Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Riding in a Classic Long Format Event Part 2: Being There

I almost don't know where to begin. Waredaca and the long format lived up to all our expectations and then some. We rarely pay for an extra tack stall at events but for a long format, you absolutely must have one. We shared a tack stall with a friend from Course Brook so the first order of business was setting up. It was great that we arrived so early in the day on Wednesday. We were able to get Quizz settled, set up our tack room, do a little volunteering and Elizabeth was able to ride.

Thursday morning began with a briefing. We met the organizers, the veterinarian and the clinician, Eric Smiley, who would be teaching us about the four phases of cross country day.

Eric Smiley discussing  how to jog a horse.
After the briefing, riders who had not yet had an in barn check with the veterinarian got that done.  Chad Davis was the vet for the weekend. At the "in barn" the vet looks over the horse and takes the temperature, pulse and respiration (TPR) so that he has a baseline to work from for the weekend.
At Elizabeth's in barn she talked to Dr. Chad about Quizz's atrial fibrillation. He taught her about the various types of irregular heartbeat and what the concerns could be with Quizz's condition. He also recommended the use of a heart rate monitor since tracking any kind of change in her heartbeat is key. Dr. Chad is awesome. He was great to have around all weekend.

Photo courtesy of  GRCPHOTO.COM all rights reserved.
Next came jogs. Each rider jogs his horse in front of the vet and the ground jury before competition begins and again after cross country, before show jumping. The jog is more complicated than I imagined. The first order of business is to get the horse and the rider cleaned up and turned out beautifully. We had nice, hot weather so were able to get Quizz pretty shiny. Elizabeth chose to wear white and managed to stay white!

When the rider is called, they proceed to the jog strip, greet the vet and ground jury and SMILE! The purpose is to let them see the horse move and make sure it's sound enough to enter the competition. They will also remember each horse so they can compare the first and second jogs to assure soundness. It's important to look confident. They will tell the rider to proceed and the rider jogs the horse to the end of the strip, walks to turn around and jogs back down the strip. It is important to get your horse to move forward nicely and to jog straight. You don't want to give the officials any reason to reject your horse. Elizabeth practiced quite a bit an definitely put her whip to good use as they warmed up.

It was pretty exciting to hear over the loudspeaker, "Quizz D'Organge, accepted!"

Next up, Eric Smiley took each group - Training, then Novice - out in pick up trucks to drive over the cross country roads and tracks sections - phases A and C for endurance day. Roads and tracks cover about 2 - 3 miles each at the Training and Novice levels. A is faster than C. Generally the rider trots A with a bit of canter to get warmed up for steeple chase and a bit of walk depending on terrain. On C you walk a bit to recover from steeple chase then trot and canter to make up time, being mindful of getting to the end of C and the start of the vet box in good condition.

Photo courtesy of  GRCPHOTO.COM all rights reserved.
Friday was more action packed. The day started with dressage, the primary excitement being that there were two judges - one at C and one at E. It's interesting to see the scores from the different vantage points. The judge at E can't see a really crooked horse going down the long side the way the judge at C does. The tests for the 3-day tend to be a little more complex than the tests used in regular horse trials. But otherwise, it was a fairly typical dressage test.

The long format 3-days of today are conducted as a hybrid between a clinic and a recognized horse trials so following dressage, everyone had the opportunity to prepare for endurance day (cross country day) by hacking the two roads and tracks sections to be ridden and attending a brief steeple chase clinic with Eric Smiley.

Up to this point the weather had been HOT. Unseasonably hot. So hot. But as everyone tacked up to head out on phase A - the first section of roads and tracks - the sky began to darken. Everyone had a time slot for their steeplechase practice so they headed out on A so that they would be at steeplechase (phase B) at the right time, allowing about half an hour to walk and trot all of A. As Elizabeth practiced her steeplechase, the sky darkened.
Elizabeth got lucky. In fact, I think only one group had to go in the monsoon that followed. Eric had each rider gallop until they had the correct speed and rhythm and then sent them over the steeplechase fence. Steeplechase is different from regular cross country. It is run at a much higher speed and the horses jump flat and out of stride. The idea is to let the horse figure it out and take the jumps without a bunch of interference from the rider. It's pretty cool to watch.

