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March 8, 2010

The Ides Of IHSA

Aspen was a pleasant mount for Katie in open flat.

It’s Spring! For the first time since September, temperatures are in the 60s, students are sprawled on the President’s Lawn soaking up the sun, and TUEQ is back in action in our regular season show schedule. This weekend we headed to Medway, Mass., for our first IHSA show of the season, hosted by Wellesley College at Rising Star Equestrian Center.

I started the day off by walking my course, a straightforward track that included a rollback, a long approach, a skinny jump off of a short turn and an outside line. I walked the course and felt pretty confident about the questions asked.

The only problem I noticed came in the outside line. It walked in a very regular four strides, but many of the horses used in the IHSA are shorter-strided, and it can definitely be prudent to ride the add. Since it was the last line, I figured that the four would work on whatever horse I drew. But after I was assigned Delilah, a sweet little bay mare, I had to do some last-minute planning to account for her shorter stride and shallow jump.

Our coach, Katie Schaaf, wasn’t able to make it to the show in the morning as she was coaching the fabulous August Farm IEA team at their middle school Regionals that day, so I tried to do the best I could on my own. The first rollback went nicely; I opted for the outside turn and the simple lead change and kept flowing out over the oxer.

The long approach was a bit tricky. As I came off the wall to turn to the fence, Delilah got a bit wiggly and was reluctant to move off my outside leg. The distance to the jump worked out fine, though she surprised me with a flying change afterwards! I was quite pleased that she changed so easily but felt concerned about the inconsistency.

Next, we headed to a skinny vertical set in the middle of the ring off of a short turn. I saw the distance out of the turn, but a combination of my leaning (bad Katie!) and Delilah’s hesitance caused a hiccup. But we made it over and continued turning left to the outside line. I rode up out of the turn, planning for four strides, but once I landed in the line I realized that gunning it for the four would end in one of two ways: a horrible three-legged distance or a stop. So I landed in the line, steadied quietly and added in the five.

Could I have gone for the four? Sure. But in the interest of self-preservation the add seemed necessary. The other riders in my class put in some very nice rounds, and given my pilot errors, I placed fifth. Not great, but at least it put some points on the card.

The rest of the morning was very pink; my co-captain Cecilia also picked up a fifth in intermediate fences, as did our lesson coordinator and boot cleaner extraordinaire Kerry Sachs.

Our freshman intermediate rider Risa Meyers drew a great paint mare named Holly, and the two jumped beautifully to first. Our novice fences rider, Katie Lazarski, picked up third and then rode to first on the flat (Someone’s work in lessons is paying off!).

On the flat, I drew a gelding named Aspen, an older type who did his job to perfection. I felt pretty good about the flat. I was softer through my hands than I have been all year, and I really was able to keep my leg long and wrapped around the horse (literally-I’m 5’10” and that horse is maaaaaybe 15.1 with shoes and pads, unclipped and unlonged).

What I need to be doing (and the lack of which is killing me on the judge’s card) is keeping my elbows in and stretching tall through the canter.  When I sit the canter, I try to keep my elbows and my seat as soft as possible, and when I do so, I sacrifice the straightness in my back and tend to roach a bit. As frustrating as flatting has been for me, I know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and the harder I work, the closer I get. It’s a process; you can’t achieve perfection overnight.  So, in the name of consistency, I picked up fifth again.

Our intermediate flat rider, Kennon Ulicny, rode her way to a blue ribbon. Kennon is a rider I envy on the flat. She is always soft, poised and tall. She’s great no matter what horse she draws.

Our novice flat rider, Leigh Cooper, drew the same horse that Risa pulled for intermediate fences. Leigh was a bit nervous, never having ridden a horse as big as Holly. I assured her that the big mare is quite literally the most fun horse you can draw in our region, and that the only requirements are to keep your leg on and smile. Literally. That’s it. The horse is beyond comfortable. Leigh did just that and rode beautifully to second place and pointed out of novice flat. She’ll be heading to Regionals in a few weeks!

Another Regional qualifier on Saturday was our walk-trot-canter superstar Alex Uden who rode Blush, an adorable gray pony, to first.

Senior Emma Hanson also proved that her work in lessons has paid off and picked up fifth in a very competitive WTC class. Our newest show rider Carole Lemos-Wade exuded confidence despite her inner nervousness and showed off a killer two-point and sitting trot in walk-trot to earn us a second place.

The day had some highs and had some lows. But all in all, it was a good start to our regular season, and while we love pink (it’s a pretty decoration) we want more primary colors. I’m only four points away from qualifying for Regionals in open fences, so hopefully I’ll be able to do so before the semester is over. We show next weekend at Hobby Horse Farm in Rehoboth, Mass., at the UMass Dartmouth/Wheaton show. Hopefully we’ll have some good news!