MHC Days of Champions October 03 2011, 0 Comments

We’ve just returned from the Massachusetts Horsemen’s Council Days of Champions  held in Northampton, MA. It was a great weekend, aside from the pouring rain. What can I say? Samantha and Mondavi were outstanding. Nerves were running high. Not mine! OK, well, mine and Samantha’s.

Her first class was the Open Equitation 14 and Under. She was in section B. I brought her to the show at 6 a.m. and we walked the course with Mo so he could sample the flowers. (The orange mums are the tastiest). Then I quickly went back to the hotel to check us out and take a shower. I returned 25 minutes later and she was waiting to go into the ring. It was HIGH DRAMA because I had her back number. Oh the SHAME. Oh the DRAMA. THEY WERE HOLDING THE RING. I WAS ONLY GONE FOR 25 MINUTES. HOW DID THEY GET THROUGH AN ENTIRE (A) SECTION CLASS IN 25 MINUTES?

This was not good. Samantha was not happy with me. She said something not nice to me. (I can’t even call this her first teenage moment, because she was right). Then she cantered 2 jumps and kept cantering directly to the ring. Stopped, entered the ring and kept catering and nailed her course. It was perfect. No time for me to even be nervous. Score: 75.50!!!!

I was not immediately forgiven by the girl, but all was well in horse show land. Samantha was 7th in her class and was thrilled to place at this event. She went into the ring to accept her ribbon and pose with Ring Master Edward Nowak (My husband’s disrespectful comment was: “Hurry up and get in there Samantha, the nutcracker is waiting for you and he has to get back to Santa’s workshop.”) My camera was nowhere to be seen due to the previous scramble for the number.

After the 15-17 year olds did their open eq class, the course was set for the Medal Final, and the color left the faces of our three StoneHaven competitors. A one-stride appeared on the end of the ring. Triple oxer, sharp right turn practically into the rail, with about two strides to turn to the one-stride. No time to relax, with another quick turn to a moving five-stride diagonal line turning to another off-the-end fence and another quick turn to a two-stride. A tough course by designer Robert Gage from San Marcus, California.

As the first 20 riders navigated the course, very few made it around clean. It’s tough to go early in a class of 134 riders. Everyone learns the course from your ride, benefits from watching your mistakes. The scores were low, the course unforgiving. Our riders went in the 50s and 70s in the order. Samantha and Kika sat in the stands growing paler with each round they watched, convincing themselves that getting around was next to impossible.

That changed when their barn mate Katie Gray entered the ring. Katie rides an enormous horse named Cortez with a regal appearance and a huge jump. This is a new partnership, and over the past six months Katie has developed a quiet confidence with Cortez that amazes me. He is a huge animal, she is a tiny person. This was Katie’s first indoor final, and at 17, she feels the pressure of a compressed junior career. Her open eq round was not perfect. So I can only imagine the intensity of her thoughts as she entered the ring. Nearby, stood the horse’s previous trainers and hundred of people in the stands.

Katie made it through the first part of the course smoothly. She launched over the large oxer with ease and made the tight turn to the end one-stride look smooth. Her biggest challenge was easing the big man back a bit in the five-stride so that he didn’t get four. A nice approach to the final two-stride and she was done. A beautiful trip. Score: 72!!!!!  Not only had Katie ridden a difficult course with accuracy, she had just shown her two younger barn mates what was possible.

Samantha and Kika were next up. After all the waiting, things now moved quickly. Before I knew what was happening, I was wiping the mud off Samantha’s boots and Tara was hosing Mo’s legs and sharing her last bits of wisdom with Samantha. What she had to say made me smile-reassuring, positive, gentle-all intended to remind her that she could and would do this and that she should enjoy it too.There was a smile on Samantha’s face when she went in the ring, rather than the look of terror I expected.

In the ring, she looked beautiful. Tall and elegant, she got every distance she wanted, she got every number she needed-she reached every goal she set for herself. It was two minutes, two minutes, of bliss. She was a little bit surprised by one big distance she asked for that Mo took and was a little bit left behind. But that was the only visible-to-the-mom-eye mistake. Score: 73.50 ! Since whooping is frowned upon at the ring, I did internal whoops. Whoop whoop! She was currently in 26th place. Samantha finished in the top 50, out of 134 riders, a thrill for us at her first final.

Kika rode brilliantly as well. Her course was lovely, her horse Cyber a beautiful, talented young warmblood, from Annie Dotoli and Aster Peter’s fine collection at Tibri. When these two are “on” there is no stopping them! They were “ON.” Kika was focused and determined– her ride belayed the fearful comments she had spouted hours earlier about her ability to get around the course. Score: 78.81 !!!!!!

The top 25 were called back for the second round and Kika made it back. Whoop whoop! Kika had the unenviable position of going first in the second round. Again, she rose to the challenge and navigated a new and difficult course–extremely well–and matched her score of 78.81. Team StoneHaven was giddy. To have a rider in the top 25 was amazing, plus that rider was one of the 38 under the age of 14 ( I was shocked to realize that of the 134 competitors, only 38 were 14 and under).

As I watched round two, several riders had difficultly, again a very difficult course. Kika moved up and up. At the end of the day, she was in the ribbons in 17th place. You could not wipe the smiles off of our faces.