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September 25, 2009

A Tough Day And A Positive Outlook

Well...it's a good thing we didn't book a hotel for Syracuse, because the odds of me making it are slim. Sunday was not my proudest moment. Saying this in every entry, I feel like a broken record, but Calvin was great. It is extra disappointing that way because he did everything I asked, and I let him (and Val) down.
   
The warm-up, a jumper class, went fine. My turns were not quite as smooth as I wanted, so I decided to use draw reins to school for the Regionals.
   
Walking the course, I had a really good feeling. Everything was pretty simple, and we came up with a solid plan of attack. Val let me decide whether to do five or six strides in the first line. It was a tough call because Calvin's stride is very big, but he is so adjustable and has such a good mouth that fitting in the six would be no problem. Even though it was the less-popular option, I ultimately chose the five because I wanted to practice going forward from the very beginning, like most finals typically ask of the riders.
   
The outdoor schooling ring had a pole to a jump set at the same distance as the first line, and I was able to meet the jump perfectly every time. Walking up to the in-gate, the strangest sensation came over me. My heart was pounding in my chest, but it didn't settle into a lump in my throat. My shoulders felt perfectly loose and relaxed. I was oddly calm.
   
My course started out great. I nailed the five and found the next few jumps smoothly. It was heading toward the easiest jump on course that I encountered a problem.

Calvin, like most horses, has a tendency to drift in one direction (he goes left, which of course matches my habit of squeezing harder on the right). He was SO straight for the beginning of the course that I didn't even think about closing my outside aids in the bending line to the hay bales, so we did eight strides instead of seven.

Since screwing up so badly really takes the pressure off, I finished my round nicely and confidently carried a bold gallop to the single triple bar. Even so, I did not get called back for the flat.
   
I am so upset that I put in a spectacular ride that was marred by two or three steps of complacency. However, I have a lot to take away from the experience. I thought I would have to put on a brave face and force myself to remain upbeat while blogging about my day, but that isn't so. Sure, it's been hard to write about my mistakes (hence the delay) but I am glad that I did 90-something percent of the course really, really well.

I definitely know I can't make that error again with USEF Talent Search finals coming up. If I am too slow there, the time allowed will kick my butt, not to mention the fact that I will probably end up in the dirt (or going for a little swim) if I crawl up to the open water. I'm lucky, though, that Calvin jumps water, because many equitation horses will not.
   
It was amazing how many people came up to me and reminded me that the top 10 at Medal and four at USET are allowed to compete at Maclay finals. What astounded me was their confidence that I could do it. Riders, parents and trainers alike seemed positive that I would meet those standards. I never knew that all those people recognized me and thought I was that good!
   
Somebody is trying Calvin this weekend, so my pre-USET lessons will probably be early next week. The idea of the lessons is actually more daunting than the competition itself, because I know the switch to a more forward, jumpery ride will have a slight learning curve.
   
I am very excited to ride in a class that truly tests a rider's strength and effectiveness. I've come a long way this year, and I definitely have the right horse, so I know that if I stay focused I will be able to make it to the top. But, you know, no pressure or anything...

More blog posts by Emma Johnson...

 
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