Monday, October 22, 2012

Notice to Eventing Fans: Top Ten Reasons to CHEER!

I love a Fair Hill hangover!  Especially when it doesn't include sore muscles from shivering all weekend!  My lips have the sting of Sun and crisp air.  My voice has a twinge of raspiness from hootin' and hollerin'! The one place on my chest where I forgot sunscreen is pleasantly pink and warm.  I might even be a little tired from the gluttony of mimosas, sangria, and Maker's Mark... or some combination thereof!  And I feel inspired to JUMP the big boy jumps!

Picture Perfect show jumping day

But I have a complaint about Fair Hill this year.  The crowd.  I've never seen a less enthusiastic crowd at Fair Hill.  What happened?  It wasn't cold and wet.  Your clapping hands weren't muffled by warm mittens.  Your lips weren't sealed shut by cold rain.  It was a glorious day, yet over and over again, standing among hundreds of people - I'm pretty sure I was the only one screaming in appreciation of a hell of a save or seriously good piece of riding!  At Rolex, even those who retire get a handy applause - "thanks for trying, good look to ya next time!"  Eventing fans of Fair Hill - what's wrong with you???  We were in Tailgating section C, and we had a landslide "win" of the cheering contest - while we gave out some good cheers, our competition  was well, mute, so it wasn't really a contest at all.  Sad, folks, really sad.  I told several people that the day I ride around Fair Hill - if I cross the finish line and haven't heard a single cheer along the way, I will cry.  

Just a few of our tailgater gang - the early morning Mimosa crew!

Along the I-95 corridor, where I spent many hours this weekend driving back and forth, I did some thinking.  And I've come up with the Top Ten Reasons to CHEER for our cross country horses and riders!  

10. The home field advantage is about the support of the crowd! Let our riders (and horses!) feel the love!

9. While self-congratulations goes a long way for an Eventer, "Yay for me!" starts feeling a little pathetic after about fence 3 - when you're riding AT FAIR HILL!

8. You have a beer and a funnel cake.  If you can't get excited about the horses, at least get excited about that!

7. Let's give Brian O'Connor a reason to say "And the crowd goes WILD!"

6. Has any (winning!) General led his troops into battle with the yell of "Charge!" followed by silence?  That guy lost the war.  Eventing is the ultimate test of Calvary courage.  Imagine the horse and rider on course is our General and we're his troops!  CHARGE! YAY!

5. It does matter.  The horses and riders do hear you.  

4. Could you have ridden it better than what that rider just did?  No?  THEN CHEER!

3. Bolder, Better, Faster, Stronger.  Seriously, this sport is AWESOME!  CHEER!

2. If Fair Hill is a final stepping stone for America's future Rolex, Badminton, Burghley... OLYMPIC... WEG... horses - lets prepare them for the CROWDS!!!  Think Allison Springer's Arthur, folks - give these horses a chance to learn what big time cross country crowds are all about!

And the #1 Reason to CHEER on cross country day is...
Don't let those Dressage queens and their red foam fingers make America believe they're bigger sports fans than Eventers!

Phillip Dutton on Fernhill Eagle - check out the helmet cam! Didn't he deserve a wild and crazy cheer?? 

Yes, I did a little shopping too!  The chevron is MINE!  Who says every girl wants diamonds?
(In photo: Kerry York & me )

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Secret to Winning...

Jim Wofford loves to tell riders that he's found the secret to winning every event!  He leans in close, with a twinkle in his eye and a smirk on his face, and he whispers... "The secret to winning every event is [pause for dramatic effect], you must win the dressage.  And jump double clear on cross country and show jumping."  He stands back up and grins.  Well, of course, Jimmy.   It really is just that simple. Shoot me, right?!  I've seen him do this to rider after rider, myself included, over the past several years... but today I got to see my wonderful student, Kerry, with the magic in her own eye as she discovered truth does exist in Jimmy's secret to winning.

Today was the final 2012 event for Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy.  When I arrived this morning to coach Kerry and Atticus, I made a mental note of the temperature displayed in my car.  A full 65 degrees colder than the last time Kerry and I both competed at Loch Moy this summer.  Yes, I cursed the Sun God that weekend.  But, really, were the dramatics so necessary, Mr. Sun God?!

Under sunny skies and crisp air, Kerry put in a lovely dressage test.  It's been wonderful watching her transformation from not surviving in the white rectangle (forgotten tests, inexplicable "movements"...), to surviving, to thriving!  She is a solid competitor every time she steps in the ring these days, and she has been knocking on the door of real success for some time.  While there were still some points left on the table, today's test was a picture of harmony and partnership.  And she was well rewarded, being one of only 4 riders in her division of 17 to score in the 30's -- she led the division by over 2 points.  I've been saying to her the last few events, "go in there like you think you can win this thing!" Now I get to say, "go in there, and KNOW you can win this thing!".

At the 110 degree summer Loch Moy event, the hilarious and bizarre award went to the horse who dumped his rider on XC and headed straight for the pond, where he refused to leave.  Today's hilarious and bizarre award went to the one-eyed Chestnut OTTB who dumped his rider out of his dressage saddle and headed straight for the show jumping ring.  He jumped the yellow gate rope and had a look around... just after a poor unsuspecting rider had jumped the first jump on course!!!  There was a bit of a scramble, and I never actually heard the judge ring the bell, but I head some yelling at the rider on course, and she quite sensibly pulled up as the loose horse was galloping straight at her! (An added element of difficulty to show jumping?!)  Myself and a group of folks jumped into the ring to capture the dressage-hating beast, and thankfully he didn't prove too difficult.  The judge and rider [IN THE MIDDLE OF HER ROUND] had a quick conference and the rider proceeded on with jump #2.  I'm not sure how they handled her time, but I suspect she was relieved of any and all time penalties!  There's one for the Eventing Judge's final exam, "What do you do when..."

Although Kerry was unaware of her "top of the leader board" standing going into jumping, her entire support crew was well aware.  I knew she had 1/2 a rail in hand, and oh wouldn't it be nice for her to jump her first clear Training level show jumping round today?!  But it wasn't to be.  Fence 4B fell to the ground.  It made me wish so much that each rail in a combination would only count for a fraction of a rail!  But, oh well.  It was a lovely course, and I will gladly take her one rail down over a few of the clear rounds I saw today!

Atticus has become a XC machine and they flew around the course making it look like a walk in the park.  Video proof:

At the finish line, I told Kerry of her standing after dressage.  It was there that I saw the magic in her eyes.  She found Jimmy's secret to winning every event.  And while it didn't happen today (her rail dropped her to 4th) - Kerry knows the truth in Jimmy's words now.  All you have to do is win the dressage and jump 2 clear rounds.  It's just that simple.