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!)
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.
Six riders later, it was my turn. 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 gave Tori a pat, and tried to keep smiling after my not so great course.
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.
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.