My mom loves to tell people how Mike Huber said to me over and over again, "Well, you found another way to get eliminated." I know she's exaggerating, because I was only eliminated a few times (now I did find a lot of ways to lose out on a ribbon!). Sadly, my eliminations had no plot twists - the same horse, at the same jump (water), that the Area V course designers so creatively always put in the same place on course (second to last). But, at Fair Hill this weekend, I got to say to poor Kerry, "Well, you found another way to get eliminated - and it's a way I didn't even know was possible!". So, this post is for Kerry - not to scold or humiliate - but to take at least 50% of the blame for her elimination! Coach FAIL. Rider WIN.
This was Kerry's third time running Training level, and it was meant to be redemption. Her first run was at Fair Hill in April, and Atticus' eyes just about popped out of his head. In bitter cold rain, Kerry was galloping him at the largest things he'd ever seen - not that he hadn't seen them before - but he hadn't seen so many of them, one after the other, and did I mention the rain?! She rode her tail off, completing the course, but having 1 stop at 4 separate fences added up to elimination. Right after, Atticus went to Lucinda Green boot camp and Kerry came home with a new pair of HUGE spurs. Lucinda told Kerry she would have to be the brave one for a while. And the spurs would help. And they did - Kerry brought home a double clear XC at MCTA. So now it was back to Fair Hill for a do-over.
But, this time, it was an absolutely brilliant moment in show jumping that created a total snafu in the day's plan. Kerry and I walked show jumping prior to the start of Intermediate - I'm not sure there were any course maps posted at the time; neither of us saw them. Near the end of the course, there was an in-and-out down the middle of the ring. While the final line was a quick turn to the right, the course actually made a roll-back turn to the left to jump a Swedish Oxer before heading towards home and the final line. Kerry and I discussed how easy it would be to forget that Swedish, and we both said over and over - don't forget the Swedish. Don't. Forget. The. Swedish.
Kerry was the second to show jump at Training level. We weren't able to walk the course again after the re-set as she needed to be warming up. We noted the triple was now a double. Everything else looked the same. I walked up the hill to be ready to video. Kerry stood at the in-gate to watch the ride before her. The girl jumps the first in-and-out, and turns right, skipping the Swedish and heading for the final line - OH CRAP - see, I knew it would be easy to... Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. That Swedish is still set at Intermediate height - it's off the course, it's off the course! I run down the hill yelling at Kerry.
Kerry: "I got it. I know."
Me: "You know?"
Kerry: "Yea, I know. I'm okay"
Me: "Okay, she's got it, she's okay"
Total. Miss. Communication.
Kerry comes out of the in-and-out, and turns left. OH MY GOD. All I could stammer out in a whisper was, "she's not okay, she's not okay, she's not okay." And then Kerry York on Atticus the superstar jumped that Intermediate Swedish Oxer like they had wings. It was magnificent. And I didn't know whether to cheer, pass out, cry, yell...
And then the judge blew the whistle. Elimination. Deviation from course. Jumping an obstacle not marked as part of the course. I pleaded, I begged - I said, but didn't you see how nice the jump was? Can't you just give her a refusal for crossing her path and forget it even happened?! No such luck.
Kerry had no idea what happened. Her mom had to break the news to her while I consulted with the judge and TD. All she could say was - "I thought it felt big in the air". When she asked me just how big it was, I refused to answer, but I said - "lets put it this way, if he even hints he's going to whine about one of those Training level galloping fences, you tell him to stuff it - he he just jumped that Intermediate Swedish Oxer and there will be no more whining at Training level!" The TD graciously allowed Kerry to run XC, and run they did!!
By way of the rulebook, I feel I need to speak out. The TD was correct - the rulebook is clear - Kerry (and I as her coach) made a mistake; she deviated from the course and jumped an unmarked obstacle; this requires elimination. He was also right - we should have checked the course map (is there EVER an accurate map at show jumping??) But, fair enough, it was our responsibility. But, when I asked him why the jump wasn't crossed off (the judge and ring crew had already told me they tried to cross it off, but the TD had specifically told them to leave the jump in place, set for Intermediate, without crossing it off), he indicated that the rulebook did not call for unmarked jumps to be crossed off and that actually, recently, (and I can't remember his exact words), it's a trend or common or encouraged... to have obstacles (jumps) in the ring that are not on the course. I asked if that was to make our show jumping more in line with jumper shows, where courses change every class and riders have to navigate between and around jumps, only jumping the ones designated for their course. He agreed. Interesting, I thought. Until I came home and read the rulebook.
"Obstacles not included in the course should be crossed but failure to do so by the arena party will not preclude the elimination of a competitor for jumping an obstacle not forming part of the course."
To me, this says that every effort should be made to cross them off - but if someone forgets, this does not become an excuse for a rider to protest their elimination - they still deviated from the course and will be eliminated. But, this statement clearly DOES NOT encourage nor permit the willful, purposeful, and intentional inclusion of jumps in the arena that are not crossed off (especially when set for two levels above the competing class). Had the jump been crossed off, Kerry would have come around to it, realized our mistake, ridden past it, received a refusal for crossing her path, and carried on to complete the event. Instead, she was eliminated and told she could have received a citation for dangerous riding (which very thankfully, she did not - can a coach receive a "dangerous coaching" citation??). Jeeze.
At the end of the day, Kerry said to me, "I've never had so much fun getting eliminated." And the wonderful thing is that Atticus has no idea what the scoreboard said - to him, and to me, and most certainly to Kerry - that horse is a superstar!