As he gazed at the horse, Dalton remembered the first time he'd seen Sweet Revolution, eight years prior. He was only fifteen at the time, still living in his hometown of Ashford in Kent, England, and watching a show jumping competition on television, dreaming of someday competing at the same level with the world-renowned Grand Prix riders. He felt hypnotized by the horses' sleek coats, their fluid movements, their power as they flew without wings over the jumps. Bays, grays, blacks, and chestnuts came one after the other, and then the announcer called out a new horse with his unknown, twenty-year-old rider.
The moment Sweet Revolution stepped into the ring, the crowd had fallen silent, as if struck speechless by the stallion's beauty, with his tobiano coat of glistening black and winter white, his mane and tail a blend of both colors. When he cleared his first jump that day, it was the beginning of his legend. It turned out "Revie" was aptly named, as a revolution is exactly what he caused in the eventing world. He brought attention to it like no other horse before him and became adored by people around the world, but for more than simply his flashy pinto coloring. Graceful and fearless, no jump could intimidate him. Show jumping, dressage, cross-country -- there was nothing the stallion didn't excel in.
Dalton, too, became a devoted fan of Sweet Revolution, but for more than the stallion's amazing ability. Also on that day, as the camera zoomed in on a smiling Kelvin Crofton praising the horse for the clear round they'd just jumped, he felt something deep inside him respond.
Dalton strove to learn everything he could about the American rider and discovered the Crofton family owned a large ranch in Texas. They were famous on the Quarter Horse circuit for the fine cutting and reining horses they bred. Despite Kelvin having diverged from his Western roots to English riding, part of it continued to hold onto him. He had gained the nickname "Cowboy" among those on the eventing circuit for the beige cowboy hat that never left his head except when he entered the show ring. Before going in, when the hat was still in place, Kelvin presented a rather mismatched image in his formal show attire of white riding breeches, white shirt with white stock tie, black jacket, and tall, black English riding boots.
Dalton thought Kelvin's ways were incredibly charming, even though they'd never actually met. He'd ridden all his life, but breaking into the same level of world-class competition as Kelvin was no easy thing. First, it took money, a lot of it, something his family didn't have. Second, he needed an extremely talented horse, which also took a lot of money, or at the very least, high connections with people who owned quality mounts, another thing he didn't have. When he tried to make those connections, no one was willing to put an unproven rider on their priceless horses, for which he couldn't blame them. Horses of such caliber were of far greater value than his own meager life.
But those days were behind him now that he owned Midnight Dalliance.
At least, he hoped those days were behind him. A tendril of doubt snaked through his heart as the image of his black Hanoverian stallion came to his mind. It'd taken every bit of the inheritance money from his grandmother to purchase the horse, so much so that he couldn't afford to get the stallion back to England, forcing them both to remain in the States, which he didn't view as a bad thing. Upstate New York had been a beautiful place to live, and he had a feeling that, from what little he'd seen of it so far, Kentucky would be lovely to call home for a while. What troubled him was that he'd thought the stallion was destined to be a champion. After four months of working together, now he wasn't so sure.
Dalton exhaled a hard breath to expel the negative feelings inside him. It wasn't the time to worry about that. This was the first, and probably last, time he would ever see Sweet Revolution in person.
Kelvin brought the stallion to the center of the jumping ring. He unbuckled his riding helmet and removed it, extending it to the side as he bowed in the saddle to raucous applause and blinding cameras. He'd done nothing more than canter the stallion around the ring, but he could've just won gold in the Olympics again for all the celebration. He placed his helmet back on his head, not bothering to buckle it, and with a subtle touch to the stallion's left side, he turned Sweet Revolution away from the crowd toward the gate leading out of the ring.
Dalton stepped back to join the gathering of riders and trainers waiting for Kelvin and Sweet Revolution. He hastily combed his fingers through his short, dark blond hair. As the pair exited, Dalton flashed a bright smile up at Kelvin, but Kelvin's gaze remained focused downward. He seemed oblivious to the cheers and calls around him. Dalton turned in place as they passed by, watching Sweet Revolution slowly walk away, wondering why there were tears in Kelvin's soft brown eyes.
Farewell from the Bookshelf!