[The third part of a special series, “Making of A Champion”, contributed by my equestrian daughters. This post is by my daughter, Deborah.]
Comet stood ready. His attention, undivided. Determination in his eyes.
Comet, waiting in the start area (Texas, May 2014)
Victory was in reach for my champion. The leader’s time was not insurmountable. Only a strong, steady ride was needed to take the lead. Comet’s power was smooth and easy. His focus was my focus. I trusted Comet to run the course his way. I relaxed his reins more. His synchronicity was absolute perfection, clearing every fence in stride. With time seemingly standing still, our ride is over. My champion has proven his heart again. Our time is flashed on the scoreboard. We vault into the lead with our respectable 57.84/0 fault ride. The time limit on the course was 59.65 seconds.
* * *
With our season beginning next week, our remaining practice sessions are tightly focused. Our tempo, fast. Our skills, razor sharp. Our goal for the first show is rather modest, to have a good overall start to our season. A win, or two, though nice, is not a priority. Having strong, consistent rides are more important. It is the hallmark of our training from Mark and Trish, our coaches. By riding to our strengths, it places our horses and ourselves in the best position to be competitive and successful.
In riding to our strengths, it is understanding the abilities of our horses. We know, absolutely, everything about them. What they can and cannot do. How they think. How they react. What is their first instinct in a stressful, or pressure-filled, situation. Though a rider learns much about their horse in the first 6-12 months of being together, the learning process between horse and rider is always ongoing. In discovering new strengths, and, yes, new weaknesses, in each other, our riding becomes instinctive. We are able to anticipate each other’s actions and reactions. We are able to depend upon one another in every situation. It is to make every movement made, inside and outside the show ring, like second nature. The last thing any rider wants, especially in equine sports, is to think through the process of riding.
Though we approach our practice sessions in a workmanlike manner, we try to keep it relaxed as much as possible. Occasionally, we can become competitive if one of us posts a fast time on a practice course. The relaxed atmosphere allows us to minimize the pressure we place on ourselves. It also allows us to help each other in our individual preparations.
The off-saddle work is equally important. Much of it involves watching plenty of video of our own practice and competition sessions. We may watch the video of a single practice session over and over again, replaying segments multiple times. Throughout this process, we fill our legal pads with notes. This is in addition to the notes we have made during practice. We also pour over the dozens of digital images our dad takes. When we compare our notes and observations, it gives us a solid, invaluable base of information to draw upon.
At a horse show, however, our video review process is more streamlined. Obviously, we don’t have as much time to devote in breaking down our rides. It does give us a sense of how well we are riding. If things seem not to be going well, sending the video, along with our thoughts, to Mark and Trish for an analysis has always helped. Much of the time, they can easily see what we are missing. At the same time, they offer words of reassurance, that we are doing well and to trust our instincts.
Our thoroughness, and attention to detail, in our practice sessions and other preparations does not guarantee a top finish. The best it does is to help us be prepared. It helps us to be consistent in our riding.
* * *
Elizabeth, with Lilith, in the start area, flashes a smile. We touch fingers as we ride past. They know we’ve turned in a solid ride. Perhaps one with an insurmountable lead. Time to wait, but not for long.
with Lilith in the show ring, Comet watches and waits (Texas, May 2014)
Our lead holds. Elizabeth and Lilith finishes with a 57.86/0 fault ride. Our narrow lead over Elizabeth and Lilith continues as the draw winds down to the last rider. It’s Megan, our friend and former mentor, with her handsome Viceroy. Tara has nervously watched and waited with us. Megan and Viceroy are poetry in motion. They, too, have turned in a beautiful, solid ride. A winning ride.
About the author –
Deborah Anne Ramos is a junior attending the University of Colorado. Her degree studies is in the field of biology, specifically animal science. She graduated with highest honors from Machebeuf Catholic High School in Denver in 2012.
She is a highly decorated equestrian with the Rustler Riding Club, earning Horse of the Year and Rider of the Year awards. Additionally, she has won multiple blue ribbons, and other placement ribbons, with Comet and Captain Andrew Evan Stedman.