it for you. I know you don’t have any money, but I don’t care if you beg, borrow or steal some, you need something the quality of Pilot.” So I chose to beg, from my grandmother, and for 10 times what I had ever spent before, I procured a lovely green off-track horse and named him Copilot.

But I refused to give up on Charisma.

Denny protested when I took her to Radnor Three-Day. Yet she placed fifth behind four USET riders. The next spring he was excited when I said I was going to spend a couple months working with Ralph Hill, but not excited when I said I was taking Charisma Intermediate. “You are really pushing it now,” he scolded. “Radnor was great but I think you should leave it at that …”

A year after that he met me in the warm-up ring at Chesterlands, which had only Preliminary and Advanced. He shook his head and smiled. “I’m not even going to ask what division you’re in.”

Although she got me through my first Advanced, wouldn’t you know you don’t just get a competitive upper-level horse for $350. So I bred her.

She’s little so we went for something big, a local Trakehner, and she cloned herself in chestnut; I named that baby Chaos. Since that didn’t work so well, we had to go even bigger, Epic Win at over 17 hands, and he put 6 inches on Char; I named that one Chleptomanic.

Well then Bruce Davidson was riding two fancy Advanced horses by Babamist, and that meant I had to have one too. The only problem is that Babamist tended to put a bit of a, we’ll call it enthusiastic, spin on his babies; that might not have been the best gene pool for Char to go dipping in.

Regardless, that marriage produced a very fancy solid mare, Chamakazi, albeit she only made it to 15.2 hands. The last one was by a Thoroughbred named Lord Baltimore owned by one of my vets, and there was a rumor he produced some good jumpers. That time I finally got my colt, Chobalt.

My group of “Char babies” knew how to jump as a birthright. Chaos got her forever home in California after just a few runs at Preliminary. Meanwhile, having recently sold two good Prelim horses and not having much to compete, I began sneaking 3-year-old Chamikazi into a few Novices. She enjoyed competition, and I liked her very much.

I was planning on taking a little bit of the money from the sale of my two horses and getting something off the track to resell when my babies grew up, but I decided I’d rather take a little more stud fee than I usually spent and get another breeding to Babamist, this time to our big girl Chleptomaniac. This produced the most beautiful colt who, after much thought, I used one of my special saved names, Test Pilot, after Moon Pilot and Copilot.

As time went on, Chleptomaniac went Intermediate and then retired to be a broodmare. Chamikazi and Chobalt were going Advanced. At Fair Hill in 1996, both won their advanced divisions on the same day. If you congratulated me, my standard comment was “Thanks! I bred them both!” I was so proud of them.

Test Pilot had been so lovely that when it came time to geld him, I asked, “What if we kept him a stallion?” The answer was he would have to still be a good competition horse; he would have to be gentle to be around, as there were lots of kids running around the barn; and, of course, he would have to throw good babies. He made it to the Advanced level; my 7-year-old daughter could hold him; and his first foal, Test Run, turned out to be my four-star horse, placing 10th at Rolex Kentucky and completing Burghley.

I really just wanted to get another horse up to Prelim level. What I got was an introduction to Advanced; my first trip to Kentucky CCI3*; and another Preliminary, an Intermediate and two Advanced horses. Plus, Charisma became the great grandmother to my four-star horse. Not bad for $350.

My Rolex Rookie Story

Kim Meier's eventing career spanned from 1969 to 2007, and from the 1980s on, she rode mostly homebreds. Early on in her career she rode with Denny Emerson and then mainly Ralph Hill and Donnan Sharp Jones. She made six Advanced horses, started all of them, broke five of them and bred four of them. This is her Rolex Rookie story.

Kim Meier and Test Run at Rolex. Photo courtesy of Kim Meier.

Kim Meier and Test Run at Rolex. Photo courtesy of Kim Meier.

Over a decade ago, Rolex Rookies were not featured, and that was a shame, because my Test Run had a great story. I miss him very much, and when Rolex comes around, I think about him even more and relive the magical week we had there.

Test Run, AKA Merle, was by Test Pilot, a son of Babamist and a grandson of Epic Win. I rode his great grandmother, Charisma, in my first Rolex CCI3*, 20 years earlier, and his grand uncle Chobalt, son of Charisma, had placed 8th in 1997 and 11th in 1998 in the CCI3*. I, in fact, had hardly competed anything that wasn’t related to Charisma since the late 80s. So Merle had some history in his blood at Kentucky.

