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December 9, 2009

A Solid End To The TUEQ Fall Semester

TUEQ's TOC team posed outside of Katie's house after a morning of waffles and bacon. From left to right: Kennon Ulicny, Rebecca Graffy, Katie Christiansen, Charlie Brown Christiansen, Kerry Sachs and David Eder. Photo courtesy of Tufts Equestrian

Now I can finally say it: TUEQ’s fall semester is OVER! It’s definitely bittersweet. I’m super excited to have the last few weeks of the semester to say goodbye to friends that are going abroad and to work on my final exams, but I will definitely miss the massive quantities of team time I’ve enjoyed for the past few months.

Admittedly, we are indeed going out for a team dinner tonight, we do have our weekly meeting on Wednesday night, and I DO run into just about everyone on the team on campus during the week, but it’s not quite the same as cramming into the Tufts Athletics van and singing loud, obnoxious pop songs.

Six of us competed at the Holiday Tournament of Champions this weekend, and while we didn’t all come home with blue ribbons, we all had a BLAST. I was the first to go from our team on Saturday morning, jumping in open fences. I was really hoping to draw the horse that I won intermediate fences on two years ago, a superstar of a creature named Phoenix, but I learned from a friend that he was coming back from surgery, so my hopes were dashed. Not to worry, though: I still pulled a great horse, a fiery jumper named Niño.

The first jump of the course was a nice simple vertical off the left lead. While many riders chose to roll back through the middle, I chose a longer approach in order to establish some pace. We met the jump on a nice stride and continued to the second fence, a vertical off the short right turn.

I chose a quieter distance to this fence, and while we met it on stride, I didn’t quite support enough with my leg, and Niño caught the rail with his hind toe. He is such a strong, powerful jumper that I was almost a bit hesitant to use my leg all the way across the jump (um… hello Katie? Nice use of THE NUMBER ONE RULE OF RIDING!). 

We continued on a bending line to a brush fence followed by a sharp right turn to an in-and-out out of a short right turn. This was followed by a nice flowing five strides to an oxer and then an easy seven-stride line off of the left lead.

The final line was a short vertical to brush four-stride which was arguably the best part of my course. Katie Schaaf was spot-on, I think, when she called my ride extremely accurate but a bit hesitant in places. My first two jumps could have definitely used more pace, as I was easily lulled into believing that the horse’s hind legs were moving as quickly and with as much impulsion as the front two. But all in all, I was very happy with my ride.

I was also quite happy with my ride in the Medal flat. I drew a horse named Patrón (see a theme?) that our open flat rider had ridden earlier in the day. She had difficulty getting him to frame, so I was sure to ride him leg to hand. A few words of wisdom from the big chestnut gelding’s owner, and I was off to the races (or the calm flat, I guess). I held the horse nicely in a frame at the walk and trot but once we picked up the canter, I knew I had to pick one of three choices. They were as follows:

  1. Work the horse into the bridle, leg to hand, but sacrifice my position.
  2. Wiggle the horse’s face a bit in the corner out of view of the judge but risk breaking from the canter to the trot.
  3. Just accept the fact that this horse is NOT going to frame at the canter and hold my position as best I can.

I chose the third option. Had I a pair of spurs, perhaps I would have been a bit more successful in working the horse from his hind end into the bridle at the canter. But in a 5-minute flat class, you can’t always work miracles. I wasn’t totally shocked when I didn’t make the callback to the over fences phase but my good friend Quinn Traendly from Stonehill won, which she totally deserves BECAUSE SHE IS AWESOME!!!

We did pick up some ribbons throughout the day, though, thanks to Kennon Ulicny, David Eder and Rebecca Graffy. Kennon was third in novice fences and fourth in intermediate flat, flaunting her effortlessly fluid position and incredible eye. David picked up fourth in walk-trot (his horse went in a frame the whole time…it was actually the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen), and Rebecca was seventh in walk-trot-canter after a beautiful display of classic position.

The team spent Saturday night at my house in New York vegging on the couch, watching recordings of the Global Champions Tour and eating. And eating. And eating. All of us promptly proceeded to pass out at 9:30 and wake up at 9:30 the next morning only to eat some more, wolfing down the waffles and bacon that my dad prepared for us. (As an aside, my family has a subscription to the Bacon of the Month Club.)

We all improved on what we had been working on, and although not all of us got a ribbon, we all rode well and didn’t make any major mistakes. We’ve also been invited to the Winter Tournament of Champions at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., in January. Hopefully we’ll change our game there!

I would just also like to thank Jim & Gwen Arrigon of Beckett Run, Inc. and Michael Dowling and Heather Clark of Centenary for putting on such an awesome show!