In the Ribbons
It is now December. Dressage Nationals was held last month. What took me so long to post about the experience? In a nutshell; I came in 11th. Not once but twice. What does coming in 11th at Nationals mean? It means that I was oh so close to coming in tenth and being in the ribbons.
This year marked the 4th year that I was eligible to compete with the best of the best from throughout the United States. I came back to Kentucky this year to ride not one freestyle but 2. I needed a do over from last year at 3rd Level. Note: I did improve from last year to this year. I also have a simply terrific 4th level freestyle that I was dying to show.
As a professional you do not decide to take 10 days off, spend a great deal of money and drive over 1200 miles to come in 11th. I would imagine most of us knowing the outcome would stay home. My hope springs eternal: always. I am an optimist. I fortunately have a supportive clientele. All of them love to cheer me on. Added to that my husband agrees to keep the home fires burning while I’m gone.
So, on the first Monday of November I found myself with my coach trekking across the state of Texas heading to Kentucky and the Kentucky Horse Park: http://kyhorsepark.com/ . If you have never been the park itself is a masterpiece. Add to that the drama of riding in the Alltech Arena and the experience can’t be matched outside of the World Equestrian Games or the Olympics.
We arrived at the Horse Park on Tuesday to give the horses ample time to rest from 2 days of travel and habituate them to them to the arenas. I’m fortunate that Winterfair likes the arenas at the horse park and for the most part settles in for work.
I wish hard work and desire were all it took to finish in the ribbons at Dressage Nationals. If that was it then I would certainly have been among the top ten. I work long days, spend my evenings watching videos and or reading articles on dressage. I not only wish for success I’m striving every day to make myself, my horse and for that matter my students better.
I went into the ring for my first championship ride (3rd Level freestyle) feeling confident. I left with knowledge that whatever the judges thought at that time for that 5 minutes I had ridden the best ride I could. Oh, so close but not quite good enough for a coveted ribbon. If you are interested, you can watch the class here: http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2016USDressageFinals/ Kathy Connelly did a great job as the commentator.
You’ve heard the adage: ‘if you fall off, get back up and try again’. Lucky me, I had another ride on Sunday. I should have seen the signs that afternoon. The lights began to flicker in the barn as I was braiding Winterfair. An announcement was made that the show was running on auxiliary power but the ‘show would go on’.
Little did I know this meant 2 emergency lights in the warm up. It was so dark that it was impossible to see the other riders until they were right in front of me. Riding from the warm up into the arena at the KHP always gives me chills. Those were taken to a new height as I went from a dark room through a dark corridor into a slightly more lighted arena. All I can say is how eerie it was to be in that cavernous space without the normal lights.
It might have been better for me if it had been even darker. Perhaps then the judges wouldn’t have seen how much I over rode the test. We have all been there. You get the comment on your test ‘needs more impulsion’. You think I will show you impulsion. Yep, we had canter strides instead of trot. My first right shoulder in was nonexistent. I was thinking while I rode and ended up placing another shoulder in on centerline to increase my score. Yay, for the quick thinking. I wish it had been enough to place us higher in the class but once again we came in 11th.
So, over the past month I’ve had time to reflect on my performance. When is 11th place good. It is great when you are in 11th place at Nationals. Was it the best we could do? No, I don’t think so. However, it was judged against the other best riders in the country. The horses and riders that show up to compete at the show only improve from year to year. My performance this year was better than last year. I have a great deal to be proud of.
First place would have been great. Any ribbon would have made my day. I’m back home and working to perfect the balance. Searching for the elasticity and suppleness that we lacked in our tests. It is coming and I hope to have another go at the ribbons next year.