The Becker College Equestrian Team woke up on Saturday, March 29th for what could have been the last Intercollegiate Horse Show Association show of the 2013-2014 season, Regional Finals. This is the one horse show that Intercollegiate equestrians spend the entire year showing and earning points to qualify for. This year BCET had ten riders who earned enough points to qualify for 2014 IHSA Zone 1, Region 1 Finals at Claddagh Farm in Tiverton, RI.
The bus ride to the show immediately felt different than it had the rest of the year. Our usually sleepy team who fell quiet as soon as we pulled off campus was awake and buzzing with excitement. The long drive was full of talk about past years at regionals, reminiscing the year’s horse shows, and the possibilities that the day held.
An hour and a half later, we arrived at the show and set up our bags in the spectator area of the indoor. With no riders in the first two classes, Open and Intermediate Fences, BCET had some time to relax before getting dressed. After a short course walk with Larissa, the other Novice Fences rider, myself and the other captains were off to the coaches and captains meeting while the rest of the team watched horses warm up. In the meeting we learned some exciting news, the Zone 1 Region 1 Finals were being sponsored by two amazing companies, Smartpak Equine and Samshield Helmets! Each rider who won their division would receive a gift card from Smartpak and a new Shamshield helmet, the largest prizes for first place in my three years in IHSA! The news spread quickly and you could feel the excitement level rise instantly! (I mean, come on, who doesn’t want a tack shop gift card and a brand new helmet?! These prizes were amazing!)
Our first two riders of the day, Larissa and myself, were to show in Novice Fences. After getting dressed, we headed outside to the draw table to live draw our horses. Larissa, being the tallest in our class, drew first and pulled Calvin, the draft-y grey gelding that she had ridden at the previous show on the flat. I was one of the shorter riders for once, so I drew third to last and pulled Tory, a bay mare who had a rough start to her warm up and ran out of a few fences, but finished nicely.
Course walk had run before the coaches and captains meeting and both of us were pretty confident about our plan. The course was a basic Novice course with fences on both diagonals and rails. It began with a single diagonal fence on the right lead, then around to fences two and three which were set in a four stride line across the diagonal. We were to keep the left lead to the last four fences; a single outside, an end fence, another single outside, and a single diagonal. Not too simple, but nothing too hard.
Larissa was lined up to ride first in our class, so our team helped her mount and get into the ring. Unfortunately, I was not able to watch her course as I was preparing to mount my own horse, but another team member videoed it instead. She entered the ring, did a sitting trot across the diagonal to pick up her right lead, and turned right off the wall to the first fence. Her first three fences were perfect with a nice four in the line. Fence four had a slight chip and they took fence five from a longer spot. Her last two fences were, again, perfect. She finished with a sitting trot across the diagonal to the center line and walked out the in-gate. When I asked her how the course went all she said was “good”, and the judge must have thought better because she later got called back for additional testing.
Six riders later, it was my turn. I entered the ring and began my course in the same way Larissa had. My nervousness about Tori running out on me like she had in the warm up was catching up to me and my leg started to creep up causing my weight to not be entirely in my heels. My first two fences went smoothly. Coming into the four stride, Tori got strong and I ended up with three and a half strides in the line causing us to chip on the way out. Fence four was fine, though I cut my corner more than I would have liked. Then it went downhill. I had mentioned my stirrup was slippery when I mounted, but didn’t think anything of it and apparently I should have. After fence four, I lost my right stirrup and my horse was just getting stronger with each stride. This led us to take the end fence from a longer distance and Tori took that as an opportunity to speed up more. Every half halt made her toss her head in the hair and pop her back, causing me to bounce out of the saddle and become unbalanced with my one stirrup. I was thanking all the times I jumped my pony at home bareback when fence six didn’t turn out to be a complete disaster. Again, the half halt for the lead change made us hop for a few strides at which point I broke to trot in a last attempt to regain my stirrup. It didn’t work. My last fence went relatively well, though it led to another choppy lead change. I finished in the same way Larissa had, gave Tori a pat, and tried to keep smiling after my not so great course.
Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get called back for testing, but Larissa did! The top four riders in the class were asked to switch horses and perform a test. The test was to enter the ring at a walk, canter fences one and two, trot fence four, canter to the end of the ring and turn left down the center line, show two changes of lead through simple lead changes down the center line, and exit the ring at a walk. Larissa ended up on Bandit, a little grey gelding. She rode her test beautifully, with the only mistake being that they knocked a rail on fence two. The judge must have agreed, as she placed third out of eight.
I was far from happy with how my course and went and more than disappointed in my performance, but when I thought about it I knew that I had earned my spot to be there. No matter how that day turned out or what placing I got, I had proven myself to qualify to show. I collected my eighth place ribbon and I realized that I may not be the best and I may not be going on to Zones, but I was one of the top eight in my region in one of the larger IHSA divisions. I was proud of myself for making it to Regionals in a division that is not my forte and finishing my course with one stirrup. I learned to love my brown ribbon in a matter of seconds.
