Junior weekend at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show is unfortunately over, but I’m still on cloud nine after such an amazing experience! Here’s a recap of Saturday and Sunday of my weekend.
On Friday night (well, technically Saturday morning, as we didn't finish riding until after 12 a.m.), we were able to flat in the show ring before jumping a couple of lines in the schooling ring.
While the show ring was packed, it was manageable as everyone was going the same direction and at a similar pace. The schooling ring was completely the opposite! What happens when you put more than 50 riders and nine jumps in the same ring? Complete mayhem.
I had to circle several times while trying to get to the first fence in order to avoid crashing, but eventually I was able to get some good jumps in.
Here’s a video from the Friday schooling session.
Because Quito was so good earlier that morning, I was able to sleep in a little bit on Saturday. I only had to be at the show in time for the 10:30 a.m., riders’ meeting, where they drew the order of go. However, I nearly missed the meeting! I knew it was on the third floor, but I had no idea how to get there.
Luckily, a sympathetic security guard found me wandering and guided me in the right direction. I arrived just in time to hear the first rider being called, and was happy to hear myself called for the 126th spot. I would go just more than halfway through the entire class, giving me enough time to analyze the course and potential problems, but not enough that I’d be extremely tired after watching too many trips.
On Saturday afternoon, we had the equitation schooling class. This is the only chance for the equitation riders to jump in the ring before the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals.
The course wasn’t too difficult, but enough for me to know what I needed to improve with Quito before Sunday. We had a decent round, although I added one extra stride in each of the last two lines. I hadn’t noticed that he had a tendency to drift left until I found myself doing seven strides in a six-stride bending line!
Although these mistakes knocked me out of the ribbons on Saturday, they helped me recognize the changes I needed to make to his track, which ended up being a key aspect of the Medal Finals course.
My 4:45 a.m. alarm came way too early on Sunday morning. With my cumulative hours of sleep since Thursday hovering around 12 hours, I all but sleepwalked my way to the show. I was happy to see that the course suited Quito well, and that I’d be able to actually take advantage of his left drift in several places.
After watching the first 20 riders, I went back to the barn to hack Quito one more time. He felt great as always, so I just spent a few minutes practicing riding on an open stride to prepare both of us for the two spots on course which had caused the most problems all day; the first line and the line from jump 8 to 9AB, both of which were very forward.
For the next few hours, I rotated around the ring, watching a few rounds from at least four different vantage points. This really helped me to see how quickly the jumps came up, as well as how differently the course looks from across the ring!
Before I knew it, they were dragging the ring after the 100th trip and it was time for me to get on. After jumping a few fences in the larger warm-up ring, I walked down to the smaller ring next to the arena to finish my schooling. That’s one big difference from Harrisburg and other shows; while many have multiple schooling rings, it’s uncommon to switch to another one in the middle of your warm-up! Quito jumped everything well and felt great as we walked up to the in-gate.
The beginning of my round went very well, and Quito was listening perfectly. He extended up the first line with ease, then settled back well to fit in five slower strides to jump 3. Our course continued without any major faults until I found a slow, slightly deep distance to jump 8 and had to run to get to the next jump without adding a stride, resulting in a bobble at takeoff.
We went on to finish nicely, and as I dismounted after exiting the ring I gave Quito a huge hug. My only goal for my first year at the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals was to make it around without falling off or having a refusal, and Quito exceeded my expectations.
I spent the rest of the day watching the remainder of the class, and I was certainly happy not to be in the grueling no-stirrups test of the top six riders! The hardest part of the entire weekend was having to say goodbye to Quito. Although I only rode him for three days, he taught me so much!
Overall, Harrisburg was an amazing experience and I am so happy that I was able to go. I still have two more junior years left, so I hope to return in the future with my own horse. Although I am done showing at indoors this year, I wish the best of luck to my peers competing at the Washington International Horse Show and the Alltech National Horse Show later this month.
Lastly, I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to everyone who made this possible for me—my parents, my trainers, my friends, and most of all, Quito. Thanks to everyone at the Chronicle for allowing me to share my experiences in Harrisburg. Until next year!