After steeplechase practice the riders headed out to hack phase C - the second section of roads and tracks. Elizabeth came back soaking wet having cantered through a field with hail pelting her. Her friend was out there for what felt like a really long time and just as I was really beginning to worry, she came in so cold and wet having walked the long section of roads and tracks since the visibility was so bad. Everyone made it in and as luck would have it, the rain stopped and we had a gorgeous afternoon in which to walk phase D - what we all know as cross country.

I got pretty nervous after walking this course with my daughter. She had been competing at Novice events all season and had tackled the toughest events in Area I but nothing came close to this course. She would have 22 jumping efforts including a ditch and wall, a half coffin, a corner and a jump into water as well as an enormous drop and a really tough table combination. It was long at 2500 meters. This would be a real test of both her and her horse.

Friday evening we had a team meeting. We divided up all the jobs for the next day - who would be at steeplechase to make sure our horses had shoes after A and B, who would be in the 10 minute box and who would be at the vet box at the finish. We discussed studs, put studs in all the spare shoes and checked through all the equipment. This was the best part of the 3-day for me. I felt like a real part of the team. We had 4 riders with us and 4 support crew including our trainer, Stephie Baer. Stephie loves the old format and had a blast helping everyone achieve this goal. There is so much to know when you do a 3-day. Having someone along who has done so many is a huge bonus.

And along the way, Elizabeth managed to do her homework. The reality is that she skipped three days of school to do this. She was exhausted but squeezed in some math and history where she could. I'm proud of her for working so hard and doing it all.

Saturday morning was exciting. It had gotten seriously cold overnight. We got up crazy early and got to the farm before 6am. The first order of business was to set up our area in the 10-minute box and the vet box. The ten minute box is between phases C and D - the second roads and tracks and the cross country test. The rider comes into the box, dismounts and the veterinary team immediately takes the horse's TPR (temp, pulse and respiration). From the minute they enter the box, they have ten minutes before heading out on phase D but they can only go out on D after being cleared by the vet team who will take the TPR again about 5 - 6 minutes later. During that time the rider sits, the horse is sponged and walked in intervals and hopefully all the numbers come down sufficiently.
View of both the vet box and, on the other side of the black fencing, the 10-minute box.

The vet box comes at the end of phase D. The rider dismounts, TPR is taken, the horse is sponged and walked and monitored until the vet team deems the horse sufficiently recovered to head back to the barn.

Our buckets and extra equipment.
Extra equipment for 3 riders.

We set up an area of buckets in both boxes and an area of extra equipment in the 10-minute box, making sure all the riders knew where we would be and all the grooms knew where each rider's equipment was stashed.

Soon enough it was time for our first rider to head out on phase A. My job was to be at the
steeplechase (phase B) to make sure that all our riders had 4 shoes both before and after running the steeplechase. We had arranged the night before what people wanted me to do if they had a shoe missing.  Most of them wanted some vet wrap or duct tape put on the hoof but fortunately all our riders had four shoes all the way through so my job was easy. We had spare shoes for all the horses in the 10 minute box where a farrier would be available.

Photo courtesy of  GRCPHOTO.COM all rights reserved.
The best part about being at steeplechase was watching the horses change with every lap. The two horses in our group who had been tough to ride and strong became carefree, happy and in sync with their riders. It was super cool to watch. These partnerships changed that day and are better for it every day since. The riders had a blast and just want to do it again. It looked like so much fun!

Once our last rider cleared phase B I headed over to the 10-minute box to support Elizabeth. I can't begin to tell you how exciting this day was for me as a mother. Seeing her arrive after A was exciting. Watching her finish B with no issues was thrilling. Being there with Quizz's halter when she finished C was amazing. She was in such high spirits and Quizz was barely puffing and recovered perfectly and all of it was just so awesome. They had worked so hard for this for so long and the day was going extremely well. The cool weather was great so we didn't need ice in our water buckets and we were able to get the horse's temps down nicely with sponging and walking. Before you know it she was back in the tack and headed out on phase D and I was crying and ready to burst with nerves, joy, the thrill of being a part of something so big and the pride of seeing my daughter taking on the world. I was jumping out of my skin.

Photo courtesy of  GRCPHOTO.COM all rights reserved.

I was able to see Elizabeth get over a few jumps from the vet box. When she made it up a ridiculous knoll and over the log at the top I started dancing. I knew that question had concerned her. The hill was big and steep and Quizz took it like it was nothing. They made it all the way around. No faults. They did it! They went double clear on endurance day. We had only hoped they would finish and here they were killing it. In fact, all our riders made it around. It was SUCH a great day!!

