Getting a Taste of the Top

Bug was sure there were more cookies with his name on them after his dressage. Bug was sure there were more cookies with his name on them after his dressage.

I am guilty — I think that my horse is amazing. As horse owners, I think we all think that our horse is pretty much the best. If we didn’t, why would we own them and spend countless hours and dollar bills on their care? Our time with them builds a bond that is strong. We learn them inside and out.

I have been saying for years that I know my horse has what it takes to be a top horse in all three phases. However, being green at eventing, I couldn’t seem to ride him to bring it out. I know that when the dressage score isn’t very good or there is a rail or runout, it’s all on me. I love that my horse puts all of his effort into this job of his, and even if I make it so he just can’t get it done correctly the first time, he comes right back to show me how I should have done it.

My coach, Bonnie Mosser, has really put a lot of effort and thought into my training. She has helped me to really become a better rider, and not only that, a better horseman.  As I said in my USEA interview, not only have we been working hard on Bug’s way of going, but Kathryn Scheiss has been working hard on getting his body in a good place. I had it in my head going into Chatt Hills that I was going to give it all I had and prove that I could hang with the big boys. Granted, there weren’t going to be a ton in my CIC3* division, but it was all about the performance we gave, not necessarily about the ribbon we brought home.

Unfortunately, Bonnie is a busy lady and was just returning from teaching in Iowa, so I did not have her on hand to warm me up for dressage. She sent me an encouraging text before I hopped on, and I set out to make her proud. Bug felt a bit excited in the warm up, but he quickly settled into being relaxed and supple. It’s the most amazing he has ever felt. I stayed calm and took what we had to the ring.

For the first time in my life, I had a dressage test that just felt good. I just sat and rode and felt what was going on underneath me. Did I leave points on the table? Heck yes. However, it felt smooth and relaxed and flowing. I was so pleased. Imagine my surprise when I started getting texts afterward congratulating me on my amazing test. I hadn’t even seen the score yet! I may possibly have jumped up and down a few times when I saw the live scores. Holy crap, I was tied with Jon Holling for FIRST!

Honestly, just that phase was a huge win for me. I have known for years that Bug has what it takes to lay down a test like that and better, but I just couldn’t seem to figure it out. To be in first after dressage in a CIC3* was just huge. I was smiling like an idiot all day. The best part was that Bug totally knew he had done well. He was begging for cookies all afternoon with a smile of his own. He knew he had made his mama happy.

Pressure? What’s that? I hadn’t ever felt pressure before the jumping phases. I was always near the bottom and had to climb my way to the top. Learning to hold on to the top of that mountain is a new thing for me. I was determined to ride my best and pull my way to the peak. My flag was going at the top of the Chatt Hill CIC3* mountain.

Jumping under the lights was a new experience for us, but I was hoping that Bug would meet it like he does most new jumping experiences that he’s not sure of — by jumping higher. I didn’t need to fear! He went in there and was all business with springs in his feet. I had moments of riding a bit too backwards, but Bug helped me out every time. He cruised smoothly around the course like it was child’s play, bringing home one time penalty. Again, I was sitting at the top. I definitely slept with a grin on my face that night.

This spring has been a bit of an up and down roller coaster for me with the cross country. If my rounds were clean, they were really, really good. Otherwise, my rounds didn’t seem to make it to the finish flags. This is unusual for Bug, but we have been working through things. Going from letting him just take me around the courses to me trying to actually ride and make the rounds look good has definitely been a work in progress.

I had walked the course multiple times, and I knew what I had to do. I wasn’t that nervous about being in first; I was nervous about doing right by this amazing horse I was sitting on. Bug felt super out of the box, and he cruised around the course like it was nothing. Unfortunately, I, again, got in his way at the angled rolltops at 11AB and put him at a distance that was impossible for him to get out of.

Bug was less than thrilled with his pink ribbon when he had the blue one in his grasp.

Bug was less than thrilled with his pink ribbon when he had the blue one in his grasp.

That one split second mistake cost me a lot. I was so mad at myself, but I had many more fences to jump. I was determined that we were getting through those finish flags this time. We had a few more moments where my reaction time just wasn’t quick enough, but my superstar horse stepped up to the plate and helped me out.  We had some really, really good moments too.

After coming through the flags, many emotions hit me — disappointment being the biggest one. I had let myself, my coach, and most of all, my horse, down. However, after taking more time to think it through, I realized that I had just learned a HUGE lesson. I could be at the top. I had finally showed myself what I have been saying for years. My horse has it. Now I have to catch up to him.

We did end up finishing fifth, even with the 20 and time, as the course seemed to ride tough for most. It’s hard to be thrilled with fifth when I came from first, but I am definitely still happy. The fire has been lit in my belly, and I am ready to push harder and become a consistent contender. Every horse I sit on is going to make me stronger and better. There is a huge mountain ahead, and I am going to put my flag at the top and keep it there.

I must send out a huge thanks to everyone who supported me and sent me well wishes throughout the weekend. They were very much appreciated! I am also very thankful to my sponsors: Snider’s Elevator, ADM Nutrition, ThinLine, From the Blindside Jewelry and Wilson College.

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