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! 

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