Change Rein - Anne Jolin

Athens, Greece, August 2012—Equestrian Day Eight—Olympic Grand Prix Dressage

Pre-Competition Interview—The Equestrian Journal

“MISS DANIELS, THIS IS YOUR first appearance at the Olympic Summer Games, and rumor has it you’re favorited to win gold. What do you have to say to that?”

Looping my arm underneath Achilles’ reins, I rub his muzzle with my gloved hand. “I’d say they’re right.” I wink, flashing my award-winning smile.

“What’s your secret to success?”

“Persistence,” I say firmly before edging back into my media-darling persona, “and him.” I nudge the nineteen-hands Dutch Warmblood flanking my left side.

Scribbling down on his notepad, the man looks over the rim of his glasses. “That seems like a lot of credit to give to just a horse.”

Clenching my jaw, I smile through clenched teeth, but speak with grit. “I give credit where credit’s due.” Then I purse my lips. “And he’s hardly just a horse, sir. He’s Achilles War,” I correct, “and he’s as much the Greek hero his lure alludes to.”

Shuffling off my defensive tone, the journalist continues, “Some say the bond you share as rider and horse is remarkable. What would you attribute that to?”

“He’s as much a part of my soul as I am his,” I praise effortlessly. “I trust him with my life.”

“Hmm,” he hums before pointing at the roof of the indoor arena with his pen. “Will the weather be an issue for you in today’s competition?”

The sound of raindrops hitting the tin roof echoes around my answer. “I’m from Canada.” I smirk. “I can handle getting a little wet.”

“You’ve chosen an incredibly unique performance for your final round. Some might even call it risky. Can you tell us why?”

Leaning into Achilles’ neck, I breathe in his smell, drawing strength from the way his powerful body complements mine. “You’ve got to bet big to win big, and that’s a risk we’re willing to take. Aren’t we, Chil?” I ask, moving to rest my forehead on his much larger one.

He neighs, playfully shoving me with his head in response. My laugher floods the waiting arena.

“It’s time,” my trainer, Harlow Kent, instructs, officially ending the interview.

As I shed the outer layer of my Team Canada warm-up jacket, he hands me my black blazer, and I pull it snugly around my upper body. Pressing the fabric down, Harlow checks me over for anything out of place before helping me tuck my white-blond hair into my helmet.

“You good?”

Stretching out the tightness in my neck, I nod. “I’m good.”

Holding his hands out by his knee, Harlow gives me a leg up into the saddle, waiting as I slip the toe of my Ariat boots into the stirrups. Then, he taps me once on the thigh. “Good luck.”

Feeling Chil’s muscles dance between my legs, I squeeze back in reassurance and lean forward to rub his neck. “Just you and me, Chil. Forget the rest.”

Sitting up straight, I drop my shoulders back and position myself for entry to the ring.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the Canadian favorite’s up next!” the announcer shouts, battling against the cheering crowd. “London Daniels riding Achilles War!”

Three Days Later

General Hospital—Athens, Greece

Post-Competition Interview—The Equestrian Journal

“Can you tell us what happened?” the journalist asks, settling into the chair across from my bed.

Sitting up, I wince and fight back tears.

I refuse to cry.

“It was my fault.”

The man’s eyes widen in shock at my confession. “One would argue it was your horse’s fault, Miss Daniels. Achilles, your Greek hero, seemed to spook mid-routine. In fact, rumors are spreading that he may, indeed, have been your Achilles’ heel.”

Gripping the side rails of my bed so hard that my knuckles turn white, I withhold the urge to pummel the opinionated asshat in the face. Being cordial goes against the basic fiber of my being, but Harlow was insistent I would never progress if the media didn’t adorn me with attention.

“To suggest Achilles War is anything less than a champion would be both ignorant and stupid on your part.”

In the corner of my room, Harlow chokes on his coffee. Holding my palm out towards him, I interrupt his attempts to ‘put a spin’ on my outburst.

Goodbye, gold medal.

Goodbye, media darling.

Never missing a beat, I continue my tirade and proverbial chewing out of the reporter’s ass. “The competition grounds were wet from the unlikely monsoon of rain over the weekend. I’d taken Achilles out the day before to give us both a chance to settle in, but I mistook his uncertainty and allotted it to the travel time. It was my mistake.”

He continues jotting notes down in time with the