Last Thursday, I slept for 12 hours straight in the hope that I could sleep off the cold I was beginning to feel symptoms of. Sadly, my plan failed and I developed what I thought might be a sinus infection. In addition, I had two tests last week, so by the time Friday rolled around I was wiped out leading up to Regionals. It took some serious rest and relaxation, plus a surprise visit from my boyfriend (who hand delivered chocolate covered strawberries to me!) to get me as ready as I could be given my stuffed up head.
Sunday morning, after receiving my number and the pattern for reining, I got dressed in my favorite show shirt. (I normally only use it for showmanship with Image because it was so expensive, but I figured Regionals was a special occasion and I thought a little “bling bling” could only help me to look my best.) While I was zipping my chaps, I received a text that my teammate Kiva had drawn for me (like always – remember my posts from earlier in the fall?) and I had Cocoa. This news was both exciting and nerve wracking for me because I knew there were some better pattern horses in my reining class, but since he was from Albion, I still had a slight advantage.
(“A slight advantage” as in, I had ridden him once previously. Better than nothing, right?)
I was first to go in my class, which made me nervous because I knew I would be setting the bar for the other reining qualifiers but I did my best to stay calm as I walked into the arena. I paused at the center of the end rail, then nodded at the judge and began our run in to start the pattern. Stopping just past the middle cones, Cocoa and I backed a perfectly straight line to center as the pattern called and then I realized something was wrong. My left rein had come unclipped from the bit so it was dangling from my rein hand. Luckily I noticed during a point where I was stopped and completing a hesitation, so the ring steward ran over quickly and clipped it back on.
The rest of my pattern went smoothly: my changes of speed were clear and I took advantage of Cocoa’s wonderful back up again at the end of our pattern. As I walked out of the arena, everyone told me I did great, but I knew there were still seven more riders who had the potential to ride a pattern just as well as I did.
After watching everyone else ride, the announcer started the placings and I sat there nervous as could be, waiting to hear my number on the loud speaker. I didn’t get sixth, I wasn’t fifth, nor was I fourth or third. By then my heart was racing. I didn’t get second.
Had I won it? I thought to myself. What if I had not even placed?
But then, to my relief, I heard my name in the first position; I had won the class! All I could hear after that was Denise and the rest of the team hooting and hollering at the other side of the make-up arena and even George, the head of the equestrian program was there to see my win.
Sadly, I was the only Albion rider to qualify for Semi-Finals, the next step on the road to the national championship show, but everyone had great rides and I’m proud of them all. Now I need to prepare for Texas, the location for semi-finals. All of my hard work is starting to pay off and I hope Denise and I will have the chance to go take a few reining lessons on some real reining horses between then and now. I’ve got about six weeks to work hard and I’m planning to give my all because I want to go to Nationals in May!