There were more competitions to join and the friend JJ I made who helped transport Sahara back home asked me to join their team after talking to Dadz. Dadz was the only reason I was able to join the team in my city as he introduced me to them. I never really fit in that team. Dadz agreed that I would probably have more fun on another team and would still be a supportive fan. The rules were not very clear and it was hit or miss if people were friendly and again being introverted and shy did not help.
JJ and his family and team were so welcoming and they seemed more focused on having fun. My mom really wanted me to win the upcoming competition in Davao. However, I heard they would have jumps in their obstacle course. Sahara was too young to be jumping and I didn't feel like riding Sahara a whole lot at her age. In order to win, I would basically have to push her which I did not feel comfortable doing. I am glad I did not push her when she was younger because she is 12 now and has zero problems with her joints and is looking great.
JJ had his horse Spirit, a stallion who was taller, older, and more experienced. I didn't get to practice much with him except for barrel racing as JJ kept his horse in the city with limited space. JJ and I would be riding Spirit in different categories.
Spirit was probably one of the best horses I have ridden...in terms of competitions. Of course, he could not replace Sahara.
He just knew what to do and was super brave and enjoyed running fast. I was also a pretty confident rider so we matched up really well. We won 1st place in barrel racing and 2nd in the obstacle course (with zero practice) Unfortunately, when I rode him for the obstacle course, I forget why, his owner decided to change out his bit and bridle out for something else. It was not what I and Spirit usually used. Maybe they thought it was a better bit for him but I felt something was off but figured it was just me being nervous. The new bit ended up pinching him even if I was not putting any pressure and he was in pain. He had pretty much memorized the course from JJs runs and I just tried to not use the reins at all but then I had a hard time stopping him and I swear he hit the last pole on the last turn on purpose out of frustration. I had to do an emergency stop for the first time ever and in front of a crowd after trying out other tactics, like going uphill or running in a big circle. I didn't blame Spirit. It was not like him, once I figured out it was the bit, I asked to change his bit and bridle back after checking his mouth which was ok. I am sure no one intended to cause him harm but it just wasn't a good idea to try something new at that time.
After apologizing profusely to Spirit I prepared for our 2nd run. Definitely felt him feel right and content with the gear we normally use. Our 2nd run went amazing! The water part of the obstacle was like half of the course. It was rough. It was deep and muddy, not really safe as many horses and riders fell. Spirit really wanted to run full throttle through it but I forced him to trot so we wouldn't end up stumbling. Coming out of the water I had him choose the speed again. I somehow stayed pretty dry.
I also got to see him again in 2019. He hadn't changed at all and was still such a sweetheart.