Jumpers don’t have it. Dressage waits too long. Hunters have it but don’t care.
In jumpers, you know your results as soon as you cross the finish line. After a dressage test, you have to wait until the judges sheets are collected, the marks computed, and the scores finally posted on a wall outside of the show office. In a hunter flat class, the results are announced in the ring, but by that time you’ve already ridden in two jumping classes and the ribbons for the hack are an interesting afterthought.
In a Quarter Horse western pleasure class, Arabian costume class, or a saddleseat Academy Equitation Adult Walk-Trot class, the line-up is the last activity. After the horses and riders go both ways around the ring, after any individual tests have been performed, after last looks have been taken, horses and riders stand in line waiting for the results to be announced.
You let out a little sigh of relief. You pat your horse’s neck. You loosen just a trifle from a formal show pose. You sweat. You walk your horse in a circle if he refuses to stand. The judge has signed the class card and handed it to the runner who has handed it to the announcer. You are suspended in a vacuum.
Will the number they call out first be the one on your back? The number that you so carefully memorized before a friend pinned the piece of plastic or cardboard to your shirt, vest, jacket?
You might win. You outclass your competition by a visible margin. You made no mistakes. You won last week. However, if the judge has been replaced by a random number generator, you could lose.
You might lose. Your horse threw a fit in the second direction. You had to stop by squashing him into a corner. You forgot how to post to the trot. However, if your competition had an even worse day, if the judge was looking the other way, you could win.
The line-up is brief but interminable. You exist in two states at once. If you won, your riding was brilliant strategy. If you lost, you need to reevaluate. Until the results are announced, your performance is both at the same time. You tell yourself that your horse went well and that you will be pleased with any result. You lie. You hope to be gracious in victory. You promise to be sporting in defeat.
And the winner is …