Grand Prix Day

At the horse show, “Grand Prix Day” has a very electric atmosphere. For horse and rider, it’s keeping the day, and the routine, the same like any other. The morning routine is the same, the walkaround is the same, the easy ride around is the same. Like every other athlete, riders have their rituals too. The tack and saddle has to be just right; the same with attire. While staying loose is the priority, keeping it that way until warm-up time can be a task in itself.

After the 8:00am mandatory schooling session for grand prix competitors at the National Western Stock Show (NWSS), it was a matter of staying relaxed for the remainder of the day. The grand prix event, itself, was one of the marquee events of the night. Deborah, Elizabeth and Tara all have their separate routines. By early afternoon, the girls were ready to roll. With the event scheduled to start at 7:30pm, it becomes a matter of waiting. And, waiting. If  there is one thing we excel at, as a family, it’s people watching.

walking the catwalk


Andrea carefully walks through the crowd, dodging something on the ground


The reprieve to the long wait came at roughly 4:30pm. It was time for the riders to have their ground inspection of the course, gauging sight lines and riding lines. Last year’s course was a technically demanding one. This year’s course was one that definitely tested equine stamina and the rider’s ability to adjust. The call for the first group of riders to warm-up finally came at 6:45pm, about 15 minutes behind schedule. Not too bad, in the horse world, with regard to schedule times. The girls begin their stretching exercises. As the first rider enters into the start area, the girls have changed into their riding gear. Laurie checks out Tara’s wrist, a lingering injury since last summer. Then, Laurie checks Deborah’s slight ankle sprain before she pulls on her tall English riding boot. With two riders remaining in the top half of the draw, it’s a short chat their riding coach, Mark. He was straight to the point: “You have the skills, you have the tools. Just have fun. Winning will take care of itself.”

the other kind of nervous – Trish, working as the “second” for the girls, waits for Deborah to finish her ride


Deborah on Secret Agent Man tightens a sweeping right hand turn on the course while her eyes are three fences ahead


The electricity in the arena was tremendous. With a very appreciative audience, every rider had their moment to shine. Deborah, Elizabeth and Tara had very solid rides, finishing in the top six.


10 thoughts on “Grand Prix Day

  1. I love this set of photos. The photo of Andrea is precious, and the B&W of Trish is classic and gorgeous. What classes did the girls ride? Deborah looks to be riding Hunter/Jumper. Top six finishes! I’m impressed.

    • Thank you, Timothy.

      Deborah, Elizabeth and Tara all ride hunter/jumper. They compete at a very high level, very close to being professional. They also rode Gambler’s Choice, which is an open challenge ride – in that the rider designs their own course layout. Most who competed in the GC also competed in the GP. Their other ride was a hunter class. They try not to ride this show too much since it’s in the middle of their off-season and practice time is limited. The cold weather also limited on how much they could practice.

    • Thank you, Elisa.

      The true tension is the ride itself. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Trish has said she would be less nervous if she was mounted on a horse, or competing. She’s quite proud of the girls’ level of development and achievement, having worked with them the most. It’s the waiting that’s the hardest. You swear you’ve run out of things to do after a few minutes.

  2. Wow David, had no idea it was such a grueling event. How cruel to start so early and have to hang around all day as tension mounts! Congrats to all for a terrific showing, and great photos!

    • Thank you, Tina.

      Horse shows are notorious for long waits and running behind schedule. While the waiting can be mentally draining, it’s a matter of keeping a clear mind and having diversions.

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