Friday, June 15, 2012

Big Fish, Little Fish Ups & Downs by Danielle Dichting

The famed Bromont sign

Sometimes you just end up being the little fish in the big pond. Other times you throw yourself in there and you have no one to blame but yourself. After twenty hours in the car I could blame my fellow car driver for convincing me that this trip was a good idea, but I do think at the end of the day it is still very much my own fault.
With that being said- I was born as the small fish (being 5’1 and having the look of a ‘yes I am 22 but I look 12’ young girl…I mean woman) so I’ve gotten used to this small fish thing and I’m happy to say so far it hasn’t been too hard on me. The trip to Bromont was long but worth it! When you pull into the park (in my case even around 4:30am it still looks beautiful) you can’t help but try to wipe the droll off your chin from the beautiful terrain and killer mountain view. Georgia’s red clay just does not stand a chance. After the horses were settled, the jogs were upon us before we really had a chance to catch up on some rest. I would like to say they were uneventful but a better response would be that they seemed uneventful. If you would have wandered away from the main jog lane and looked over towards were the waiting ‘joggers’ were clustered, you might have had a good laugh or a heart attack. Needless to say, the horses that are not acclimated to the cold weather really were feeling good. We caught a glimpse of more than a few flying feet in the air as horses pranced and danced, all full of energy and frisk.
Dressage seemed to be a lot less eventful but all the same still entertaining. After all, we are talking about event horses. Dressage always seems to be quite a challenge. My guardian angel must have been sitting at A the last couple of days because my horses came down centerline ready to halt at I, L and X with a purpose. They both put in some really quality tests and kept their wits about them, something we all can be proud of at the end of the day. The night draws on and I think I have looked over this course map enough times to admit to my vision going blurry. I wish everyone the best of luck and I hope that my guardian angel doesn’t mind going on a good gallop tomorrow!
The thing about horses is they can bring you to your highest highs and your lowest lows. Today was one of those days for me.
We all woke up to a beautiful day and a beautiful cross country course. Derek Di Grazia designed a course that asked great questions for all divisions to tackle. Looking back at the score board at the end of the day, the courses got the better of a pretty equal amount of competitors in each division.
The CCI** started off the cool morning and, minus a short hold, ran smoothly. I was sitting in a good position after dressage and was anxious to get on course. My mount, The Graduate, is a newer ride for me and we are still trying to figure each other out. Since my spring events leading up to our trip were a little inconsistent, I decided to wait to just ride the horse underneath me on the day and not make up my mind as to whether or not to take the slow, confidence building round, or go for time, until I was out on course. After the first few fences and the first combination my mind was made up. Now or never. I kicked on and the rest of the course rode like a dream. We finished the course with just a few time penalties to secure a good placing going into the last day of competition.
The next division was the CCI*** and my heartbreaking round. Tops and I have been together for six years and in every event he has ever run, beginner novice to advanced, I have been in the saddle. This is now our second year at the level and the season has been going great. With top three placings at our last two events, I was confident to come ready to compete. Today proved to me that no matter how prepared you are for the course in front of you, you can never foresee the unexpected. We had gotten through the first third of the course and we were feeling up to the challenge until a strap on my breastplate snapped leaving what remained to  flap and dangle somewhere around his knees. I was oblivious to this and continued several fences along the course to a hanging log set downhill. As he tried to leave the ground, the dangling leather restricted his shoulder causing him to twist pretty fiercely and dive me to the ground. Fortunately he did not fall and seemed to be just fine to continue the course and take himself down to the next set of fences.
At the end of the day, it is easy to look back and ask yourself what may have happened if you had made a different decision or ridden a little differently. This sport is so humbling in every way. We do not choose to event because it is easy. We choose it for the love of the sport and the love of our horses. Congratulations to everyone today and good luck tomorrow.
As the sun rose over the horse park Sunday morning, there was the usual hustle of the last day of competition of a 3 day. Horses were being bathed, ridden, braided and iced in preparation for the final horse inspection starting at 8:00. The only positive to my grey horse not being involved in these preparations, due to our misfortune on cross country, was that the time I would have otherwise spent giving him a full bath to remove the manure stains he is so talented in attaining overnight was spent preparing myself for the day ahead (and maybe an extra 15 minutes sleep).
The Graduate
Although there was not the same dancing atmosphere as the Wednesday inspection, all the horses were turned out beautifully and looked ready for show jumping. The jog was uneventful for me so there was a long day of waiting ahead. The CCI* was the first to jump, so my division didn’t start until around 12:00. I walked the course a couple times, probably over thinking how to ride each fence and turn and recounting each distance. When the division started, I was able to watch the first few rounds before going to get on.
Show jumping used to scare the life out of me. Not because I was actually scared of the fences, it was more that I had never been very good at it. Give me a cross country course any day of the week over a show jumping round! While gearing up for the start of the season the last two years, I have spent several weeks in Wellington, FL, with some of the best show jumpers in the world, learning all the tools I need to gain confidence in the ring. I was very grateful for all those tools as I circled outside waiting to jump. The bell rang, I took a deep breath, and I cantered to fence one. After crossing the finish flags, I probably could not have had a bigger smile on my face. We had jumped a clean round and put some pressure on the top two.
Jumping to a 2nd place finish with The Graduate
Standing in the ring among the best riders of our sport was a surreal feeling. As I received the second place ribbon, this whole journey flashed quickly through my mind. Everyone in the sport works so hard day in and day out, travels hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles to compete in events like this one. The struggles that this horse and I have overcome in the last nine months only make the victory a little sweeter. I could name one hundred people who have made this dream possible for me and I cannot thank any of them enough for the support they have given. This trip was an amazing opportunity for me and I hope to be back next year.
Photo credit: The Professional Riders Organization

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