Our next rider of the day was Meghan, one of our Open Flat riders. She drew Austin, the little grey gelding Catherine and I had jumped the week earlier. With a total of six riders in the class, she was riding against some of the best in our region (including the rider who won the Cacchione Cup the next week at Zones). Unfortunately, I missed the first half of her class, but it must have been amazing since she got called back to test with one other rider! The two riders were asked to switch horses, remount, and ride the class again. Meghan was now on Jenny, a fuzzy bay mare that everyone had done well on at previous shows. Again, she rode well and placed third.
The next class was Intermediate Flat and we had one rider to show in it, our other captain, Catherine. Because there were ten riders who qualified, the class would be run in two groups of five and the judge would call back the top six from the class to test. Catherine was placed in the first section of the class and drew Mojo,a paint draft gelding. Although the horse isn’t supposed to matter in IHSA, it is hard being on the only draft in a class full of thoroughbreds and hunter horses. Catherine rode him well, considering he warmed up like a firecracker, but didn’t get called back for testing. She ended up placing eighth out of ten.
The next class, Novice Flat, had 15 riders including two of our own, Larissa and Kirby. This class would be split into three sections with the top six called back for testing. Larissa was set to be in the first section and Kirby was placed in the third section. Larissa drew Austin, the same gelding Meghan rode in Open Flat, and Kirby drew Mojo, the gelding Catherine rode in Intermediate Flat. After they both checked with our riders who had already ridden their horses, they mounted up and the first section began. Larissa rode her gelding well except for one corner where Austin tripped and broke to the trot from the canter. Kirby turned out to be the shortest rider in her section on the largest horse. Despite that, the team thought Kirby rode her giant horse beautifully and we were expecting both of our riders to get called back. For some reason, the judge only half agreed with us when he called back Larissa for testing and placed Kirby tenth. Although we were confused, there was nothing we could do about it.
The top six were asked to redraw their horses (Larissa ended up on Bandit again) and return to the ring for testing. The riders rode the class like normal on their new horses and then lined up at the end of the ring to perform individual tests. They were asked to perform a sitting trot to the center of the ring, halt, do a figure of eight at the posting trot, and sit trot back to the line up. Most riders had a hard time staying straight on the center line, but luckily that is something we practice a lot in lessons, so Larissa had no problems. The practicing paid off as she placed second in the class, granting her a spot at Zones the next weekend!
The next division, Advanced Walk Trot Canter, had three Becker riders in it. Again, there were 15 riders who qualified, so there would be three sections with the top six called back. First up we had Joseph who drew Dunkin, a tall grey gelding who was perfect for our tallest rider who usually gets stuck on the littest ponies. For having a semester off of riding, Joseph rode amazingly well and you could never tell he had taken a break. Next we had Bella who drew Hamilton, a chestnut thoroughbred with the lofty trot of a warmblood. Even though we don’t have many bouncy horses to practice on, Bella had no problems and rode well. In the last section we had Hailee who also drew Hamilton. Like Bella, she rode him beautifully and handled his bouncy gaits.
It wasn’t a surprise when Bella got called back for testing. During the redraw she pulled Mojo and became our third rider on him today. The class was run as normal with the riders on their new horses, then decided that there would be no further testing. Bella rode her class well. Although it was no surprise that we had a rider in the call back class, we were stunned at the placings for all three of our riders. Bella, who we were expecting to win the class, placed third, Joseph and Hailee, who had no major faults in either of their classes, pinned twelfth and fourteenth. Again, even though we didn’t agree, the judges placings are final and there was nothing we could do.
The last class of the day was Walk Trot which had eight riders in total, two of them being ours. This class would have two sections and the top four would be called back. Our rider in the first section, Felicia, drew Bandit, a perfect walk trot horse to draw. She rode the best out of the four in her section and made it to call backs. Danielle, our rider in the second section, drew Hamilton, one of the toughest horses in walk trot. Even though he was bouncy, Danielle rode him well and we were confused by her eight place ribbon.
The walk trotters redrew their horses for the call back class and Felicia drew Hamilton. It it safe to say that he was one of the toughest horses in the walk trot class because he was so bouncy compared to the ponies that the other riders drew. Felicia rode beautifully and placed fourth.
The last ribbons to be handed out of the day were for the team placings. The Becker College Equestrian Team placed fifth out of eleven teams with 270 points.
Overall, it was a long and tiring day, but it was exciting. BCET had many riders to make it to Regionals and they all rode their best. We went home proud of ourselves for making it that far. We also had nothing but thank yous for the entire team who came to Regionals to support our qualified riders. Having the rest of the team to keep us calm, keep us excited, mount us on our horses, shine our boots, and cheer us on was amazing. BCET LOVE!