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October 11, 2013

Waking Up in Vegas… Err, Harrisburg

I feel like I’m in Las Vegas.

Of course, the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex doesn’t have a wide array of singing slot machines, gaudy red carpets, or drinks on the house, but it definitely doesn’t sleep. Just like a casino, there are no windows and no clocks.

It’s very easy to lose track of time; in fact, a security guard asked us what time it was yesterday, and seemed very confused when we told her that it was 7:00 p.m. I was eager to send a text message to my friend after I rode, as I was sure it was late enough in the day that she’d be awake.  It was actually around 5:30 a.m. Oops.

If you really want to see what the outside world looks like, the closest you can get is to check the weather app on the iPhone closest to you. Unfortunately, the picture of the radar map hasn’t changed much since Thursday morning. A nonstop downpour has flooded several streets around the show facility, forcing us to get a little creative with our route to the show.

After weaving our way through several dark neighborhoods, we arrived at the show at 4:30 a.m. on Friday. A giant bay horse was standing in my previously empty stall. We had planned to try all of the options on Thursday, but the show ring was moving very quickly and we were unable to drive out to the farm where the horses were located. Therefore, we decided to ship the largest and most experienced horse to the show; at 5’10” with very long legs, I look best on big horses.

Look at how tiny my mom looks next to Quito!

Though all of the horses I’ve ever had have been at least 17 hands, Quito, my ride for the weekend, is more than 18 hands and by far the biggest horse I’ve ever ridden. While riding in the ring yesterday, I felt like Alice in Wonderland; Quito makes the indoor seem like a miniature dollhouse! This is also his first time competing in the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals at Harrisburg, though he has quite a bit of grand prix experience under his belt. Quito has a huge stride, turns well, and is extremely adjustable, so I’m hoping we can work together to turn in a decent round on Sunday.

One of the biggest differences between the indoor finals and the rest of the shows throughout the year is the times at which we are allowed to ride. Yesterday I was on by 4:45 a.m., then again at 11:00 p.m.  My usual alarm for 6:00 a.m. seems like sleeping in now!

Our first appearance in the show ring will be Saturday afternoon in the equitation schooling class. Last year, a new rule was added to try to shorten Sunday’s long schedule; if there are more than 250 riders, Saturday’s schooling round will become a preliminary round, eliminating anyone with a refusal, fall, or other major error from competing in Sunday’s round. Luckily, there are less than 250 riders this year, so Saturday’s performances have no bearing on Sunday. 

I’m very relieved, as the schooling round will be my first time jumping a course on Quito! Wish us luck!

Grace Powers is a 16-year-old rider competing in the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals for the first time. Read her first blog, Horseless In Harrisburg. Read all the Chronicle's coverage of the Pennsylvania National

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