31 May 2011

Reims: Nations Cup & Grand Prix

So Close But Yet So Far

Friday was Nations Cup day. When we walked the course, it seemed like a long way around but not too big or technical. The triple combination at the end of the course looked much smaller than the rest of the jumps. Many chefs felt the same way and actually went to the course designer to complain and have him put the combination up. We didn't mind because bigger is better for our team! He said it was a solid 1.45 and took his measuring stick over to prove it. Just to make a point, he put the whole combination up to 1.46. Boy were people regretting that decision. The course proved to be much more difficult and ride much bigger up and down the hills than it walked. Plus, the time allowed was so tight it practically had to be ridden as a speed class. 

I rode first for the team riding My Boy. We definitely weren't on our A game as usual. I'm not sure if it was the ground or what, but My Boy was not feeling up to the task at hand on Friday. I finished my first round with a disappointing twelve faults plus one time fault. Not a good start for USA, but not nearly as bad as some of the others. I came back in the second round finishing with eight faults. 

Karen Polle rode second for the team aboard With Wings. She finished her first round with an unlucky four faults and two time. Her second round kept us in the hunt for gold finishing with just one time fault. 

Reed Kessler showed in the third position for the team riding Onisha. She was one of only a few clear rounds in round one and the only double clear of the day. 

Jessica Springsteen had her work cut out for her as the anchor of the team. It couldn't have been a worse first-time-anchor experience. She truly had to carry the whole team around with her in the second round. She finished with one time fault in the first round. Her second round would decided the outcome of for the team. If she jumped clear, we win. If she jumped clear with a time fault, we still win. If she had four faults, we jump off against the Dutch team for the win. Anything else we would be second. Vornado ticked the sixth jump, an oxer with the top front rail a plank on flat cups, just lightly enough to turn the plank on it's side so it sat long side up, but did not fall. It was a nail biter. The whole US team grabbed each others shoulders with our right hands as our left hands were still in our pockets from the last Dutch rider who had just come out of the ring. All the Dutch were pretending to blow on the plank and yelling something I didn't understand! Finally, coming out of the triple combination on the home stretch, a rail fell. Then, one time fault appeared on the score board. So close but yet so far. 

It's so strange how the team score is accumulated by ALL the team members, but all the weight lies on the shoulders of the anchor rider in their final round. Jessie's final round was one of the better rounds of the day, but yet it was the most disappointing just because of when she went in the order. 

It was a great effort made by all (except me :o ) and coming so close has made everyone that much hungrier to win the nations cup at the next two shows! It was aggravating and motivating to learn that if none of us had had any time faults, we would have won...

We had to say goodbye to Katie Prudent as our chef after the show on Sunday. We were sad not to win a nations cup before she left, but Michele Grubb is taking over the job for the last two shows and Kate knows we will get it done before the tour is over. Her final words of wisdom to us all were: "Clear rounds, NO time faults." 

Grand Prix

The young rider grand prix course proved just as deceiving as the nations cup course. It got the better of Karen Polle with With Wings and Ricky Neal with Uleia. Ricky Neal's Transmission decided to pull a shoe in his stall after the first day of showing and it left him a little sore so even though the track on Sunday was bigger than anything Uleia had ever jumped, Ricky decided to give it a try. She made a good effort but it was just too big for her right now. 

Reed Kessler (Onisha), Catherine Pasmore (Vandavid), and Jessica Springsteen (Cincinnati) all finished with eight faults. However, the format of the class was like the format of the Global Champions Tour Shows grand prix's except we did not have a second round, just a jump off. All the clears or the top 25% of the class get to come back for the jump off, but they carry their faults with them. Reed Kessler was the fastest eight-faulter and was in eighth place after the first round. I was in twelfth place after the first round and the show announcer originally announced they would be seeing twelve back for the jump off, so I was getting on to school again when the in-gate person came over and said they are going to take the three scratches into account and only bring back eleven for the jump off. It was quite a bummer. Jessica finished in fourteenth place after round one. 

Speedy Reedy went for it in the jump off and had the fastest time by a lot, but unfortunately had to carry forward her eight faults from the first round. After some of the clears and fours had more rails in the jump off, Reed moved from eighth place to fourth place and proudly represented USA in the prize giving for the young rider grand prix.

