...Often go awry. Or at least that is how the phrase should go. While our last two IHSA shows themselves ran smoothly and seamlessly, we should have known better than to make any assumptions in the week leading up to them.
We made a huge effort to get our greener and more recent additions going along really nicely  so we could use them at the show. We assumed some would get there and some wouldn’t and our list of horses to take would present itself fairly obviously.
We usually take around 35 horses, and this group is compiled starting with our “regulars.” These are the horses that walk in to the ring and every coach from every school knows them. They’re the horses we rarely get asked about because everyone already knows their quirks: Scribble will cut the corners if you let him, Flint doesn’t like being counter-bent, and Cruiser needs a lot of leg. We have quite a few horses that have been doing IHSA for far longer than I have and are fixtures on our show list.
Then the rest of the list is far more up in the air. When we sat down to finalize the show horses we realized we had done a little too well in preparing our newer horses for the show; we ended up with a list of 47 horses we felt could confident could go and be great draws. We could take 37 at the most, since we were limited by stabling at the host facility and trailering spots.
So while Abilene had been coming along so well that she had been integrated into the lesson program and was being ridden by girls of various levels, she was left off the show list along with our other youngest horses. Ombragé, on the other hand, made the cut as he was showing primarily in the higher levels where we have fewer horses.
Of course, horses being horses, that wasn’t the way it played out. Ombragé came along great and once it was determined we were using him it was time for me to share. All the girls who could potentially draw him got to ride and they all immediately fell in love. Unfortunately no sooner had the words “I hope I draw him!” left their lips than he came up with an abscess in his back foot. I swear this horse has been smiling at me every time I walk past his stall, laughing at all the work I put in only for him to miss the show. No one tell him there is another show in November that he will be going to if his abscess clears up by then.
Abscess aside, the entire show weekend went amazingly well. Most of our new horses helped riders to blue ribbons, including “Independence Day” a Thoroughbred donated to us on the 4th of July, “Ragtime’s Nashville” a homebred Hanoverian/Paint cross with the sweetest face, and “Finnegan” a donated Oldenburg who at the age of 15 learned to jump so well that he won his first IHSA over-fences class.
However I can’t forget the amazing team of people behind the whole weekend. The SUNY Geneseo Equestrian Team placed third both days, behind Cazenovia and St. Lawrence who traded off for first and second between the two days. You can never really complain when you end up three points off of St. Lawrence, who have won the national championships the past two years in a row.
And we did it without a full team—taking two zeros on Saturday and one on Sunday since we lacked an intermediate flat or fences rider at the start of the year. Thanks to a few blue ribbons, we now have both going ahead with the season.
While our more seasoned girls continued with their winning ways, such as our new intermediate rider Emily Lockard who won over fences both days despite a trip up to the higher division, our new girls really stepped up to the plate as well. One of our novice riders, Katie Nickels, won blue in her very first ever IHSA class. Our open rider, Becky Caracciolo, shouldered the burden of not only being the only Geneseo rider in her division, but also having to be the first rider in the first division at her first IHSA show! Yet she handled the pressure (and extreme quiet of having everyone’s attention as you kick off the show) with aplomb, bringing home a bunch of points to start Geneseo off strong.
These girls have the very hard job of both running a horseshow and then competing in it. Every girl on the team has a horse they are assigned to handle, which means they are responsible for making sure that horse is clean, tacked, and in the warm-up area before its class. They help the rider mount and give them advice on whether to carry a crop or spurs and then grab the horse as soon as it has finished its class.
In between it all they need to also get themselves mentally and physically prepared to show, compete, and then get back to their horse to continue handling. It is a long, hard day for everyone involved.
While us alumni got off a little easier (our call time was 7 a.m. versus 5:30 a.m. for the team girls) we were not spared. All of us were assigned horses to school and I ended up riding about 10 horses each day, varying from a five-minute flat to running several courses. Never ones to complain about saddle time, we all had an amazing time getting the horses ready and watching the team succeed.
It was bittersweet as it is my first year attending as an alumna and not as part of the team, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t relish the extra hour and a half of sleep!
The Chronicle's newest blogger is going to take you behind the scenes of an Intercollegiate Horse Show Association team as they prepare for show season.