No matter how much I deny it, she knows I love it. When she smooths the pad onto my back, when she straps the saddle in place, I get shivers. I want this. She knows I do.

When she gets on, I walk in place, nervous with anticipation. She holds me back. I protest but go along with it anyway. I know the time will come.

When she hears the word, whatever it is, she goes towards the chute. The alleyway or whatever you call it.

I try to trot in place as she tugs at the bit, keeping me still.

She leans down, stroking along my neck, until her mouth is close to my ears.

Then she says it.

"Barrels."

I shoot out, already locked onto my target. The wind rushes in my ears, throws me off as I turn the first barrel. Onto the next.

A kick here, faster. A tug on the bit there, turn. And when we pass the third turn, she lets me go. I run as fast as I can.

Three steps, hooves digging into the soft soil, and I'm gone. My heart races as a I pass the gate and keeping going, can't stop.

A sharp sting of pain brings me back. I slow to a canter, then a trot, then finally a walk.

A pat on my shoulder, a quick snack. She pets down my neck, talking to me. Her voice is soft, caring, praising. I don't have to understand her to know that I did good.

We did good.