Meg O'Mara (Sinatra IV) and Victoria Birdsall (Little Lady D'Elle) represented USA in the junior grand prix. Lady was getting tired just as all the other horses were by the end of the week and had an unfortunate twelve faults in the first round. Sinatra, however, was still full of energy as always and jumped a beautiful first round just barely knocking down the last jump. The same format as the young rider grand prix also applied to the junior grand prix. A four fault round was easily in the top 25% to come back for the jump off. Just as Reed, Meg had the fastest jump off time and moved up for a fourth place finish in the grand prix. She was the only female in the award line up and also won the overall leading junior rider award! 

Great finish for team USA in Reims, France. Lots of Champagne, trophies, and ribbons were won. On to Belgium now for the horses to get a much needed rest. The team goes to St Gallen on the weekend to watch the big tour team compete in the nations cup. Monday we start our 14hr trek to Austria to try our hand at winning the nations cup once again! 

Reims loves us! 

30 May 2011

Thursday Photos

Smeagle 3d!
Meg & Smeagle 

Jessica & Cincinnati
Jessica & Vornado

Ricky & Transmission

Ricky & Uleia
Karen & What Ever

Karen & With Wings

Reed & Ligist
Reed & Onisha

Catherine & My Boy
Catherine & Vandavid
Vandavid 1st

Meg & Sinatra 

Victoria & Lady

Sorry for the poor photo quality. Photos taken with permission from PSV. 

Jambone and Fromage

Thursday started off with a team breakfast at the hotel. Breakfast is always a challenge for me... I try to cook an egg to start the day off with some protein, but I fail miserably every time. There is always a basket of raw eggs and a 'tub' of boiling water next to it. Your supposed to put an egg in a wire scooper and place it in the boiling water. How we are supposed to know how long to leave it in for is still a mystery to me. I've decided from now on to stick to yogurt and cereal. It's much safer!

Everyone took their horses out in the morning when we got to the show, then there was a long break before showing began. Every day the class that went after lunch ended up being pushed back at least an hour. I guess the French like to have plenty of time for a lunch break. Since most French people don't seem to understand English, or even attempt to understand English, my French has been forced to improve. I am officially an expert at ordering a ham and cheese sandwich (since it was the only normal thing available to eat).

"Je veux un sandwich au jambon et fromage. Merci beaucoup!" 

Finally we started showing... 

Meg O'Mara kicked off the day with a 3rd place on her second horse, Smeagle, in the junior class. She went near the end of the class and they actually announced her as taking over the lead, but when the class finished and she supposedly won, they randomly forgot to count the scores of two people who went early on.... :-(

Next, all the young rider horses competed in the PX Conseil General de la Marne. It sounds much more impressive than it was, in the states we call it a 1.40 power and speed haha. It did however turn out to be a very competitive class with all the young riders doing it and most having two horses. USA secured our rightful places right away taking six of the top ten placings out of 70-something! I ended up winning the class on Vandavid, Karen Polle took second on With Wings, Jessica Springsteen took third on Cincinnati la Silla, Reed Kessler took seventh on Onisha, Ricky Neal took ninth on Transmission, and I took tenth on My Boy. 

Finally, both Meg and Victoria took an unlucky four faults in the final junior class of the day but finished respectively. 

The weekend is off to a great start for everyone! 

Photos and more coming soon!

When in Champagne...

When in Champagne... One must visite des caves de champagne de Reims! 

Pulling up to the show in Reims, France Wednesday morning was like out of a movie. The town the show is located in is actually called 'Champagne' and it is the champagne capital of Europe! Katie and Henri planned a visit to Madame Pommery's champagne cave for all of us, but we had to ride the horses and pass the inspection first. The show is beautiful. Everything is on grass and the main arena is very impressive looking.  

Waiting for the Jog
[Catherine, Jessica, Ricky, Victoria]
The Main Arena
We are by far the most organized team during the jog. Each horse has a USA scrim to walk up to the jog, each rider wears their matching USA polo and tan britches, Sarah Cohen (our team vet) holds all the passports and hands them in one at a time as each horse is brought up, AND we are always first in line. We were in and out in a jiff and on to the champagne tour we went! 
View from the show
Veuve Clique
Team USA
The bottles waiting to be turned by hand!
I can't believe these exact bottles will be on store shelves in just a few more years! 
The different sizes
The 'antique' cellar / Never to be sold bottles
Some date back to 1874! 

23 May 2011

Nations Cup & Grand Prix

USA placed 2nd in the Nations Cup Saturday afternoon! 

Jessie Springsteen put in a flawless double clear, Catherine Pasmore contributed a clear and a four, Ricky Neal and Reed Kessler both had a rough start in the first round, but both came back and pulled out a four-fault round to finish. We lost by only eight faults so a good lesson was learned by all. You really have to fight for it no matter what. Even if you have had three down in the course already, you can't give up because that fourth rail down can be the four-faults that cost the team the gold. Everyone was a little disappointed we didn't sweep the ENTIRE show, but all in all the team rode phenomenally all week and it was a fantastic experience for all.

