Thank you to AE teammate, Lorrie A. for her account of Texas Rose HT.
We rolled into Texas Rose Horse Park early Friday afternoon of the annual Fall Horse Trial. We weren’t the first to arrive as several rigs were already parked and unloading at the Rose Barn, and riders were hacking on the grassy field next to the dressage arenas. But, I have to say, we were probably some of the most excited for our rig held many new inaugurals to this home of the 2013 and 2014 American Eventing Championships.
First off, Allison, although not a newbie to competing at TRHP, was competing for the first time here with her new Eventing partner, the fabulously flashy Celeste. And McKenna, while no stranger to the venue through her attendance of Young Rider Camp, was competing for the first time ever at TRHP, and she was teamed up with the tried and true, Jitterbug Dancer. Of course we can’t forget their coach, Lisa Bauman, who was graciously squeezing us in between studying for her first ever ICP assessment, which was scheduled on the heels of this trial.
So after unloading and settling into the Wagon Wheel Barn, the working out of the show kinks commenced. Hacking in the wide-open field next to the dressage arenas was a no brainer for Jitterbug. When she said to McKenna, “I’ve got this,” McKenna replied, with some serious listen-to-me half halts, “Yeah, but you don’t get to take over.” On the other hand, Celeste was counting on Allison for assurance every time another horse came toward them. Thus the show strategies for the weekend were developed. McKenna had to set the boundaries with Jitterbug then ease up when she complied, and Allison had to be there for Celeste at every spooky step.
Eons ago when Eventing was hatched, dressage was decreed to be first not only in foundation, but in competition as well, and for good reason. Horses fresh for the day, their energy yet untapped are a challenge to rein in and focus while still managing to look supple and graceful with that ever elusive, but highly sought quality of thoroughness. With that challenge set before them, McKenna and Jitterbug were first up in the Junior Beginner Novice ring for the Team Anson arm of Austin Eventing. Jitterbug danced through her test with a confident, relaxed McKenna at the helm and to borrow a phrase from Coach Lisa, “They killed it.” A mere four rides later, Allison and Celeste entered the ring to tie McKenna and Jitterbug’s performance with a 32.1 score. Not only were the sisters tied, they were in first place in a tough field of almost twenty competitors.
Of course there was no pressure with all the East Texas relatives in attendance to watch the girls ride and Lisa coach on this beautiful Saturday of competition. And nothing brought that to the forefront more than the cross-country phase. McKenna and Jitterbug would experience the pain and gain of ‘keeping your leg on,’ or not, as they racked up a refusal at fence eight. It could have been because they didn’t have the right canter, the sun was in their eyes or a whole host of other reasons for the twenty-point bobble, but in the end, I had the proudest Mommy moment ever when McKenna said, “It was my fault, I didn’t have my leg on. I wasn’t there for Jitterbug.” Now that McKenna had Jitterbug, who’s a seasoned veteran at this sport, looking to her for guidance, she truly understood what it meant to let down your partner.
Meanwhile, Allison and Celeste experienced their difficulties during warm up as Celeste spooked and spun at one of those approaching monster horses. Allison was left on the ground, her air vest blown. At this point I fell victim to the pressures when I realized I’d left the replacement cartridge at the barn. Thank goodness for our cool-headed coach who sent me to meet McKenna coming off her cross-country ride. I grabbed her vest and scurried back so Allison could hop back onto Celeste in time to enter the start box for her ride. To say it was all a snap after this would be stretching it as Celeste had a spooky moment before fence two, but it was far enough out that it wasn’t counted against them and they finished clear jump-wise with only 2.6 time faults.
Sunday brought even brighter weather for the stadium jumping round – a test of the horse and rider’s ability to navigate tight turns and technical jumps when both are tired from the previous two phrases. With Lisa’s guidance the pairs kept to their individual show strategies. McKenna worked to gain Jitterbug’s compliance in the stadium warm up ring amidst a sea of competitors while Allison put Celeste through her paces in the empty dressage warm up ring. Once McKenna and Jitterbug sailed double clear around the stadium course, Lisa returned to pop Allison and Celeste over a couple warm up jumps. Minimizing their interaction with other horse and rider pairs kept Allison in the saddle and Celeste calm and relaxed. When this pair entered the stadium ring, we all watched the baited breath as they rode a double clear round to cinch the win in the Junior Beginner Novice Division.
I guess there is a lot I could say about this weekend, from a lot of different perspectives, but I’ll think I’ll keep it to the mom perspective and say I’m really proud of my girls and their coach for their hard work, their discipline, their passion for the sport and the love for their horses, but most of all for their sportsmanship. Although competitors to the end, there wasn’t one snarky comment, self-indulgent moment or cop-out excuse at time from any of them which makes me want to ride with them and for them always.