Kristen with daughters Taylor and Talia.
One of the best parts of that day was sharing it with another horse mom. We usually travel with adult riders who don't have kids. We love them and we are a great team. But I am so grateful to have been standing by my friend Kristen the whole time Elizabeth was out on phase D. She has two daughters who have been eventing for a long time. She knew exactly what I was feeling (her own daughter having finished cross country a couple of hours earlier). We were lucky to not only experience this awesome event but to do it with amazing friends. Sharing this day and this week with all of them was a huge part of the experience.

After everyone had rested and changed and walked the stadium course, we jogged our horses to make sure they had been walked enough and weren't getting too stiff. Exhausted and exuberant we headed back to our hotel, ate, did some homework, went back for night check and then we slept. Sunday morning rolled around very quickly. Again we were up before dawn. It was time for the second jog. Quizz had recovered extremely well. It was like the prior day had never happened. She passed and Elizabeth got ready for show jumping.

As a side note, choosing jog clothing is a big deal. Some are anti-dress. Some make better shoe choices than others. Then there is the weather to consider. Elizabeth, who generally wears any t-shirt and jeans to school, put a great deal of thought into what she wanted to wear and ended up bringing three or four options. If it is hot you want a different option than if the temperature is in the 40's. She went more casual for the second jog as did many of the riders. She looked great and so did Quizz.

Which reminds me, we braided 3 times over the course of the week. We braided for the first jog on Thursday, then removed the braids. We braided for dressage on Friday, then removed the braids. Sunday morning we braided before the second jog and kept those braids for show jumping, taking them out before we packed up to head home.

Photo courtesy of  GRCPHOTO.COM all rights reserved.
Show jumping was awesome. Elizabeth went double clear again. All 4 riders we travelled with finished, Elizabeth and one friend finishing on their dressage scores. In a division of over 40 riders, including some professionals, Elizabeth finished 20th. Among the young riders, she finished 6th. This event restored some confidence she had lost over the course of the season. She and Quizz had had a stop at each of her last 3 events. Elizabeth worked extremely hard to correct her mistakes and all her work paid off at Waredacca.

I'm amazed we were able to get this team photo. Our friend, a professional and fellow Pony Club mom lives in Area II and came by to watch some show jumping. She happened to be there and we miraculously had all 4 horses in one place, tacked up AND all the grooms. So thank you to Adrienne Iorio for taking this awesome photo to commemorate our victory!

Then it was time to pack and go home. Our adrenaline rush carried us for the full ten hour drive. Eventers never stop helping each other and two groups texted us from up the road warning to stay away from the George Washington Bridge. We rerouted to the Tappan Zee and saved hours on our drive.

Some shows leave us exhausted in a way that means we can't imagine doing it again any time soon. This show left us wanting more. We were ready to sign up for next year. It was the coolest experience ever for both of us. Everyone should do a 3-day. I watched my daughter transform over the course of a month as she executed her conditioning plan and invested herself completely in this event. She rode every minute and it paid off.

I also need to add that this venue is amazing. They clearly love what they do. The physical space is phenomenal. The clinicians were fun and happy and full of encouragement. Dr. Chad has so much energy it is infectious. I can't say enough good things about Waredaca. The three day is a bit more expensive than a regular horse trails but in my opinion it was a bargain. We stabled 4 nights, had a tack stall and the TD, vet, and other officials had to be there for three full days. They were actually there for four because they all came for the clinic as well. GRC Photo captured all three days of competition and had superb photos for sale at a reasonable price for every rider. I am so grateful for the photos they took.

The long format is important. It is where the sport of eventing started. It is a different test than a horse trial and different from a CCI. We planned Elizabeth's entire season around this event. She made the right choices for her horse so that they could do this. They didn't go to camp with friends and they didn't move up to Training even though they were ready to do so. It took discipline and maturity to prioritize this goal and make each choice each day based on that goal. I could not be more proud of my daughter and her horse. And I am grateful to all the organizers out there who are keeping the long format alive. We need to support them as riders, volunteers, spectators.

Elizabeth has her eyes set on a different goal for 2017 but I have no doubt we will be back at Waredaca in 2018 to tackle the Training 3-Day and I can't wait.


  1. Wow, what an experience and accomplishment for both of you! I love reading about your adventures and learn so much. Can't wait for the next instalment of your blog!

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