Good news! Ivan and I are happy to report that we had a fruitful and uneventful New England finals, placing sixth in the open adult equitation, 18-22 and 11th in the Medal Final. Considering that I added a freestyle halt last year and only practiced a handful of times this year, I’m pretty psyched!
The open course was challenging but allowed riders to show off in places while getting comfortable for the Medal round. The course started with a long approach vertical off the right lead (which is a miserable combination of my least two favorite things: right leads and long approaches), but I managed to find a nice, flowing distance to it. The track then continued off a tight left turn to an end jump whose standards were some spooky lighthouses continuing to a three-stride line.
Since the ring at the Big E is fairly small, the right-hand turn to the skinny white gate that came up next proved to be a bit tricky, but Ivan carried me through it beautifully as we rolled back to a simple oxer. The last line of the course, a nice one stride bending to a oxer, rode quite nicely and caused few problems. We received a score of 81, which I was perfectly satisfied with.
The first round of the Medal, however, proved to be a bit trickier. The first line of the course was a deceptively hard bending line, with a simple vertical followed by five strides to the in-and-out. The line walked somewhere between five and six strides, but my trainer, Lisa Rex, and I decided that the five was appropriate, given the finals status of the show and the size of my dinosaur horse.
She instructed me to ride straight for two strides after the vertical and then curve left for three. Like the educated and focused Tufts student that I am, I rode straight for three and curved left for…well, three strides which bumped our score down a bit. It was one of those moments where you think you’re cruising right along and then get two strides away from the jump and aw shoot, you’re not where you thought you were. But the six ended up working nicely, and we finished our course smoothly and with style and ended up being called back in 15th for the second round.
I found the second round of the Medal to be less challenging than the first, with multiple bending lines and long approaches that really allowed riders to show off and leave strides out. We got a bit close to the second jump, the skinny lighthouse end jump off the right lead this time, but still placed 11th out of 88 competitors. Ivan was a complete and utter superstar, and I stuffed him full of carrots and made sure to scratch his itchy spot for a solid 15 minutes afterwards.
But of course this blog is about intercollegiate riding, and I promise that there IS in fact a point to all of my rambling. When I was warming up for my classes, I tried to really focus on the details of my equitation that Katie Schaaf and I have been working on. I tried to keep my shoulders as far back as possible and then some, while keeping my elbows fluid and my chin up. It’s really amazing how these basic functions of equitation carry over into practice—when your shoulder are back, it’s easier to shorten the stride before a jump, just as it’s easier to lengthen when your elbows are fluid.
Our first TUEQ show is this Saturday at UMass Dartmouth, and we’re hoping it will be a strong start to our season. As I write this post, it is snowing (and sticking!) outside, so keep your fingers crossed that the New England weather decides to be bipolar in the good direction this weekend.