Two summers ago, EN readers followed the story of Andrea Glazer, an eventer among Grand Prix show jumpers at the 2017 Maccabiah Games. She catch rode an unfamiliar horse over 1.20-meter (3’9″) and above show jumping courses to help Team USA earn the silver medal, and was selected to represent the team once again at the 2019 European Maccabiah Games in Budapest, Hungary. Today, she reports on how the Games went — spoiler alert: Andrea is a bada$$. Read more at her blog, Dre the Zookeeper.
The morning of the competition, both Arly and I headed to the barn at 7:30 a.m. for a quick flat ride before gearing up to compete. I was excited for any opportunity to ride Nando – his changes are automatic, his lateral work is effortless, and to top it off, he’s so pretty that people can’t help but stare at him! Also, any opportunity I had to get to know the horse better, I took full advantage of. With the grounds still being quiet as most riders hadn’t arrived yet, Nando was quiet and relaxed during our flat ride. We rode around for 30 minutes or so, and took them back to the stables where Victoria took them from us to give them a quick bath and finish up their braids (best braids ever, might I add).
I headed towards the ring as the course was open to be walked. The jumps used in the course were similar to the ones we were able to school in the practice round, but they were a bit higher. The course consisted of multiple related distances, big square oxers, a triple combination, and a liverpool – nothing too daunting on the horses I normally compete, but on a horse I had only spent one day getting to know, it wasn’t going to be an easy task to say the least.
Another tricky part of this competition was that we didn’t have our own team coach. Luckily, Carly brought her coach, David Blake, and Arly is a trainer herself so after I walked the course, I would consult them both to make sure all of my plans aligned with theirs, and listen to any input Arly had on how she felt Nando would handle the course.
After reviewing the course and walking it enough times that it was engrained in my brain, I went back to the barn to get on Nando. I put on my GPA helmet (trying to fit in don’t forget), my black gloves (show jumpers never wear white gloves), and my pinque coat (the highlight of my life is wearing this coat), and I was headed towards the ring to warm-up.
Walking past the ring, the atmosphere completely changed from the morning – the spectators arrived, there were photographers everywhere (it was like paparazzi, I loved it!), and Nando was definitely sensing the competitive vibes all around him and quickly realized that he might be a bit of a different ride in this atmosphere.
Arly and I rode relatively close together – she was 4th in the ring, I was 9th in, followed by Carly, who was about 14th. I wasn’t able to watch any of the riders before me because Nando wasn’t really a fan of standing still; he also didn’t like the loud bell being rang, the music being blasted across the venue or the applause from the crowd. I just kept him moving and tried to keep him focused on me – I mean, it’s not like I didn’t enjoy flatting him around and warming him up, but not being able to watch how the course rode wasn’t the most ideal situation.
I saw Arly go into the ring before I had to keep cantering Nando around. The crowd cheered and they announced she had a double clean round! We were off to a fantastic start. Arly got off of Vanilla after many pats and came to the warm-up to help set jumps for me. Nando was feeling really good (maybe too good at times) and we jumped a few big verticals and some square oxers – we didn’t miss! We were called to the ring and I was feeling pretty good about how I was riding him. It took two people to actually get us into the ring, but we finally pranced in feeling like $1,000,000.
The bell rang, and we started our canter around to the first jump which was a nice eight-stride line. Nando eats up the ground so I knew every line was going to involve lots of half-halts early on in the line to make the strides fit nicely. We started our course, fitting in the eight strides nicely (after a few strong half-halts), and turned for the next jump. He cleared the vertical like it was nothing, and I was feeling great about how the course was going.
We cantered around to #4 where we then had to turn right for a triple combination – oxer, two strides vertical, one stride vertical. He jolted forward in the turn after his lead change to the triple which allowed him to get away from me, and caused us to be a bit disorganized. I didn’t see the best distance five strides out, but saw the deep distance, not exactly what I wanted to see going into the triple, but I waited for it. At the last stride, when I wanted to jump, Nando had different plans and stopped then shifted to the side which completely threw me out of the saddle.
I had just one part of my boot hanging onto the back of the saddle, wrapping my arms around Nando’s neck like my life depended on it. How could this actually be happening? I uprooted my life in Australia to move to America to train for this, and I’m not going to go down without a fight. I truly used every fiber in my being to climb back up, but Nando was about to run off, so in a last attempt, I tried to use the rails on the jump to get back on, but since that’s not allowed, and Nando started to walk/trot away, I knew I had to accept the fact that my feet were about to touch the ground.
I gathered myself for a second, grabbed Nando, patted him and walked out of the ring. I could not believe it. I knew I could have given Nando a better ride to the triple, but this was the last thing I expected to happen.
My mind was going a million miles an hour – how did that just happen? How did I let him get away from me in the turn? Why didn’t he just save my butt? Why, in the 16 years I have been competing, did I have to have my first fall in the show jumping competition during the biggest show of my life? How did I let my team down since we don’t have a dropped score?
I was devastated, but after about 30 seconds of feeling sorry for myself and my team, I realized I had to put it all behind me, get back on the horse, and fix whatever just happened on course.
