A Good Result, But I Want A Great One

Oct 28, 2013 - 5:12 PM
While I'm satisfied with my result from Pau, I'm not overjoyed. Photo by Libby Law Photography

A Post Three-Day Hangover: the feeling one gets when months of blood, sweat, tears, money and emotional and physical stress come to a grinding halt at the end of a three-day event, and one is left thinking “Now what?”

I think we all have one brewing after the culmination of Pau. One becomes so intensely focused on achieving a goal, and then in an instant it’s over.

Donner put in a beautiful show jumping round yesterday to finish off our second four-star this year in 13th place out of 50 combinations that finished the event. While I was hoping to jump a double-clear round here just like on the cross-country, the huge, technical show jump track took its toll on the majority of the field. Unfortunately all of the U.S. contingent had at least two rails, as well as many of the world’s best horses and riders. The USA finished four riders in the top 20 at an overseas four-star, which is something we should all be proud of and I feel like we’re heading in the right direction.

Donner’s classic pre-game face.

My horse felt fantastic in show jumping. He jumped really well and handled the atmosphere better than I expected. I’m disappointed in the two rails because he truly felt like he could have jumped a clean round. He actually jumped better here than I feel he’s jumped all season. I made two extremely small errors that most people wouldn’t even pick up on, and nine out of 10 times could just as easily gotten away with, but that’s all it takes sometimes.

I am more than proud of him, and that feeling is keeping me on cloud nine right now! At the end of the day there are still a lot of things we have to work on, but 13th at our first overseas competition at the four-star level against a really competitive international field around a track unlike anything my horse and I have come close to seeing is something that will keep me happy for awhile.

I was also happy to feel him jumping so well because it means he peaked at the right time. This is something we constantly struggle with as event riders. At this level, there is no magic formula for the right combination of training, fitness, maintenance and nutrition needed to peak a horse correctly at the four-star level. A lot of it comes down to experience, talking to your trainers and peers, being a good horseman, and knowing and listening to your own horse. He came out of the entire competition looking and feeling great!

While I’m satisfied with my result from Pau, I’m not overjoyed. It was a good result, but it was not a great one. Complacency and accepting what is merely good enough is not going to make Donner and I better or more competitive. This self-reflection is imperative to improve my own riding and all of my horses’ performances.

On Friday David O’Connor gave us a short, impassioned talk (as he sometimes tends to do since he is competitive and passionate about winning!) at the end of our course walk for cross-country and said that clear rounds produce medals. Everything needs to be more competitive to win, but without clear cross-country rounds we have no chance of ever reaching the podium. This rang home to me, and is something I now feel I am able to consistently produce at this level with Donner.

Now what I need to do is make the good stuff great. I need to keep refining my technical skills in the show jumping to be able to easily produce a clear round on the final day no matter how hard the track is, and I need to get Donner stronger and more consistent on the flat.

Because he will never be the 10 mover that so many of the modern event horses are, I need to squeeze every point out of what we have to work with. He is lovely and correct, and I need to make what is merely good into greatness. We at least need to be consistently scoring in the 40s and not a low 50 if I want to be competitive on an international stage and be a definite contender for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy next year. That’s what this winter and next season are for! New goals are fun. :)

Donner gets out of quarantine on Saturday and returns home to Middleburg, Va. He will have a small vacation but will keep hacking, and start back into light work in a few weeks. A horse like Donner will self-destruct if he’s turned out and left alone. I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work! He loves having a job, so his job gets to be hacking around and walking for the next few weeks to give his body a well deserved break.

I, on the other hand, am right back at it, with horses and students competing at Virginia Horse Trials this weekend in the CCI* and CIC**. I’m actually writing this from the plane and when I land I have to go ride and teach a few headed to VHT. Not much time to rest in this game!

I owe a huge thanks to Jacqueline Mars and the USET Foundation for making this trip possible with a travel grant, and to everyone involved in my Pau fundraiser. Every person who donated and came to support us is part of the reason Donner and I were able to succeed this week. There was a lot of pressure riding on me to make Ms. Mars and the USET feel like they didn’t waste a travel grant, and to make everyone who helped donate this fall to get us here proud.

I own Donner completely on my own, and the expense involved in a trip like this is astronomical, let alone just getting a horse to this level. So from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU! I am also tremendously grateful for the support my sponsors have given me. This would not have been possible without SpectraVet, Southern States, Triple Crown, Animo, CWD, ThinLine, Uckele, Rebound, Ride Safe, Equiotic and WOW! Graphic Designs.

Donner’s team of Virginia Equine Imaging, Randy Pawlak, Angie Cooney and Maddy Meyers have kept him feeling his best. And lastly to my groom for the last two weeks, Katie Thornton, and the entire Lynn Symansky Equestrian team, thanks so much for all of your work and support before and during Pau. You all keep me going and without the entire LSE team I wouldn’t be writing this right now.

LSE is back in Virginia until the new year and will be headed south for a bit this winter. If anyone is interested in joining the team, whether it be with a horse, your own riding, or wanting to get involved in some other way, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Here’s to setting goals and moving forward into 2014!

Some of the U.S. horses and grooms on Monday morning.
My groom for the week, Katie Thornton (left), me, and my mom,
out for dinner in Pau on Sunday night.

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