To put it simply, my mother is intensely strict when it comes to gender roles, she doesn't believe in girls being mechanics, electricians, doctors and especially not scientists, she believes these are male roles, not female, in her opinion I should be learning how to cook, sew, raise children or even become a counsellor, I disagreed with her more than I can ever describe to people. She doesn't listen to what I want at all, mainly because my only interest is science, it's a passion of mine, from astronomy, to chemistry and especially biology. She has suggested I go into veterinary science when she gets desperate, but I'm more interested in studying genetics rather than tending to sick animals, she doesn't understand at all. So to keep her happy, I pretend, but only for her benefit.
I've discovered the best cover up is in Pony Club, riding horses, grooming horses and training them, it has created the perfect cover, I've finally convinced her that I'm studying to become a veterinarian, specialising in horses. She was very happy when I announced this because she was raised with horses, so she sees it as me following in her footsteps, sort of...
But unfortunately, this also means I have to participate in competitions, more specifically, jumping. I have been training since I was nine, when I finally convinced my mother that I had an interest in Equestrian studies, the studying to become a horse vet came about a year ago when I had to find a cover for taking biology and chemistry in high school. On my ninth birthday my mother, proud as she ever has been, took me to join up to Pony Club, and I started training with horses. At thirteen, my parents bought me my first horse and at fifteen I started entering competitions, this excited mum so much that she bought me an assortment of bows, brushes and shampoos for my horse. I entered in dressage and show jumping, I do admit that I loved it, and it was a brilliant cover for what I was really doing, plus it made my mother so happy, I wasn't looking forward to letting her down when I told her I had been offered an early entry into university to study a Bachelor of Science at Victoria University.
I am now seventeen, I'm about to compete in my sixth show jumping competition, with the weight of my mother's expectations riding on my shoulders. Over the past year I have noticed her opinion about me entering into the science career changing, as she has noticed my interest and achievements in chemistry, biology and advanced mathematics, and I'm hoping so badly that she will accept my choice and support me, because I was planning on moving to Melbourne and accepting my early entry offer.
I closed my eyes, finished brushing my horse, his name was Trouble, dad had helped me name him, we chose Trouble because it was hard to keep us apart, I was always in trouble because I forgot to do my chores, spending all my time caring for my horse. We bought him when he was a little horse, just four years old, the perfect age to begin training him.
"Claire?" A voice called out, it was one of my friends from Pony Club, Amelia, we had joined on the same day, we were the same age, same height, almost the same everything, except she was more interested in English, intent on becoming an English teacher, I did well in English, but I preferred science. "Claire, the competition is starting soon, hurry up!" She ran around the corner, slowing as she approached Trouble and I, she held out her hand, the horse sniffed it, snorting in greeting and allowing Amelia to stroke her nose. We were both dressed in our riding clothes, helmets on our heads, boots clean and polished, Amelia and I both loved the show jumping competitions, and always entered together, competing mostly against each other, rather than the other competitors. We had agreed that whoever placed higher, was shouted ice-cream by the loser.
I checked that Trouble's saddle was secured then led him out of the stable, Amelia following behind me, stopping to lead out her horse, Bronte, named after the last name of her favourite author, Charlotte Bronte. We entered the competition ring together, walking nervously past the judges table to stand with the five other competitors, there were seven of us, waiting for the judges to start and finish the preliminaries, introductions, target score, time limit, description of the course and wishing the riders and their horses luck. It was all rather boring, and as usual, I zoned out, thinking about how to talk to my parents, chemistry and genetic engineering, I'd been reading about it in my books lately, it was incredibly difficult to grasp and so I had leapt into studying it.
After about fifteen minutes, I was brought back to the competition by an elbow nudging me in the ribs, it was time to move out into the waiting area as the first competitor was about to begin the course. Amelia and I were competing last, which was fine by us, it let us watch the other competitors and get to know the course. It took around two hours total for the other competitors to complete the course, then it was Amelia's turn, I got even more anxious as I watched her run through the course, just as we had with the other girls, all of them had been from other clubs and seemed to know the course quite well, and were especially successful with the open water obstacle, but unfortunately, Amelia's horse, Bronte, didn't fair too well with these obstacles, and there were two of them. Her horse was successful with all the other jumps, even when she came to the ascending oxer, an obstacle where the bars started low and got higher, but she hadn't had much practice with the open water obstacle because her horse was uncomfortable around the water.
Bronte shook her head as she approached it, slowing only slightly, but it was enough, her back hooves clipped the top pole, deducting a points from her score, she made it through the rest of the course without many mistakes except when it came to the double poles which were right after the open water obstacle, Bronte stumbled as she landed, causing more points to be deducted, those faults had affected her score, and knocked her down to fourth place. Amelia dismounted the horse, nodded to the judges and led Bronte to the stables, tears running down her cheeks. As she passed me, she looked up and smiled, before continuing her walk, shoulders slumped. I tried to reach out and hug her, but my name was being called into the ring.
I mounted Trouble and led him into the ring. The audience clapped politely whilst my parents cheered from across the ring, they were leaning over the fence, calling and cheering my name. I blushed but continued to the starting line of the course. My heart pounded in my throat and Trouble dug at the ground nervously, picking up on my emotions. I stroked his neck, trying to calm us both down.
The bell rung, allowing me to start, I urged truffle into a light gallop as we approached the first jump, a simple vertical jump, next was a wall which Trouble sailed over with ease, I had noticed how some of the other riders had rode around the corners to fast, causing their horse to stumble, after the third jump, three simple jumps spread out to make the jump wider, I slowed Trouble and we took the corner nicely, no stumbling or sliding. There were ten jumps in total, including the open water, this jump Trouble made without any problem, he had been trying to help me with Amelia to train Bronte as he absolutely loved water, but we hadn't gotten too far. As we approached the last jump, known as the Hog's back which contained three poles with uneven heights, the tallest placed in the centre, I pushed Trouble to gallop harder, it was a race against the timer now, we sailed over the last obstacle and over the finish line.
We were both breathing hard, though Trouble was the one who had done the best. I dismounted, nodding to the audience and judges before leading Trouble out the gate, I found Amelia waiting for me, Bronte standing beside her, eyes red from crying, but she smiled when she saw me. She jumped up and down and pulled me into a hug, "You placed second!" She cheered and I jumped with her, our horses whinnying at our excitement, as though to say we were being silly. I turned and hugged Trouble, then pulled an carrot out of a box attached to the gate, especially as treats for the horses, and fed it to him, before leading him to the water trough.
It was only a few minutes before we were called back into the ring to be told how we had placed and for the first and second placers to be given trophies and their award. I could still hear my parents cheering from the side, even louder now because I had come second, this wasn't the first show I had placed in, but they were still excited. A medal was hung over my neck and another one on Trouble's who was contentedly eating another carrot that I had snuck him.
After the award ceremony we led Trouble into the horse trailer, said goodbye to Amelia and Bronte, then started driving home. I started preparing the speech I was going to give my parents, I knew where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, it was time my mother understood and agreed with me.