Live and learn – and learn and learn some more. That would be the best way to describe this past week at NAJYRC. But that’s why we do this, right? I found myself telling people quite frequently, “it could be better, but it sure could be worse”.
So enough with the teasers…let me tell you about the past week. As you know, I was planning to take my young horse, “Brownie” or Clear Approval, to Champagne Run HT at the Park where he ran Preliminary. On Thursday night, I got in the car with my friend to go somewhere and I felt like something was in my eye. I was pretty miserable all night, but ignored the pain. When I woke up bright and early for dressage, my eye was killing me. One of the girls from the barn loaned me her sunglasses and eye drops as we all concluded I must have scratched my eye. I kept on with my weekend, as I didn’t have time to stop by the doctor, but finally my mother called to yell at me and told me to go to an urgent care. Sunday night, the general doctor found something in my eye and removed it with a cotton swab, but said that she couldn’t get out the other piece that was still left in my eye. My vet, Dr. Newton, made a few calls after here about my ridiculous eye, and got me in to a local optometrist’s office the next morning. When I went there, he found a rust spot in my eye, as the object in my eye had actually been a piece of metal, and supposedly metal when left in an eye, indeed rusts. They had to buff the spot out of my eye, and it left me in an eye patch. I started to cry prior to the procedure, but it was because he told me that I couldn’t be in the barn that day. That day happened to be the day that Area V was arriving at the horse park. Lesson learned: Go to the doctor the first day that your eye is miserable. You always have time.
I was able to join the team on Tuesday, and it was great getting to hang out with old friends, and getting to know the newer girls and boys on the team. We has a blast at the Spycoast competitor party, getting sprayed by the crazy Canadian team armed with water guns, dancing like goofballs, and building a human pyramid. Lesson learned: Hide from the Canadians when you see that they’re up to something.
With Wednesday came dreaded jogs. We were pretty excited about our outfits thanks to Mary Frances Cargile and Ann O’Neal Pevahouse’s style direction. We had a couple of scares with the hold box, but all of our horses were accepted. Yay! One phase of five was complete. After jogs we all gathered around our coach, Mike Huber’s, golf cart for a team meeting. He announced which kids would be individuals for the Jr. (one-star) team and what order each team member would be riding in for both divisions. I was awarded the trail blazing position. That meant that I would be the third horse out on course. Lesson learned: How to jog my horse the best way for him… The Phillip Dutton way.
Thursday was dressage day for the one star, and all of our riders did very well! Rowdie and Mary, my teammates, went out for a jump school, while my trainer, Allie Knowles, took me for a dressage school. At the end of the day, we had ring familiarization in the Rolex Stadium. WOW. Allie told me to take everything in because that was the day to do it… not the next day when we were supposed to be doing our test. We finished up by standing at A, looking down centerline and imagining my test. Lesson learned: How to prepare for a dressage test in a big scary environment.
My dressage test was at 7:45 Friday morning. What a great way to see the sun come over the Kentucky Horse Park! Team FLAIR’s Caroline Martin was extremely successful, being the first ride out and scored a 50.3. My test was a bit tense, as Mitch always attempts to get behind my leg throughout the test, and his reaction to me making him carry on is becoming tense, but we scored a 58.2— a score that may have benefitted from me not forgetting my last canter to trot transition. Whoops! But on the bright side, I earned an eight on one of my turns on the haunches!! Lesson learned: REMEMBER YOUR TEST.
By Saturday morning, I had walked my course four times, plus the few random times that I walked parts and pieces of it. We were warmed up and ready to go by 7:50 when Mike sent Allie down to watch a line that we had been questioning, 6A and B. The first horses out went through the line well and Mike gave me the lowdown when I walked to the startbox. I got the okay for the direct route at 6 AB and was told to make the 3 strides happen at the squirrel corner. Mitch and I were off and he felt fabulous… until 6 AB. We popped over the hanging rail, and slipped when we went to turn. My instinct was to grab my reins and hold him, but that instantly decreased his stride, making the 5 strides almost impossible, and the 6 way too short. He ran past the angled brush, but we circled around and he hopped right over it. It was that moment that I decided that I had to make up my mind as to whether I would be sorry for myself or get angry and make the rest happen. I chose the second emotion. Mitch was a good boy, slipping a bit before the first water, and catching his stifles on the log on the way in, but making it look easy to turn and hop over the skinny turtle placed five strides away. We incurred our second cross country penalty at Squirrel Corner when we got in a bit close to the table and the three strides just wasn’t there. Once again, we looped around and hopped over the B element. By then, I was furious with myself. Mitch jumped around the rest of the course like it was nothing. We came in at 9:01 and optimum was 8:42. I was amazed by how fit and healthy he felt. Our swimming, galloping routine really helped get him fit, and the FLAIR strip helped him perform the best he could. When I got off, I felt terrible for letting down my team. I felt like it was my duty to pull out a clean round, and I definitely didn’t do that. Our area coordinator, Diane Pitts came up to me and let me know that out of the five horses that had gone out, only two had even made it back. As the rides progressed, riders learned a lot more about the course, and began taking options where needed. Lesson learned: Once you’re out on course go with your instincts. Sometimes trying to please everyone is the worst thing you can do. You know your horse, and you know how everything feels. Go with your gut.
Sunday jogs were at 7:30 in the morning. Everyone in the two-star passed, and I was pleased to have Mitch practically galloping down the jog strip. Yay for fit and happy horses, and another yay for getting through the fourth of five phases of competition! We all ran to change and head to breakfast at the competitor’s tent were we reminisced on the night before. Usually Area V takes over the competitor party with their dance moves, but this time around, two of our people had been involved in a dirt bike accident in the campgrounds right before we were supposed to leave. Everyone was okay, except for being taken to the hospital for a knocked out tooth and stitches. Barrett Phillips, a groom for one-star rider, Calvin Ramsey, was the one who lost her tooth. She was back to her usual self, joking around at breakfast by slurping her yogurt and making jokes about her missing tooth. There is nothing like a little humor to get you going in the morning! We all ended up waiting around for the one-star to show jump before walking our course. It looked like a lot of fun. Then again, I love to show jump, so every course usually looks like fun. My teammate, Mary Frances, warmed up with me and went in the ring before me, pulling to rails on a tired horse. Definitely an acceptable round. I was then my turn. My goal was to ride a smooth round, and I was happy to come out feeling like I rode to the best of my abilities. We had an unlucky rail at fence four where Mitch tipped it off with his front toes, but I was a happy girl. We had to wait for the final round ridden by Rowdie. She had too unlucky rails as well, Boxer looked a bit tired, but she still held on to the silver medal, and we won team bronze! Lesson learned: Ride it like you stole it, and be happy with whatever happens. It could be better, but it could definitely be worse.
We finished up the day with interviews at the press conference and helping pack up the trailer heading home to Texas. I’ve never been so happy to live this close to the horse park, as our drive only took 30 minutes versus the 13-15 hour drive the rest of my team had to embark on. All in all, we went home with a ribbon and a medal from the “North American Junior Olympics”. That is something every young rider dreams of obtaining. I am so grateful for my family, friends, coaches, and how supportive every rider is of one another. It would be hard to imagine a better environment to live and learn in!
Sorry it took me so long to finally write this! I’m currently sitting in a host family’s home in San Diego, and will be heading off to Australia tonight with my US Pony Club team. We will be competing in a few competitions against countries from across the world, ending in a Nations Cup show jumping competition. My teammates and I are super excited! I hope everyone has had safe travels home from Young Riders and that everyone else is having a great summer.
Go Eventing, Go Young Riders & Go USPC!
Until next time,
Alexa and Mitch