Admittedly, I would see horse riding and think, “So what? Was it that hard? Doesn’t the horse just do most of the work?” Yes, I knew that was idiotic. I knew I was wrong. Like any great sport, achieving excellence is immeasurably hard. But to see it for myself in person really hit home how wrong I was.

I stood in the warm, early Autumn sun at the American Gold Cup on Old Salem Farm. I bared witness to the physical prowess of two animals in sync, conquering one objective together. Rider and horse, galloping and sweating as they lunged in rhythmic symmetry over each jump. They conquered the verticals and soared over the oxers. The rider grunted as grass and mud tore from beneath the hooves of the one ton equine beneath her. The combination of form between the musculature of the horses and their well-manicured surroundings was gorgeous. My misconceptions of this sport were glaringly offensive.

Competitors from around the globe, from Ireland to Colombia to Japan, challenged each other with faster times and higher leaps. In the end, it was a United States competitor for the win. As for me, I am changed in my appreciation and love of this sport. Far from an expert or even in the vicinity of knowledgeable, I look forward to learning, understanding, and appreciating this equestrian art form.