Maddie raised a gloved hand over her eyes as she squinted at the sky, "This weather couldn't be any nicer." It was sheer good fortune that the clouds from the early morning had dispersed. She had been sure it was going to pour down cats and dogs, but there was no sign of it now. "Let's hope our luck doesn't run out on the course."
"Who are you talking to?" Maddie spun around to find her dad, William smiling at her from around the trailer. Maddie's cheeks flushed. She had thought she was alone.
"Darby," she pointed at her companion, who was half asleep and tied to the trailer behind her. Maddie sighed at him, "but it doesn't look like he's listening."
William rounded the corner to stand by his daughter and raised a hand to show her a white piece of paper sheathed in plastic, "Your number. Here," he gestured for her to turn around. As he began to pin the paper to her vest, Maddie realized it was here. It was happening. Her palms went clammy while her stomach filled with butterflies, or vomit, she wasn't sure. Can I do this? Am I ready? What if I have a terrible fall and one of us gets badly hurt? Maddie held her breath as her whole body suddenly went stiff with uncertainty.
Her dad must've felt the tension as he spun her around and stared into her face, "Maddie, don't doubt yourself. Believe in your ability, believe in Darby. You've trained hard for this moment, don't let fear stop you from doing what you love to do. I'll be watching you every step of the way, even if I have to jog alongside the horse."
Maddie looked at her feet and let out a laugh, trying to hide the tears that swelled in her eyes, "Thanks, Dad."
When the tears broke free she frantically rubbed at her cheeks. She could feel her dad watching her, smiling down at her, believing in her as he let her put herself back together. When she was ready, she nodded, meeting his smile with her own, "Let's do this."