USA placed 5 in top 10 of the Grand Prix!

Catherine Pasmore finished 2nd, Jessie Springsteen finished 5th, Ricky Neal was the fastest four-faulter and finished 8th, Reed Kessler 9th, and Karen Polle 10th. Although our National Anthem wasn't played one last time, I think it's safe to say USA prevailed.

Both Juniors also placed in the top 10 of their Grand Prix as well! Victoria Birdsall put in a great double clear to finish 2nd, and Meg O'mara had the final jump down in the first round but finished as the fastest four-faulter!

All the horses have today (Monday) off and Tuesday afternoon we are all on to Reims, France!

Photos coming soon!


21 May 2011

USA Dominates

USA is off to a great start in Bonheiden!

Meg O'mara won the first Junior class and Victoria Birdsall placed only a few spots behind. Yesterday Meg O'mara was winning again all the way until the end of the class and then got bumped to second. It wasn't the end of the world, I think all the other riders were getting sick of only hearing the US National Anthem being played at the end of every class!!!


Reed Kessler won the first young riders class, Catherine Pasmore (I) placed second (Grrr), and Jessie Springsteen placed 5th. The class didn't start until 7pm and there were 75 in it! By the time 20 came back for the jump off, we were jumping in the dark with no lights in the ring! We practically needed night vision goggles! 

Reed & Catherine

Karen Polle kept the winning streak going for USA yesterday winning BOTH young riders classes! She was focused on winning and left no room for anyone to catch her. She won the final class by multiple seconds! Jessie Springsteen finished second. 

Karen & Jessie
Every ribbon is hot pink, so as you can imagine the USA banner is getting quite full of hot pink ribbons! 

Today is Nations Cup day! 
The order for the team is Catherine Pasmore, Ricky Neal, Jessie Springsteen, Reed Kessler. 

Fingers Crossed! I'll update again asap to let you know how it goes! 


18 May 2011

Just the Beginning...

Yesterday was a whirlwind. I started off the day with my first train ride ever. My seat faced backwards but it was such a smooth ride you would never have known it. So smooth I actually fell asleep and didn't even realize we had arrived in Brussels! The nice stewardess woke me up and said in a nice English accent: "Excuse me ma'am, I don't mean to wake you, but we have arrived in Brussels..." Startled, I jumped up and realized I was the only one left on the train. Oops!

I arrived at the show only minutes after the horses. It was straight to work form there. It was already late in the day and we still had to set up, put up the American flag, and I had two horses to ride! By far the best part of the day was getting our USA gear. We all got really nice polo shorts, baseball hats, and the USA rain coat that all the big tour riders get! Thank you ARIAT!

Finally we all made it to the hotel and got paired up in the rooms. If you didn't know your roommate very well, you certainly will by the end of the week as the two single beds are pushed together to make one! We had a little trouble getting inside our room... eh'hm... you will see the picture below. Haha.

We had a team dinner just down the road at an Italian restaurant where the menu was in Flemish/French and the last time I checked I was in Belgium.... hmm. It's going to be a long and educational five weeks.

Today we did a mock jog in the morning, rode, and then conquered the real jog in the afternoon. Before the real jog we took a road trip to try to find a grocery store. The small corner store we found near the show had gold fish and animal crackers! It was quite exciting! Other teams started moving in at the show today as well so it was interesting to see what countries would be here.

Tomorrow we have a late start. Most horses go in the last class of the day at 6pm.

I'll try to update again as soon as possible!


View from the train

The flag

Our proud setup

THE chair


The lorry jump!!! 

'Trouble getting in the hotel room' 

2011 European Young Rider Team
Karen Polle, Meg O'Mara, Victoria Birdsall, 
Reed Kessler, Catherine Pasmore, Jessica Springsteen, & Ricky Neal

16 May 2011

Let The Games Begin

The 2011 US Show Jumping Young Rider Tour officially begins tomorrow! I am too excited to sleep. I spent the day in London with my family where we tried to fit all the essentials into 24hrs. We rode the London Eye, went to Harrods (where there is an equestrian department with tack and Pikeur gear!!), and ate at one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants of course. They still have two more days in London, but tomorrow morning I am taking the Eurostar Train to Brussels to meet the horses at Bonheiden (our first show). I can't wait to see everyone tomorrow and embark on the grand adventures to come! 

I'll keep you posted!