The Long Road: Time to put the pedal to the metal
Returning columnist Maegan Gossett has her GPS set for the 2013 AQHA World Show in November. There’s a lot of road between here and there, but she’s agreed to let Horse Nation ride shotgun.
Hey there, Horse Nation! It’s been awhile. Remember me? I’m the 23-year-old who barely graduated college with a degree I have no interest in only to promptly move back home in order to show my Appendix mare, Elle, on the AQHA circuit. Well I’m still all those things plus a couple more. I got an adult job, which is sucking the life out of me and interrupting my riding schedule. Most importantly–drum roll, please–I’ve met the man of my dreams. I know you, the readers of Horse Nation, will understand my affection when I explain that he cleaned Elle’s stall without me even having to ask. I think I’ll keep him, so don’t get any ideas, ladies!
In between all that madness and the quick snatches of time I find to catch my breath, I’ve forgotten to write. But I’m in the backseat of the truck as my parent’s drive us home from a show in Kentucky, which gives me all the time in the world. I’ve missed you all!
This new year finds me chasing numbers and playing a big game of Countdown to Zero. In this case, zero isn’t a spray of confetti or a loud bang. Instead, it’s a date. I have until July 31 of this year to qualify for the AQHA World Show. That’s six months and 19 days to qualify in my four amateur events.
To qualify, I have to earn a certain amount of point in each event. Those qualifying standards are set each year by forces far beyond my power of influence. Anyone who achieves that level of points goes to the World Show. Sounds easy, right?
I wish. Points are awarded based on the number of horses in the class and your placing per judge. Five horses in the class and you win under one judge and place second under the other? That’s one point for the win and one half for the second. My events have the following point standards:
Showmanship: 26 points
Equitation: 13.5 points
Hunter Under Saddle: 21 points
Pleasure Driving: 2 points
This weekend was my third horse show of the qualifying year. Believe me when I say it went better than expected (always the better way to go). Between the rain, the cold, and the frozen ground days were Elle’s cantankerous days and my not so cantankerous days. All of those off days left (and I’m not kidding) exactly two days before we loaded up for Kentucky. Normally, I never would have gone to a show so underprepared, but in the number chasing game, every point counts.
But I have to give this one to Elle. She pulled it out, not me.
The show was over two days with four judges. We arrived Friday morning to get Elle settled in and ridden down. Saturday was the first day of the show with all of my four events shown in one day under two judges. Sunday was the same format with the other two judges.
I had an acceptable (not quite to our potential) showmanship pattern. When you think of showmanship, picture a shorter dressage pattern, but with me leading Elle in a glittery outfit and cowboy hat. She has to put her feet in the exact right spot with only a lead for me to tell her where. Showmanship takes precision, timing, and a great partnership. Let the record show that Elle has tripped me… a lot. But she’s good, really good, at it, so we pursue and event whose tight patterns and quick maneuvers are better suited to short-strided Western horses. The second day of showing held another decent pattern, but in the end, we pulled off two points from both days.
Hunter Under Saddle is an event judged on the horse at the walk, trot, and canter. A good Hunter Under Saddle horse has a long, sweepy trot; a slow legged, deep hock canter; and a low head position–ear level with wither, nose out. Those first day revealed Elle’s first magic trick–two of our best trips in the event ever.
Honestly, after the showmanship disappoint, I wasn’t expected much out of weekend (not to mention our poor preparation). I was shocked. Our warm-ups were tense. Elle was spooking at everything that moved and didn’t move. She had a problem with this arena last time we were here as well. She wouldn’t settle for me and just relax enough to slow down and keep her head down. I was left with a “wing it” attitude, which takes on a whole new meaning at this particular show. There is no warm-up pen, so you have to go into your class cold. I entered an open Hunter Under Saddle class to use as a warm-up before my qualifying amateur class. And Elle performed the best she ever has.
I won under both judges in that open “warm-up” class. All together, we came away with a point in Hunter Under Saddle over the weekend.
Maegan and Elle competing in Hunter Under Saddle. Photo courtesy of Sarah Elder Chabot.
Equitation is a pattern followed by rail work, and is judged on the rider. On Saturday, we had a good ride, coming away with two seconds, which calculated to one point. On the second day…well let me just paint a picture.
Here is the pattern for the class:
I walk into the gate and line up with the other riders. Elle is tired. I stick. My hunt cap has shrunk and is squeezing my head. It’s our last class of the show. I have a really bad feeling I’m going to have to go first as I watch the judges set up the pattern’s cones.
It’s tiny. Microscopic. I drew a triangle in my 9th grade geometry class bigger than that. Elle is big and big-strided. I probably have three strides between my start cone and the top cone.
I have to go first.
Every step of that pattern felt like this: $%*#@!%&*$^#*?”@
Apparently the judges liked it. I won under both, which gave us a total of two points over both days. That pattern was tough for us, but Elle was a trooper. It further proved how far we have come since last year and her potential.
I guess that show was Elle’s belated Christmas gift to me. I hope she gives me a few more before July 31st. This is our standing (including two other shows) in the Countdown to Zero before our next show in February:
Showmanship: 19.5 to go
Equitation: 10.5 to go
Hunter Under Saddle: 19.5 to go
Pleasure Driving: 2 to go
Until next time, may this rain stop so we can ride regularly. I stick my tongue out to all you with indoors.
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