What. A. Weekend.
(Stanford Dressage after the show on Sunday, complete with our unofficial mascot--Ringo!)
Lying in bed this morning (enjoying my first chance to sleep in past 6:30 in over two months, and even then it was only until 7:45), I'm still having a hard time wrapping my mind around my feelings about the past 72 hours: certainly thrilled, proud, and gratified come to mind... but so do exhausted, nostalgic, and bittersweet. It's been a roller coaster. At the end of the day, though, the two big take aways are: I've now officially ridden in my very last collegiate horse show at Stanford, after four amazing years; and...
I'M GOING TO NATIONALS!!
Wahoo! But more on that in a second. First, the horse show itself. After spending a solid 7 hours preparing for the horse show in the barn on Friday (mostly trying to manage the massive jigsaw puzzle that is sorting out all the tack, as we only own 6 dressage saddles for 18 horses normally, though we got 7 in on loan from Revere for the show), and then another 6 going through logistics of horse draw and time schedule that night, I was feeling pretty cooked on Saturday morning. But there was no rest for the weary, and we arrived promptly at 7am and got every single horse in the show braided--a Stanford IDA first!
(In hardcore show prep mode on Friday afternoon)
After that it was a whirlwind of prep, draw, and watching the warm up. I was pretty stressed out at this point, just from lack of sleep and wanting the show to go well, so I tried to remove myself for a little while to listen to some music, dance it out, and get in the zone. I would say it partially worked, though I still had some butterflies jumping around in my stomach when I got on a half hour later.
I drew a horse named Nike who I had only ridden once but really, really liked. Unfortunately he was feeling a little tense and had had a sort of sketchy warm up, with the end result that he was completely curled behind the vertical from the second I got on him. Crap. I tried every strategy I had to get him a little more poked out during warm up (hands low, hands really forward, gapping the reins a little bit, tugging upwards when he went really behind, etc), and nothing worked very well. I was pretty disappointed, as he was very fancy and I knew could produce a barn-burner of a test if he was going well. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite get it done.
(Nike cantering - also, the big upside of this show was that like 80 people took photos, so I have an unbelievable amount)
(Good boy pats at the end of the test)
(Checking myself out in the mirror... sorry I'm not sorry)
(Moments of not looking too curled under)
I went into the ring and rode a pretty darn accurate test, if I do say so myself, but I knew that he was often behind the vertical and that that would hurt my scores. Sure enough, I still scored well--69.3%--but was not good enough to win. My friend Jenny won with a really polished test on a different horse, and I ended up 2nd. I was a little disappointed, but knew that I'd done the best that I could. The only sting was getting a 6 on rider, with comments that I was cranking his head in, which was definitely NOT the case! Oh well, such are horse shows.
(At least I got a decent medium trot! Eyes up, Erickson)
The rest of Saturday was spent scoring, which was a job I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, it meant that I only minimally got to watch everyone else on the team ride! From what I could sneak between punching away at my adding machine and gather from peeking at their score sheets, everyone rode very well. The big thrill of the day was my friend Patrick (the same one who took pictures of my Brian lesson), who got a 72% at Upper Training and ended up Reserve High Point Rider of the day! Wahoo!
Team-wise, we could not compete with Cal Poly, who had an awesome day and ended on a perfect team score for 1st place. We ended up 3rd, narrowly, behind UCSC. We were happy but definitely hungry to do better on Sunday!
And, do better we did. I was, and am, so unbelievably proud of how well everyone rode on Sunday. Michelle and Christy both had lifetime high scores, and every one of our team riders placed either first or second. It was a magical show.
I pulled Jackson, the horse that Jenny had won on the previous day. I'd only ridden Jackson once before, but he was amazing. Our test was one of the best tests I've ever ridden in my entire life, ever. Besides being a little sticky into the first canter (my fault), it was perfect. Our first medium trot was one of the best feeling mediums I've ever had, and got an 8.
(Stretchy circle - also an 8)
Turning up the final centerline, for the last time at home in my collegiate career, I started smiling and couldn't stop. I knew that I'd not only ridden my best, I'd also produced a great test that was going to be hard to beat.
I halted, saluted, and promptly burst into tears. I've never in my riding career, with perhaps the exception of the Galway CCI* with Dually, put so much pressure on myself to do well and then actually risen to the occasion. I was completely overwhelmed. I ended up winning by over a 3% margin from second place, with a 69.6%.
(big smiles, big pats - GOOD BOY, Jackson!!)
Our team finished the day with a commanding win, which put us into a tie for first with Cal Poly for the regional championship. As the regional scorekeeper, it was my job to tally through the tie-breaker points with all the teams gathered around me watching. I was shaking like a leaf!
Unfortunately, Stanford lost in the tie-breaker by the narrowest of margins, making it the second year in a row where we've come within a hair's breadth of going to Nationals as a team. It was hard to be too disappointed, though, given that Sunday was hands down the best performance we'd ever put in as a team in the history of Stanford Dressage. As I am the only person graduating this year (and we have a great rider who will be taking my place), the future looks bright!
It feels pretty weird to finally, for the most part, be done. In my three years at IDA, I was only defeated three times, never placed below third, and scored above 68% all but twice. It's been an incredible ride, and it feels very bittersweet to have it come to an end. I really feel like IDA has made me into a stronger rider and competitor, and I know that every test I ride going forward will be better because of this experience.
The personal upside is that I qualified for Nationals individually, and so will be making the trek out to Centenary College in New Jersey at the end of April. This is a goal I've been working towards for three years now, and couldn't be more excited. New Jersey isn't going to know what hit it!!