Forward by Noodles
There are Ghost Horses amongst us. Sentinels standing guard against all who might wish harm upon their charges. Ever diligent, mindful, and determined, the Ghost Horses are those guardian angels trapped in a place and time not of their choosing. They know neither rest nor hope as their spirits chase the nightfall.
In the spring & summer of 2006, the Australian Dressage Team trained and lived in Germany while preparing for the World Equestrian Games (WEG). We were based in a castle at the foothills of the Alps, in southern Bavaria. There were eight horses and riders competing to be one of the final four selected to represent Australia at the WEG. I was only a youngster and not eligible, but my friend and stall mate, Amoucheur, or Smooch as we liked to call him, was in contention.
Smooch, like myself, was trained and ridden by Erika Mills. Determined and focused, Erika had one goal, making the Australian Dressage Team. Yet Smooch was struggling with his own fears, not knowing it was a Ghost Horse sent to protect him. Initially, Erika was hesitant to accept its presence. However, events soon left no doubt there were Ghost Horses, spectral spirits, imposing their will, not just on Smooch, but on all our lives. They were amongst us. By summer’s end, nothing would ever be the same.
This is our story, filled with dreams and hopes that collided with fate’s unmerciful measure. It is the tale of one extraordinary Grand Prix horse named Smooch, struggling desperately to overcome his demons and earn his place in history.
Introduction by Erika
Poets say our horses choose us. It’s an elegant idea. Yet my pragmatic mind finds it difficult to accept there is anything more than perseverance and a bit of Irish luck in how we find each other. In either case, the chain of events that led Amoucheur, or Smooch, to me is as ever remarkable.
A storybook tale of a magnificent horse earnestly looking for his special rider. However, this is not the most interesting part of my story. Finding what was hiding within my obsequious young friend surprised us all, including me. Smooch charmed, beguiled, and challenged me almost daily during our eight-year partnership. However, nothing prepared me for the events of 2006, when Smooch and I were selected for the Australian Team competing at the World Equestrian Games. That summer was magical, beautiful, replete with incredible highs and terrible lows.
Those months in Bavaria were a roller coaster of emotions. Yet, through the trials, we each found that special magic lying dormant, waiting to blossom from within our very beings. In the shadows of the Alps, we trained, competed, and lived in an ethereal plane of dreams and beauty unlike any other. It was magical.
Amidst the innumerable challenges of my very temperamental Smooch, I managed to fall in love. Along the Romantic Highway, my knight in shining armor literally fell out of the sky one day, almost on top of me. It was an inauspicious introduction that time and circumstances would not dissuade. Together, my young knight and I found ourselves caught in the whirlwind of a new romance. It was beautiful, unexpected, and nearly impossible to imagine ever being happier in my life. Then, it was torn apart by the obligations of duty. For me, the duty to my team and, for my knight, his duty to country. Together, these obligations ripped at the very fabric of our lives. Looking back, neither of us could have dreamed how our stories intertwined. Yet, through it all, the ethereal Ghost Horses were there standing guard and protecting us from harm.