Riding: Grand Prix Day

The day begins early, shortly after 5:30 am. The horses are beginning to wake and stir in their stalls. Soon, it will begin like every other day. My daughters are quiet during the ride in, studying their checklists and going over what they want to accomplish in their minds. Horses are animals with a set routine. Whether at home, or on the road at the show, it is about keeping with the daily schedule.

Though it seems quiet, the main horse barn is humming with activity. The barn crew is finishing their deliveries of stall supplies; the riders are slowly filtering in. Those riding in the first events of the day are the most busy preparing their gear and horses. Arriving at the barn, it is straight to work for my girls. The first order of business is a check of their horses and their stalls, followed by setting up breakfast. The breakfast is precise in what they are fed. It is a mix of ultra-premium hay, rolled oats and scientific horse feed, with the balance varying slightly for each horse. After getting them started on breakfast, along with fresh water, the girls check on the stall supplies they’ve ordered. And, so begins another day.

morning workout: Elizabeth and SAM on a circle exercise, the froth normal (CHP, Jul 2017)

In the early morning workout, a sense of the day begins to develop between my girls and their horses. Of importance is the energy, prompting and workout level. Though it is Grand Prix day, it is keeping it like any other day. Preparing for the event tempers the anticipation and expectations. They become an X-factor of sorts as the marquee event draws closer. No other event is greater, or better, than the Grand Prix. It features the best riders with the best horses in attendance, with a few riding it as their only event. Yet, the competitiveness is even. Anyone riding the GP can win. Deborah often compares it with the NFL maxim: “On any given Sunday …

During the morning meeting, the GP riders are briefed on the day’s schedule, weather and practice windows. With the event always scheduled for the late afternoon, or in the evening, knowing the schedule aids them in managing their time and routines. The most important part of the meeting is the blind draw for starting positions, with a preference for a later position. Between the short workouts and walkthroughs, there is much to do during the day. Though the downtime is very little, it is keeping the day very relaxed and routine. In their workmanlike approach, my daughters can often be found studying their practice video and leafing through their notes. It is staying with what they know, trusting in themselves and their horses.

finishing touches: flora and greenery for the 1.40 m Grand Prix course (CHP,  Jul 2017)

It is when the GP course build begins, a quiet anticipation grows among the riders. Having kept themselves busy for most of the day, they are ready to ride the event. The course length and its difficulty depends upon how the designer wants to challenge the horse and rider. Once the course build has been certified to specification, it becomes available for a walkthrough inspection by the riders. With a printed copy of the layout in hand, the riders will walk the course with an eye on every physical feature – from fence height and distances to the firmness of the footing material to sight lines.

the walkthrough: former RRC teammate and mentor, Megan (r), with her riding student Roxanne making her GP debut (CHP, Jul 2017)

While several riders will walk the course with their trainers (instructors), others will make it a solitary walk. My daughters walk the course together, quietly discussing their observations among themselves. They are also writing additional notes and observations. After completing their walkthrough, the girls secret themselves and talk about the best way to attack the course – which riding line is the safest, which one is the most aggressive, and which one is the best.

Once they finish their course analysis, my daughters tightly focus their remaining preparations on the event. It is their time to be alone in their thoughts, planning and visualizing their rides with no diversions and no distractions. The schedule and weather delays are taken in stride.

the golden boy: Mr. Ed receiving a perfect groom from Elizabeth before donning his show tack (CHP, Jul 2017)

A final brushing of their horses is a calming time between my daughters and their horses. They too are aware of the event before them. Soon, they will be dressed in their best show tack. The ground work is precise and methodical. Every hair, horse and rider, perfectly in place. My girls, absolutely perfect in their Grand Prix clothes.

It is time to be a champion.

the championship look: Captain Andrew Evan Stedman and Deborah (CHP, Jul 2017)

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Riding The Southland

A short turnaround, it was a few days at home to recoup and prepare for the next segment of the riding schedule.

Deborah and Comet working a practice course with
Elizabeth and Mr. Ed waiting their turn in the background (RRC, Jun 01 2016)

Deborah and Comet finishing a leisurely trail ride at the end of a long practice day (JN Ranch, Jun 02 2016)

And, so, the riding season begins in earnest.

Tara and Brie surveying the 1.40M practice course (JN Ranch, Jun 03 2016)

Four shows, four weeks in the Southland.

Unsettled Training

It is fair to say their training schedule over the past few weeks has been unsettled. From the passing of their grandma to late-season winter storms, the schedule has been all over the board. Remarkably, though, my daughters have said it has been a good spring – one of their best. They’ve been able to practice well. Their coaches, Mark and Trish, have said they appear to be in mid-season form. The horses are riding well, the girls are riding well. Mark and Trish have added they are quite proud of my girls in how they have handled the unsettled nature of their spring. They have kept everything in perspective.

Comet: “When are we going riding?”

Though my daughters and their horses are quite eager for their season to begin, it is not an “every second on the saddle” training approach. They’ve let their horses be horses while they review the video of the training sessions and compare notes. And, of course, there’s always time for a little loving and play before returning to a practice session.

Deborah sharing a Jonathan apple with a freshly groomed Comet

Elizabeth and Mr. Ed playing “How tall are you?”

Once it is time to get back to training, everyone is ready.

Easy Like Sunday

A relaxed, easy morning ride.

Elizabeth onboard Lilith (San Juan Capistrano, Jun 2014)

 

With many smiles and much laughter, last evening, Team Rustler had its annual end-of-season BBQ. The riders shared their tales of the just-concluded season. After dinner, the club presented its awards. Many of the riders had, including Deborah and Tara, believed Elizabeth would repeat her sweep of the top three awards. Not this year. While the extra recognition and winning ribbons are nice, riding and the company of horses is the best award in their estimation. Most unexpectedly, Elizabeth’s palomino, Ed, won the club’s Horse of The Year award. Quietly, they had a solid season.

Preparing To Travel

Like their riders, the horses had their exams also. Their vaccination records were reviewed. Their paperwork, ready and in order. Their supplies are ready. It’s all in advance of their first horse show of the season.

While they are well accustomed to traveling in their trailer, the horses have been receiving short rides this week. They are ready.

 

Cameron, with her mane nicely braided, is ready to travel. Lilith, Comet and Mr. Ed will be traveling with her.