Monday, May 16, 2011

ON THE BACK ROADS HEADIN' TO THE AECS

The Family
Courtesy of the Photographer
http://www.yokinaphotos.com/
My very bestest Eventing Buddy officially dubbed my new truck and trailer, the Double Wide Short Bus (DWSB).  You see, for me, the Road to the AECs is on a back road riding the Short Bus of Eventing... not always pretty, sometimes most humbling, sprinkled with tears, often chagrined but most likely, laughing with the eventing gods.  

The goal and drive to compete at the AECs started in 2006, just a year after I bought Fame and Frolic (aka Sugar).  A group of us made the trek to the Carolina Horse Park...  that year I was the owner/groom and my, then, trainer competed her. 

Picture for one moment, 500 entries from all over the US coming together to compete for the National Championships.  The energy was amazing.  So many winners, so many enthusiastic eventers coming together with family and friends.  It was like a burst of caffeine over and over again.  If there was some function, I was there - competitor parties, course walks, seminars...  I even jump judged. 

It was an amazing experience.  As I said good bye to our local hostess I told her that I would see her again.  Next time, I'll be the rider...  next time I will be there...  it will be me!

Traveling in the DWSB has been interesting to say the least.  Each season, better than the last...  but never quite good enough to qualify for the AECs.  Seriously, if this blog is truly meant to be and is entitled Confessions then I must tell the story of my most awesome winning ride last Fall at Stoneleigh Burnham Horse Trials.  Before I proceed, if you talk to my trainers, they will assure you that I am a safe, competent rider...  just takin' a back road here and there... you know, a scenic ride on the DWSB!

Courtesy of http://www.flatlandsfoto.com/

We were third after dressage...  finally, a lovely test that did not reflect our hi jinx in the warm up.  It was unremarkable and sometimes for Sugar and I, unremarkable can be great!  Our Stadium Jumping felt awesome...  powerful, forward and well executed.  There were tons of things to spook at but we were both on our A game - double clear and feeling good...  now in second place (my qualifying score for the AECs)

And  before I go on, here's another secret, I HATE down banks.   Oh, I'm not afraid of them or of getting hurt.  I'm afraid of embarrassing myself immensely...  you see, in learning to navigate banks, I've screeched like a hyena, lost my stirrups and bounced off like a sack of potatoes and even once uttered a guttural sound that scared the dog.  Not a pretty sight and probably magnified in my head a thousand times more...
Courtesy of
http://www.flatlandsfoto.com/

This course had two.  Well, you could take a ramp down which put you dead on for an easy run out past  the second bank...  hmm, the down banks were right at the place where everyone watches... hmmm, I did not want to humilate myself.  And, Sugar is adjustable...  OK, ramp, leg yield over, just one down bank..

5...4...3...2...1....  Have a great ride!

Gone away... Sugar is an amazing Cross Country horse.  Oh, she is a spooky girl and the first two seasons, my record is a shambles.  I lacked the confidence and support she needed... which allowed the spooks to happen.  When my trainers told me that I had to learn to ride her, accept her for what she is or sell her.  I worked on my riding.

At this trial, she rocked and rolled...  we were a team...  she went where she was pointed and jumped.  When I realized that I was going for the Training coop rather than Novice she did the roll back I asked for and went on.  Sugar and I were also fox hunting between events ... loving every minute of it and really learning to love the run.  Here it made us fast and confident...

The bank complex ...  well, the plan went...  just not the way I had hoped.  I did the ramp, leg yielded her over but my heel came up and off the bank we went and I lost my stirrups.  I did not release any sound (well, maybe a small sharp word for poo)....  So, in front of many spectators, including friends, I tried to maintain my speed and regain my stirrups.  I cantered and wiggled my foot, dropped to a trot and wiggled my foot, dropped to a walk and wiggled my foot finally stopping and leaning over and put my foot into the stirrup by hand.  Off we went...

We completed the course and I was sure I blew it.  I don't wear a watch. It isn't a moral issue... I can be a bit of a klutz at multi-tasking riding a horse, over jumps at speed. And if you could see me at my job rushing from appointment to appointment, you would know that I get just a bit crazy when I'm running late.  I was sure we lost time...
Courtesy of http://www.flatlandsfoto.com/

Ah, but did it really matter?  I still had a two more events and a season next year to qualify.  My friends teased me about my graceful recovery.  And we laughed.  Other than that, it was a good ride. 

When I went to get my test and check the scores...  my name was in First Place.  I was floored!  Who'd thunk...  that lil' mistake and embarrassing moment ate up enough time that I came in very close to optimum speed.  So sometimes good things come from humbling situations...

I'M GOING TO THE AECs!!!!  Now to cheer on my friends...  the more the merrier.  Oh... I have so much more work to do...  qualifying is the first step...  Winning is the last!  (kind of kidding but not really)

Enjoying the journey... right here, right now...

4 comments:

Now That's A Trot! said...

Congrats on qualifying! Hope you guys have a great time. :)

SprinklerBandit said...

Haha, you crack me up. Congrats on qualifying! That's exciting.

Holly Ratcliff said...

Congratulations, Suzanne and Sugar! I am not riding at AECs (unless I find a pot of gold and can enter something/qualify by September!), but I will be there to volunteer, lend a hand to some of my friends and their horses, and to cheer everyone on. Good luck over the summer in your preparations and I will look forward to finding you at Chattahoochee and saying "hello"!

Katie Murphy Eventing said...

Congratulations! That is so exciting. I am thrilled for you!
Katie
www.murphyeventing.com