I had to see the ambulance as the FEI requires every rider that falls off to get checked out, and even though I barely fell off (nearly saved it, still not over it), I walked up to the paramedics and said, “I’m fine – no, I didn’t hit my head, I just need to get back on.” Maybe not my finest moment, but I needed to get back on the horse right then and there.
They announced that my round earned Team USA 44 points. Great. Thankfully, Arly and Carly were such amazing teammates and said, “don’t worry about it, just get back on and round 2 will be better!” They were right – I can’t do anything about it now, except get his butt through those finish flags in the next round.
I got back on Nando and David and Arly helped me school him over jumps to try and get past the absurdity in the ring. It wasn’t the smoothest, but we jumped around the warm-up ring and gained some confidence before the 2nd round started.
Carly went in the ring and had a beautiful double clean round – I was so happy for her, but I mean you can imagine how horrible I felt about my round.
We had a short 20 minute break before the 2nd round, but I just walked back to the barn, had some nice pep-talks with Arly, and we got back on for our redemption. I start warming him up with David because Arly was busy jumping another flawless clean round. We jumped a vertical, and I headed to the small 1.0m oxer where I found myself getting him to a deep spot. I put leg on and waited for the similar distance to the triple combination we had in the ring, and next thing I knew, I was jumping the small oxer solo. The rails flew, and my left leg was the first point of contact with the pole and the ground. I think next was my tailbone and then my arm – it happened so fast, I was just absolutely stunned. I didn’t even take a second to absorb what happened and noticed that Carly’s groom took Nando so I could revisit my good friends a the ambulance.
I attempt to run to the paramedics, noticing that my leg is in an impressive amount of pain. I looked down at my boot and realized that I fell so hard that my nice leather boot ripped; you could say I was in a bit of pain. As I limped over to the ambulance, they were confused to see me there again, and I said, “I swear I’m fine, no I didn’t hit my head, but if I fall off a 3rd time I will gladly let you do a proper examination.” Everyone laughed and I limped back to Nando to get back on. I think David was as surprised as I was that he had crashed through a minuscule oxer. The stewards informed us that I had about three riders until I was supposed to be in the ring. Great – I can’t feel my leg, and I somehow have about six to eight minutes to try and get this horse over some jumps before I go back into the ring.
Both David and Arly helped me try and gather myself as Carly’s groom brushed the sand off of my now broken in pinque coat and back on the horse I went. I kept telling myself, “Andrea, if you’re going to fall, at least you’re falling in your pinque coat, right?”
I was only to jump the verticals, not attempting an oxer again, before being called back into the ring. I knew that if I got this horse to a deep distance I was jumping it alone, so I decided to kick on, sit as tall as humanly possible, and ride like hell.
I could feel silence in the ring as everyone was nervous for me – imagine how I felt! I had to push nerves aside and honestly just focus on getting to the other side of the jump, still in the saddle. We did have to get Nando a bit riled up in the warm-up ring so that he knew we meant business. His excitement in round 1 multiplied in an instant and I knew that him reacting to my polite half-halts would probably do little to nothing to try and get this horse to shorten his stride enough in the lines.
I cantered in, saluted the judge and headed towards the first line. I jumped the first vertical, tried to get him to slow down for the eight strides to the first oxer I would attempt since fall #2. I fit in the eight strides (barely) and as I felt him hesitate, I smacked him at the base and he soared over it. Thank God.
We went over the next two jumps, knocking #4 down because we got a little crooked, to then have to face the issue that started it all – the turn to the triple combination. He was strong in the turn and I tried to get him back the best I could, but when I saw we might get another deep distance, I said heck no, and kicked on for the longer one, and Nando fit two strides in, then one stride to the last vertical jumping it so carefully.
WE MADE IT!
After that, I had little control and Nando and I (mainly Nando) made the decision to leave strides out of each line, knowing that if got to a deep distance to any of the oxers, we are most likely going to have issues. So there I was, soaring over these fences; somewhere we hit another one down, before soaring over the last as I gallop through the finish flags in disbelief that I made it through that course.
I gave Nando all the pats and finally get him to stop before exiting the ring to see my mom still cheering. I jump off, immediately realizing how badly my left leg hurts, and hug my mom which turned into tears – we were so relieved that I got through the course in one piece (for the most part).
That was the completion of the team event – I mean, falling TWICE to then come back and jump around the course was an accomplishment in itself. Lots of rails came down and other issues on course, but Carly and Arly had beautiful clean rounds both times around. They were still so supportive, knowing that we ended up with the bronze medal. Switzerland had an amazing day – they took the gold; Hungary also rode well to take the silver; and all that was left was the individual competition the next day.
My teammates and myself after a very eventful first day of competition.
To say I wasn’t feeling confident about the individual round after falling not once, but TWICE on the first day of competition, would be the understatement of the century. Luckily for me, the jumps were going to be even bigger and the course was going to be harder.
One of the highlights of the overall very disappointing day was with the Hungarian team while we were watching the dressage teams compete. I went to sit with them and they said to me, “Girl, you are FIERCE. None of us would be able to do what you did today. If you were brought up a show jumper, there’s no way you would’ve been able to do what you did. That was all the eventing side – so impressive.”
So there you have it – every equestrian can appreciate the unrivaled courage that eventers bring to the table.