For the past 40 days over at EN’s Blogger’s Row we’ve been following the adventures of Julie Maner, mom to Prelim eventer Emily who decided to attempt an event herself riding Emily’s old horse Romeo. The goal: Jump Start H.T. in Lexington, Kentucky. After trials and tribulations, she made it to the event — and this week she’ll be sharing the story of how it went! If you’re just tuning in, catch up on previous posts from Julie’s blog here.
Where do I start? The weekend couldn’t have been more perfect. Family, friends, teammates and even total strangers surrounded me in support. The weather was perfect, the horse felt great, the atmosphere was all I dreamed it would be. I think I’ll break down the weekend into several blog entries — an entry per phase! Because as I said last night, I have lots to say!
We left Maryville Friday later than we had hoped. I’m not used to playing the mom role (groceries, bedding, clothes, necessities) AND the rider role (horse, tack, supplies, hay, basically everything on the USEA Eventing checklist). I underestimated the time it would take to get everything loaded. With Romes in the trailer and Sampson, our faithful black lab, comfortably in the back seat, we finally hit the road at 1:30 making a quick stop at the University of Tennessee to pick up Emily.
A flat tire tacked on a bit more time but Em and Richard are quite efficient at changing flat tires as we’ve had more than our fair share of them over the years.
I was literally bouncing in the front seat as we made the turn into the Kentucky Horse Park at 4:30.
“SQUEAL” became my favorite exclamation over the next few hours. I was dropped off to get my packet (SQUEAL!) while Em and Richard wound their way through the grounds to find Romeo’s stall. There were four of us who had been on the waitlist and got in at the 11th hour. Fellow Road Less Traveled teammate Katherine M. was to the left of Romeo, all-around badass Leslie W. was to my right and Jennifer R. (Romeo’s original owner) was next to Leslie. We weren’t stabled with the rest of the Road Less Traveled crew since we were late additions, but we didn’t care — we were there (SQUEAL!) and had our own barn on “waitlist row!”
With the sun getting low and the shadows getting long, I tacked up and met Erika at the dressage warm up area for a lesson in the very spot where we would be warming up for our dressage test the next day. I’ve gotta say, I thought our lesson was the best riding we had done throughout this entire process. There was bend, connection, calmness and accuracy. Romeo seemed quite happy to be there. Smiles from ear-to ear for me!
We proceeded to trot around the actual arena where I would compete in the morning, letting Romeo checkout his surroundings. As we did this, I started riding the test in my head. Circle at B … wait, then what … circle at B … FOCUS! My heart began to race. I can’t get through the test. PANIC! Erika interrupts my crazed internal voice to say we needed to get back to the barns and walk the stadium course. Now??? Erika was coaching eight students with three rides each, and her life was scheduled to the minute. Time would would be tight tomorrow as our ride times were clustered together.
With Romes in the hands of Em, Erika and I walked the course at dusk. The jumps looked huge. There were lots of switchback turns. Erika, saw my smiles disappear. Referencing my Amelia Earhart quote from an earlier blog entry, she said, “Paper tigers, paper tigers, paper tigers.” “Paper tigers,” I mumbled back.
Erika: You will want to canter into jump 1.
Me: What if I want to trot?
Erika: Then you better be sitting back and kicking.
Our mantra for the weekend then became, “Sit up and kick. Kick and sit up.”
I went back to the barn where Em had tucked Romeo in for the evening. He was perky and alert. All systems go on his part … I wasn’t so sure about mine. She and I went back and walked stadium in the dark. “He knows his job, Mom. You just have to tell him to do it.” Heavy sigh.
In the cold, night air we broke all of the rules and had a crazed scooter race back to the campground. That was a moment I loved! Back at the campsite I told myself, One step at a time. Figure out the dressage test. With paper and pen, I drew it out again and again. Once in bed, I had Richard turn away from me so I could trace it on his back over and over until I fell asleep.
I had quite the legion of support throughout the weekend. We were joined by my mom, our oldest daughter and her husband and Presley, Ryan and Nicole, Nic and Jen along with an array of their relatives, my cousin Dale, one of my closest friends, Lisa and of course the Road Less Traveled Team and our coach, Erika. Plus, the world’s greatest cheerleader, Val.
Sit up and kick. Kick and sit up.