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October 9, 2013

Horseless In Harrisburg

When my equitation horse got hurt, I spent the summer showing a leased horse, Laokoon, in the children's jumpers. Photo by Marion Murphy

Hi everyone, I’m Grace Powers. I’m 16 years old, a junior in high school, and I live in Connecticut. I train at Old Salem Farm in North Salem, N.Y., with Frank Madden and Stella Manship and I leave for Harrisburg, Pa., today to compete in the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals for the first time. I'll be blogging about it all for the Chronicle.

In September of last year, I began writing a list of goals. Some were solely for the 2013 show year, while some stretched to the rest of my junior years and hopefully beyond. A few of the goals in the 2013 section included “to qualify for USEF Junior Hunter Finals” and “jump an open water,” as well as four goals in bold font. These special goals were the ASPCA Maclay Regionals, USEF Talent Search Finals, Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals, and lastly, ASPCA Maclay Finals.

Fast forward nine months later, and it’s the end of May. A few goals on that list were already accomplished; my equitation horse, Norton had qualified for junior hunter finals during his first time in the division, and we’d somehow launched/flailed our way over a handful of open waters.

Every show, we got a little bit closer to the points needed to qualify for the equitation finals. But two days after arriving home from the Devon Horse Show, disaster struck my equitation dream. Norton had a small tear in his deep digital flexor tendon. While it was luckily not a career-ending injury, it did mean he’d be out for the rest of the season.

For the next few months, my focus shifted to the jumper ring. I leased an amazing horse named Laokoon and we had good results in the children’s jumpers, even earning the championship during the last week of the Vermont Summer Festival. But one day, I received a text message asking if I wanted to do the equitation again for fun. Later that afternoon, I had a red ribbon in my hand and a reignited dream in my mind.

Though I didn’t have enough Maclay or Talent Search points to try to qualify for those finals, I did have a fighting chance at getting to the Medal Finals. By the next week, with the outstanding help of my trainers and great cooperation from my less-than-amused jumper, I was qualified. To this day, I still can’t believe that I’m actually going.

Despite being able to qualify, there is still a rather large snag in my fairytale journey to Harrisburg: a horse. Although Laokoon has been a perfect gentleman to qualify on, his sense of humor about being braided and playing equitation horse might not extend to the pressure of the Medal Finals, so I'm leasing an equitation horse just for the weekend. While many people are nervous heading into their first time at indoors, they usually have a strong partnership with their horse to fall back on. Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury.

I’m lucky enough to have a choice of horses to ride in the final, but I won’t meet any of them until today; just three days before I ride one of them around the most important competition I have ever shown in. Regardless of whether I make the second round or pop-chip the first jump, I’m so excited for this weekend and extremely grateful to everyone who has helped me get here.

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