I first met Merle when he was a few minutes old. I was his first rider, aimed him at his first jump and competed him exclusively. I did loan him to my good friend Molly Sorge the winter of his 3-year-old year, and we refer to her as his surrogate mother. He did Training as a 4-year-old and moved up a level a year, running his first Advanced when he was 7, shortly before placing fourth at Bromont CCI2* in 2002.

The next year he did two CCI3* at Fair Hill and Foxhall. Being very sound and never missing a competition put him right in line for Rolex in 2004 as a 9-year-old. Neither of us had ever done a CCI4*. Of course, Molly would be his groom.

He did an obedient albeit green dressage, which was our only goal in that phase. That was the last year Kentucky ran a full old format endurance day, as well as a new format division for those who were qualified for the Olympics. We were in the first division, thank goodness.

It was my tradition to tell him the course before hand, including where to turn and where the minute markers were. I told him he had to remember everything I had taught him all at once, today. I am positive he understood me.

After a half dozen trips to the port-a-let, it was time to get on. I can’t imagine not doing old format. I love the relaxation of hacking out, and the kick in the ass for courage sake galloping fast. It sets the whole tone.

The serenity comes to an end as you see the 10 minute box ahead. Reluctantly, I handed Merle over to Molly as she ordered me to “drink something.” Having done that, I desperately wanted to cool him out myself or get on and ride, but watching was no good. I was not nervous, I just wanted it. I wanted it bad.

With all the people lining the ropes, clustered at the fences you would think you could hear the noise. Personally, I couldn’t. Only after the fence has been jumped does the crowd’s roar get to you, and allow you to crack a smile as you smack your horse on the neck in praise.

Kim Meier and Test Run at Rolex. Photo courtesy of Kim Meier.

Kim Meier and Test Run at Rolex. Photo courtesy of Kim Meier.

Merle and I had never been more in sync. We didn’t argue about left-hand turns, I didn’t pick (maybe once early on) and if he saw an awkward question, the wheels upstairs just turned faster. It was a dream sequence, the kind you don’t want to end, but when it did you realized you were only two seconds over, so your dream had come true.

On Sunday I left my demons in the warm-up area when I missed at a big oxer and sent a handful of people running for their lives. No one had had a double clear round yet but somehow I knew we could do it. We galloped forward and never missed a distance, never got hollow, never got flat. And until then, had never signed an autograph.

We were 10th, .8 added to our dressage score, winner of the Bank One Trophy for leading owner/rider, and to top it off the head vet came up to me and said I was one point off Best Conditioned. We posed with our trophy, Merle’s ears regally up, me grinning ear to ear. What magic.

Driving home I called every person I knew and gave them the news, and that there would be a two-hour special on a major network on such a such a date and time, and please watch it because I thought top 10 would get at least a minute or two or part of a jump round.

It was starting to sink in on the way home what we had accomplished. Molly had even made me go up and inquire what I had to do to go to Burghley that fall. She reminded me that I had once said there was no reason to go to Europe unless I had done all the events in the U.S. well, and now that I had kicked quite a few butts here it was time to go there.

I received an unexpected phone call from a popular event announcer, a friend, who told me that he really hoped my story was played up on the TV special because I was really the Cinderella tale of that week. He had been announcing our results for six years and knew I had bred him and how phenomenal it was to produce such an outstanding first four-star.

I felt so honored that he would even think to call and got even more excited about the TV show. When we hung up, I just giggled with amazement that other people had noticed us.

When the show came on, there was a split second glance of Merle over a stadium fence, and then another of his dappled gray legs trotting along in the warm-up, and we were only in the preview! As it went on, there were long passages of Mr. Super Coach warming up his oh so rich student. The coach, an Olympian, had only placed one above me, and his student far below me.

Time was running out, and at the end the scoreboards were highlighted with the names and placings of everyone, except, except … 8th and 10th place? Really? The only two riders without big-time sponsors virtually eliminated from sight. I was so embarrassed that I had told everyone to watch me and there was no evidence I was even there.

I was pretty hurt. It wasn’t a very nice thing to do. Being an underdog is OK because of the elation when you finally break loose. Eventually the high stayed but there will always be that annoying undercurrent, the only thing that was wrong with the most perfect week I shared with Merle.