Laine Ashker: Tally Ho! We’re Off to the AECs!

Fresh off a fantastic second-place finish in the Advanced at Richland, EN guest blogger Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch are putting on their cowboy hats and heading to Texas to compete for Gold Cup honors at the American Eventing Championships. Many thanks to Laine for giving us an inside look at her preparation for the big event, and best of luck at the AECs! Go Al!

Laine and Al at Richland. Photo by Samantha Clark.

From Laine:

As this week winds down, my check list seems to grow exponentially in anticipation of the upcoming AECs. Horse sound and ready to rock and roll? Check! Tack cleaned and trunks organized? Check! Maps, driving directions and accommodations for horse, rider and groom to Texas Rose compiled? Check! Cowboy hat and rowelled spurs packed and shined? Double check!

Along with my increasing check lists comes an even more abundant feeling of excitement to compete amongst our country’s best at the annual championships in none other than the Lone Star State, home to cowboys and THE cowboys. Yeah ladies, I’m DEFINITELY packing that cowboy hat! Although Al’s season has been a short one this year, it’s been quite successful, therefore reaffirming my mantra of quality and not quantity in prepping my horse for this upcoming weekend in addition to future events.

Rewinding back a few weeks to Richland Park, I couldn’t have been happier with Al’s performance in all three phases that weekend. I always feel that I am a few steps behind my competitors and am continually knocking off rust that seems to reappear due to the infrequency of our Advanced runs since Al is my only upper-level mount (and being that it was only our second Advanced run of the year).

However, I think that Millbrook really put some wind in our sails as I felt Al beam with confidence as we navigated through each phase at Richland. I was also really able to work through some “Rolex nerves” as Buck schooled us in for the nearly impossible show jumping course at Richland. Being that Sinead and Tate were seven points in the lead, my goal was to ride the course in anticipation for what I hope to be placed next year at Rolex.

In other words, I placed all the pressure on myself to ride a clear round so that I could overcome my nerves, simultaneously closing the gap between myself and that world class partnership. After finishing the round fault free, I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief as I was finally able to live up (even if just for a short moment) to the heightened expectations I place on no one else but myself.

The two weeks leading up to the AECs have been spent either trotting around the beautifully groomed track at Hillbrook Farm or half passing across the diagonal in the 20-by-60 sandbox. I find it almost harder to maintain a horse’s mental and physical fitness rather than create it, as there is a very fine line between “just enough” and “too much!” However, I have been honing on movements where Al and I need the most work, such as shoulder-ins and flying changes, under the watchful eye of the great Kim Severson who undoubtedly has helped to shape my career in the dressage ring and continues to improve my scores.

It goes without saying that both Al and I are headed into the American Eventing Championships with a lot of confidence laced with a healthy amount of respect and caution. Two of my dearest friends and California sisters, Hawley Bennett and Kristi Nunnik, along with Jon Holling, Kyle Carter and other top notch pairs ,will keep Al and I constantly on our (very well polished) toes! Stay tuned for more updates from yours truly as Lauren and I navigate our way to the promised land with a little bay horse in tow! Until then folks, chin up, shoulders back, and may the best (North) American win! Go red, white and blue!

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