I was lucky to have two new girls with me to help for the week, Ashley Emig and Elizabeth Egan. We went on Tuesday to have final jump school with Phillip, who I hadn’t ridden with him for a while. Phillip’s always a master at getting you prepared and on your game. I did a bit of stadium and cross-country and JR was great. We talked about making sure that I could take his mouth and let him be a bit more on the contact before I give, because he can get really ratty about the reins. I just make sure to make his mouth rideable first, so I can bend him and turn him and he’ll accept and stay in the contact. Then he’ll accept the leg to hand contact. Phillip’s advise was really great, and I used the same tactic again on Sunday before show jumping.
We also had Duke of Diamonds (Dyson) with us because he’d qualified for the YEH 5-Year-Old Championships. Phillip jumped Dyson for me, which was good for me to have a picture in my head. It was really fun to have Dyson at Fair Hill. I think the classes are a great idea, and I’m sure they’ll continue to evolve as a championship. Dyson went on Thursday and Friday and was really well-behaved in spite of lots of atmosphere for a young horse. I was pleased with his dressage and it was really nice to ride in the big ring. I’m not going to lie, though, it’s a long test for a baby! He was great in the confirmation portion, and then jumped on Friday, though moved down four places because he had a rail down even though he’s a great jumper. All in all, he handled the whole situation well, and I was quite pleased with him.
JR was great at the jog and for once we had beautiful weather at Fair Hill, as everyone knows. I went on a little hack on Wednesday, and had a dressage lesson with Jackie Brooks on Thursday. We worked on making sure JR was rideable and connected so that I had the tools I needed the next day in the ring. I don’t often pre-ride JR before dressage because I don’t want to tire his back, but I did take him for a couple hand walks and let him be in the atmosphere. I got on about a half hour before our test and put him together. JR got a bit excited toward the end of our warmup but still felt great in his body. I was really pleased with our test and thought the trot work was some of the best I’ve had with him. He got a bit hot in the canter and it was good that Jackie saw his test and so she can help me better knowing how he gets in the ring. Sometimes he can be like riding a stick of dynamite!
The cross-country course was typical Derek, with a lot of combinations and the terrain making for a three-and-a-half star. I think the footing was actually a bit hard from lack of rain near the end of the day when I went. The course suited my horse, though. I had a plan before I went out and stuck to it. I felt like I rode the first water off my eye; it was right there in the five. I got five to the three in the ring, and then did the three at the coffin only because I’d had a stop there the year before and didn’t want to repeat that mistake, and I knew the two out for the coffin was incredibly long so I had planned to do a tidy little three.
One of the reasons why Derek is such a good course designer is that a lot of things are on a 12-foot stride, and with terrain that often produces a bit of a half stride so that you have to really know what kind of jump you need for your horse. I was held right after the Chesapeake water, the jump judge was trying to pull me up in the water but I jumped the out before pulling up. I learned later that two people had fallen on course and if I fell, they didn’t have the medical staff to attend to me if I had a problem. I was lucky to have Jessica Hampf and Doug Payne right there, they put a clock on me and were helpful with the jump judge.
Because of where I was held, I wasn’t able to get good running start to resume, and I had been right on my minute mark so I knew I would need to make up time I’d lose getting back to speed. Lucky for me, at home I’d been doing 10-12 minute gallops with a two minute walk and then a four to five minute sprint, so when I was restarted, I picked up the canter and JR quickly went faster than he had been before we were held. From that point on we picked up speed, and were great for the rest of course. I did take the option at the log drop at 21 A/B, because I knew if I had a silly run out or fall I would be kicking myself. The option wasn’t that long, I have a great galloping horse, and I didn’t want to have 20. We were neat and tidy through the combination, and JR pulled up great.
The next morning JR was feeling really good, and was fine for the jog. I had a plan for my show jumping, walked with Phillip, and had Bruce Davidson and Kendyl Tracy to warm me up and set jumps. Bruce asked if nervous, and Buck replied for me, “No Dad, we don’t get nervous for show jumping, all we can have is a rail down. It’s not like you’re going die!” I thought that was a good way to look at it! So I warmed up with Kendyl and Bruce, and JR jumped well. When I went in it was announced that I didn’t have rail in hand. That didn’t add to my nerves, but I got a bit excited in the one stride at 9 A/B and was a bit flat in middle and had a rail. At that moment I thought, Oh my god, I just lost the competition again! I got a bit rattled for a second, mad at myself, but as I was coming to fence ten I told myself to just calm down, I still had to jump rest of course. I got a bit out of myself and had to put myself back in my box! I thought, calm down, jump the rest of the course, and the rest was great. Then it was announced I had won!
I can’t thank everyone enough for all the support. I have truly been overwhelmed by kind words and congratulations. Thank you to everyone for that. My horse and I are really happy! I am incredibly grateful to The Dutta Corp. and Tim Dutta for providing me with the incredible prize of airfare for a horse anywhere in the world. Ten years ago at Fair Hill I won two medals with my horse, Shared Dreams, when the Pan American Games were held there. It felt amazing to win there again.