Currently, my schedule consists mainly of driving to and from work, working, and sleeping – but that doesn’t mean I haven’t found time to have a few horsey adventures!
To start, I made a trip to Albion a few weeks ago so I could make sure I was included in our team picture, as well as help out at the hunt seat team’s home meet. It was good to be back on campus and I was glad to see my Albion friends. Aside from catching up with current friends, I also made a new friend. His name is Bob Cacchione and he just happens to be the founder of IHSA – talk about exciting! He shook my hand and we had a lovely conversation about last year’s semi-finals. In addition, he wished my good luck for the upcoming regional show.
The next weekend, I found myself at the Katona’s for a lesson with Tim. I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous because I knew Tim was going to tell me exactly what he thought of my riding, which was likely to be bad since I hadn’t been on a horse in two weeks. At first, I was kind of tense, but I quickly caught on to how the horse I was riding moved and the rest of my lesson went pretty well. We worked on running circles and hitting center, as well as roll backs. At one point my horse took off at the center of the arena because she knew we were doing roll backs and I accidently squeezed her instead of opening my legs (a natural reaction when you ride a spur-stop horse like Image). Luckily I realized what I was doing quickly and opened my legs, otherwise I might have ended up through the fence. Tim and Cindy both laughed at me and asked what the heck I was thinking. I explained that I’m used to spur stop and hadn’t been on a reiner in a while.
Finally, it was the week of regionals and that was the only thing on my mind. I was practicing reining patterns in my head and planning what I needed to do to be ready for the big day. Since my internship gave me Friday off, I slept in a little, then went to get a back massage to help me relax. From there, I went home, packed up the car, and headed to Albion. Upon my arrival, I stopped in to say hi to some of the Gerstacker staff, then headed over to my team member Chelsea’s house. Together, we made chocolate covered strawberries (my new regional tradition) and then I was off to my evening lesson at the barn.
After riding Topper for a while, Denise cleared the arena and had me run the reining pattern for the next day. To say the least, Topper took me for quite a ride, but it was great practice and helped me find my center, as well as several other markers I could use around the arena so I wouldn’t get lost during my pattern. Next I did the pattern on Dillon, Denise’s reiner-in-progress, and then I rode Withya, her other finished reiner. It was exciting to be back on my team’s horses and I had an absolute blast practicing my sliding stops and spins.
Next, I took turns with my team mates riding the different horses that I would potentially draw for my open class. By the time I had finished riding all of the horses I needed to, plus several potential alternate horses, I had been on about 12 horses in three hours. Talk about tiring!
For the rest of the night, I hung out with Chelsea and then went to my friend Katie’s apartment where I would be sleeping. After watching some TV and a quick microwave dinner, I was off to bed. After setting my alarm, I passed out, but unfortunately, I was too tired to realize that I had set my 6 o’clock alarm to pm rather than am. Luckily, Chelsea called at about 6:50 a.m. wondering where I was, so I jumped out of bed and ran to the barn to help get horses ready.
When I arrived, things all seemed pretty calm, with the exception of a few of my team members hungry rumbly tummies, so Chelsea and I made a McDonald’s run to pick up some much needed caffeinated beverages and some breakfast sandwiches. Upon our return, we helped saddle horses and prepare for the draw. Since I haven’t been doing too well with drawing horses again, I selected Olivia, our only senior rider, to be my designated drawer. She ended up coming through for me and drawing Cowboy, an awesome western horse for open, and Topper for reining. I was so pumped for my rides; I knew I definitely had a chance at qualifying with both of those draws!
Ten minutes later, though, Dillon decided he hated Cowboy and kicked him in the leg. I was extremely hopeful that he’d be fine so I could still use him for my class and with a little bit of walking and some Banamine, he seemed good to go. Our western class went extremely well, and I thought we had an awesome pattern, but unfortunately, the judge did not agree, and we placed fifth. Top five in the region is still decent, but a ticket to Florida would have been a lot better. I shook it off though, because I still had Topper to ride.
My day continued getting worse, though, when one of the reining horses that Trevor Walton brought turned up lame. Instead of using the alternate for the riders who had drawn her, they decided to do a re-draw, which took my chance at Topper off the table and put me on Trevor’s horse Goose instead. I was a bit bummed, but I went and talked to Trevor about his horse’s cues and quirks. Basically Goose was a lesson horse and he had no sliding plates on, but would still stop well, spin well, and do his lead changes nicely.
I was first up, so I entered the ring and started my pattern. I must admit that Goose was a very good boy and we laid down a nice clean pattern together. I knew that if I had been on Topper, our pattern would have had a lot more pizzazz since she would actually slide and could really spin, but I was happy with the pattern because I knew I did the best I could with Goose. The rest of the reiners went and it was obvious who really knew what they were doing on trained reining horses. (Normally our region uses equitation horses and we are judged like a horsemanship pattern – but at the semi-final and national level, all of the horses are trained reiners.) By the end of the class, I was unsure if I would qualify or not and, as they started to announce placings, I waited for my name. I finished second – just enough to make it to Semis again! It would have been great to have taken a first on Topper, but I was ok with my second on Goose, especially since I had never ridden him before!
Our freshman walk-trotter, Chantal, and one of our freshman intermediate riders, Morgan, were also able to qualify so it should be a fun trip to Florida with Denise. After the meet and a few pictures with the team, I went to clean up and met some of the girls at the local pub for a celebratory dinner. It was great to spend time with everyone and chat about what I’ve been missing at Albion.
With only a month until Florida, I’ll make sure I’m keeping in shape by hitting the gym and taking lessons with the Katonas and Eliza as often as I can! I’m so excited to be going to Florida and I’m ready to take another crack at Semi-Finals!