David left early friday - places to go, people to see. Whoa is the life of the USEF Presient and coach of the Canadian Eventing Team.
For the first time all week, we did not get to bond with out usual "Voodoo Child" Bull this morning. It was 8:30. The Show Jumping course was set, designed by David, and Karen met us all on course to walk it with her.
She showed us the routes she would take, where she would balance and where she might push. We walked all of the distances between combinations and discussed having a plan as to where to start our course. Karen challenged us to outsmart the course designer. But we had to have a strategy... we all decided that it would be a good idea upon entering the ring for our round to trot past the grandstand where the triple combination was to make sure our horses were okay with that. Karen called the placement of that combination the "line of pressure."
We also took note of the start and finishing flags. Karen explained that the rider needs to be aware of the placement of the start flags - once you ride through them, the clock has started. One needs to be careful in that respect when riding a stadium course. Also - we noted the finish
flags. If you know the time will be tight, you must get the most direct route through the finish flags to stop the clock. Karen also explained how if you just had an Olympic Show Jumping round, and the gold medal hinged on one second, you want to get to those flags quick.
I am sure she has experienced this kind of pressure before.
Each of us signed up for a height, and had a warmup with Cathy before our round. Lucky for me, Cathy trained Simba and was a definite help in my warm-up. The warm-up went so well. Simba was adjustable, more round, and he felt fabulous. Then it was my turn in the ring.
No pressure. You are just the last one to go at this height. Everyone is watching today. You are in the grandstand ring riding a course that David O'Connor designed. The horse's breeder, owner, and trainer are watching you. No Pressure.
Well, my first jump, a red gate oxer, went well. We took the route around the triple by the grandstand and got our canter. He balanced in the corner and I rode forward to the oxer. One down. Left hand turn to the grey combination - I tried to ride more cautiously and held him back in between the first and second element for the seven strides. It was okay, but I much preferred the more forward ride. Okay. Change lead. Circling, looking right towards #4. Balancing up, forward to jump #4 then maintaing rhythm to get eight strides in a bending line to #5. Change lead. Straight past the in-gate [which I knew I would have to ride more aggressively to as there were people and horses standing around] to the two stride #6 A&B. I saw the big jump in, and threw my upper body. Whoops. Simba chipped in, not taking the long distance, then I pushed him forward through the combo and out in two strides. Few. That could have been a disaster.
Around to the left to #7, a bigger oxer towards the in-gate, to a vertical in four. It did walk a four, but others had been riding it more organized in five. We got in forward, as I rode aggressively to oxer, jump #7, and made the four work out getting to #8. Change lead. Look right for line to my triple. Looked for the distance. Set up my turn - rode not as aggressively as I should have and got in kind-of funny. Threw my upper body again - but recovered and pushed for the one and the two strides and got out alive. Whewww...
Karen told me there were definitely some good parts to my ride. What a relief. I actually proved I learned something. We did the line in four to the triple another time or two. The best analogy she gave me was to ride the first element of the triple like a single oxer - aggressive and more forward. Then keep riding through the combo. And yes, it did work out. My last trip around the triple was pretty good. We got in from a distance I saw before my turn, rode forward through the one, and should have balanced in the two, as it was a bit short. Overall, not a bad course. I need to learn how to be more still with my upper body and ride the forward distance from my tummy down... and I could have sat up more with my chest out, looking back at pictures, but I can live with a course that was "not bad." Excellent day.
We all then got ready for lunch, catered by the folks that helped build The Oaks of Lake City, the only CHA equestrian community in the state of Flordia. We had our riding group skits: a jepardy for the staff about the campers, a riding lesson taught by Karen, and a simulation bull ride. All skits were complete with quotes from the week ... haha. Laughter lit up the room as we filled our bellies with food. Good friends, good food, good company. Awards for Stable Management and Most Improved were distributed - prizes were buckets full of O'Connor goodies such as their sponsor's products, their book, and a 3 month supply of Succeed. We all said our goodbyes, packed our horses and headed for home.
I am not sure how I feel about office work this week, as nothing could replace the past six days of riding, learning, and sharing. Then again, my 21st Birthday is on Tuesday, so that should keep the coming days more interesting =)
The week has flown by all too quickly - not only was it one of the most intense, educationally saturated six days of my life, it was more than that. A sneak peak at the lives of those people you root for at the Olympic Games, and how the entire OCET works toward their goals every day. An enormous Thank you to Karen, David, Max, Hannah, Mequilla, Cathy, Mandi, and everyone else who made this camp a success. Oh yeah, Thanks to Mother Nature as well - for holding out and not letting the heavens open up on our outdoor riding extravaganza this week.
Thanks again - it sure has been an amazing experience.