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October 24, 2013

Kicked Down But Never Broken

Jennie Brannigan's lead in the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill CCI*** came to a disappointing end after a runout on cross-country followed by a hold on course that proved more mentally challenging than expected. Photo by Sara Lieser.

Well, I guess that weekend didn’t go quite as planned... 

I would have to say I do feel a bit kicked down after having that 20 on cross-country at Fair Hill International this weekend. I think Ping was super, and I have to take full credit for the fact that I didn’t bend out the line in the keyhole to corner to corner combination in the main arena that day.

I got there too deep in the five strides, and he landed too dead to get across the arena in the three to the other corner. Poor thing actually got the flag caught up in his tail and had it chasing him until I got the word to pull up because of Sally Cousins’ fall at the coffin. I have to say that I owe Will Faudree for getting me to stop and telling me how to deal with the hold that I was now in.

I went back to the arena, and as I was circling around listening to the fact that I’d had a 20 and had lost the lead being announced, a lot of things were running around in my head. First was, “I hope that Sally is indeed OK,” and next was, “Wow, I just lost the lead.”

I knew at that moment that I had a very big choice to make: Either I get tough, go out there and put everything out of my mind and give Ping a good, confident go at the rest of the course, or let my mind get the best of me and retire.

It’s a bit tough, to be honest, getting pulled up right when you’ve just had a stop. And I couldn’t help but think, as I walked around that arena, about how I’ve had some serious upsets in there. In fact, it was the exact same place that my partner Cooper suffered the injury that would result in his life ending way too soon. You really would be shocked at the things that can go through your mind in those 15-20 min. They last a lot longer than you would think.

Coming to the end of the hold, I knew I needed to go out there and ride the best I could, and I knew I could do it. I had two jumps before the coffin, where Sally had just fallen. And after I got through them, Ping sailed through the coffin like a champ. I took a deep breath and focused on bringing him home in good form the rest of the way, and he delivered.

Ping jumped great, and I got him home safe and sound. He jogged up great afterward and on Sunday morning, and he had a super double-clear round in show jumping, which left me feeling a little bit better at the end of the weekend.

I loved seeing Jan Byyny win, and I don’t think anyone could argue that anybody else deserves the win more than she did. She’s an inspiration and indeed a true role model in the sport, showing what real toughness is and what it can accomplish. 

So I hope to take on a bit of Jan's toughness and look on to the future as I take 7-10 horses to Ocala for the next few months to train with Scott Keach. In the meantime I will put my head down, work hard, and cheer on the U.S. at Pau....

Jennie

Brannigan Eventing

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