If you haven’t heard already, I’m going to IHSA Nationals!! (And so is my teammate, Morgan Carey!) This is extra super exciting since this is only the second time the western team has qualified riders for Nationals!
But don’t let me get ahead of myself. Let me tell you all about our trip to IHSA Semi Finals:
My travels started at 6:00 a.m. when I left my house for the airport. I arrived promptly at five minutes earlier then our planned meeting time and, unfortunately I forgot to account for the fact that Denise tends to be a bit behind schedule so I got to sit and wait for the others for a bit. Going through security went well and we made it to our gate in plenty of time. Finally, it was our time to board and soon we were on our way to the Sunshine State!
Once we arrived Orlando, we drove two hours north to Ocala, where Semi-Finals were located. From there, we headed to the Ocala Equestrian Center to watch the horses all warm up. They ran each of them through a short pattern and some rail work and I made sure to take detailed notes on them.
The next morning, I was up early. I did my make-up and put my bun up, and packed the rest of my stuff in the rental van. After the coach’s meeting, it was time for me to draw (I was really dreading drawing), but something extremely lucky happened! I was the last rider on the class list, meaning I would be last to draw, so technically, my draw was out of my hands. I got the last horse no matter what, so I couldn’t blame myself for picking a bad horse.
I ended up with Gator, a little bay quarter horse. He was a little naughty in the warm up and I could tell Denise was not happy with my draw, but I figured I would do my best. Sadly, Gator didn’t have sliding plates on either, so it seemed as though I had drawn a bad one. I was third to go and as I was led into the arena, I took a deep breath and headed to my starting point. I was not expecting anything spectacular, but surprisingly, Gator was extremely willing and honest. We laid down a very clean pattern (though lacking the sliding stops) and I was extremely happy with him.
After watching everyone else go, I felt confident and hopeful. I waited anxiously until they called all of the reining contestants into the center of the ring and listened for my name. They started off with first place, then second, and third was me! All I could hear was Denise screaming and I walked quietly out of the arena and up to her. To my surprise, she just sat there staring at me for about 30 seconds, and then out of nowhere, she starting screaming and crying all at once. (To say the least, I was excited to have qualified and relieved that I could relax for the rest of the trip!)
After making a dozen or so phone calls and posing for pictures, I was off to change out of my warm chaps. For the rest of the afternoon, I laid around in the sun and waited for Chantal’s class.
After her draw and practicing her pattern a few times with water bottles as cones, Denise and I helped her mount her horse, Gunner. Chantal had a nice ride and her pattern was good – which is really impressive since Chantal only started showing this year. Unfortunately, she didn’t get a call back, but she too, was relieved to be done, and was ready to relax.
The next morning, we were up early again, only this time it was Morgan’s turn to ride. She drew Feather, a cute palomino gelding who had been consistent the day before. After running through her pattern a few times, it was time for her to mount. Denise got her ready and she walked into the ring looking confident. Her ride went extremely well, as did her pattern, and it was clear that she had drawn a great horse. After she left the ring, we watched the second split go, then all waited anxiously for the call back. Soon, they announced the numbers – including Morgan’s! – and she went to the draw table to draw for the finals.
After drawing, Morgan walked back over to me looking disappointed, so I asked her who she drew. It was Gator! Clearly, Morgan was concerned that she had drawn a reiner, but I assured her that I didn’t think he would give her any trouble. In the ring, Morgan had another great ride and we were all anxious to hear the placings. Obviously, Gator was our guy because Morgan also placed third, meaning we are both going to Nationals!! Talk about exciting!
After that, we hung around and watched the end of the show, and then we were off to Orlando again to head home. After making a few pit stops at tack stores and Outback Steakhouse, along with an unplanned stop over due to Judy pressing too many buttons on the GPS, we arrived at our destination and checked in at the hotel.
You would think that the exciting part of the trip was over, but I think Monday morning was the most stressful time of all. You see, we set three different alarm clocks, but none of them actually went off, so it took Morgan waking up randomly at 5:30 for us to realize that we were running a bit late. Luckily we were able to hitch a ride to the airport with Morgan’s grandparents, who had come to watch semi-finals, and we rushed through security and to the terminal. With 20 minutes to spare, I was relieved we made it.
After a nice nap on the plane, I was straight off to work, and it seems like that’s where I’ve been ever since. I have had a few chances to play with my pony and I’m finally caught up on sleep. I’ve already started my countdown to Nationals (29 days), and it will be here before I know it!!