Another week has come and gone at WEF. I can't believe that it is already week 3. It feels like yesterday we just finished up at the Royal and were about to embark on our 30 hour drive from Toronto to Wellington. I am SOOOO GLAD we don't have to do that for a very long time. But that's a story for another time.
Week 2 at the Wellington Equestrian Festival
To start off with, I cannot thank our staff and our trainers enough. The horse's were prepared to go in to their classes and compete. Our riders came in from all over the country and were ready to ride with little to no sleep. One of our riders flew into Miami Thursday at 12am in the morning and had to be on her horse 6 am. For those who may not be familiar Florida, Miami is easily an hour and a half drive to Wellington. So not only did she have to go into one of the most competitive equitation classes in the country, but she did it on very little sleep. All I have to say is way to pull through and not let adversity dictate your will to compete and perform.
Which brings me to my next thought about Week 2. Another one of our clients, whom came to us just a little less than a year ago has never ceased to impress both Cindy and I. From where she came from to where she is now is like watching a different rider. A young women who is confident in going into the medium and high amateur jumpers and not just doing it, but doing it well. We are very proud of you! We can't wait to watch you when you come back from college.
Now we get to why I titled the post this way. This week was the 2* Grand Prix. It was what we could call the inaugural internationally rated grand prix at WEF 2018. This week was for riders working on developing young horses and riders looking to going in and compete against some of the best. The week started out with a 1.45m warm up on Wednesday and was followed by the WEF qualifier on Thursday which saw 109 riders. A 109 riders to compete for just 45 starting spots on Saturday night. To say it was stressful going into that class would be be an understatement. Just waiting to go was like waiting at the Maclay finals. All the excitement and nervousness boiling down to just 65 seconds. At one point I even thought that I was more nervous for that class that I was for the 2015 PESSOA Finals.
I went in with Haylie, one of our younger horses. She has come along way and ended last year on a high note and it was her turn to throw her hat into the ring and show that she belonged in the Grand Prix. We went around in a fast time and had only one rail down. It was enough for us to garner a starting spot in the Saturday night grand prix. I was so proud of her.
So Saturday night came, as well as all the glamour and prestige of what a Saturday Night Grand Prix at WEF is like. To put it into context, it was only a two star. But at WEF a two star has the same atmosphere as a top level grand prix anywhere else in the country. The crowd was electric, it was standing room only on the walkways and the live music was playing and getting the crowd into a stirring frenzy. Of the 45 riders we went 23. A good spot to go. You can watch a few rounds go, cement your strategy from your walk and then go and have a great warm up.
The course was a big 2*. The time was tight and the obstacles were clever. What you would expect.
From the moment we got on Haylie we could tell she was impressed with the atmosphere. Granted this was her first time under the lights. The poor mare was scared. She looked at all the other horses in the warm up ring coming head onto her and tried to keep it together. We warmed up and as we continued she got better and better. She was jumped great and then it was our turn to go up to the starting gate.
The spiral red and white gate raised and we were thrusted into the spotlight of Saturday night. The feeling is pretty indescribable. The ring is large, with stands on every side. The VIP section is on your right buzzing with the high profiles and slight roar of conversation. On your left and in front was the main stands. As you trot into the ring the crowd goes silent, and on some occasions, so quiet you can here a pin drop.
We picked up the canter and began the course. Jump one and two were fantastic, the mare was on it. She was jumping high and sharp and she new she belonged in that class. We turned back to the next jump and just nicked it and it came down. 4 faults. Its ok, gotta keep going. We pull into the triple combination and she jumps her absolute heart out. She keeps them up, still only 4 faults. We turn towards the home stretch and in front of us was a large triple bar. We got into the triple bar a little deep, she jumped high but lost her moment over the top. Up next was a long four stride into a double combination. The four stride became very far away as we came down from the triple bar. I reacted in a split second and sent her forward thinking at that time the four stride was far away, but I was committed and so was the mare. Haylie’s reaction to the triple bar was slow and the four stride become impossible. Haylie made a very smart decision, and very politely, stopped at the double combination.
We paused so the jump crew could reset the jump. It was a combination that she had struggled with before and after it happened I did not want to damage her confidence so I opted to jump the final jump on the course in which she jumped perfect.
It was tough. Show jumping is a very unique sport. It is a sport where it doesn't matter how good you are, what your name is, how much money you have, it all comes down to the few seconds you get with you horse in that ring. A few seconds of absolute thrill that can either be followed by adrenaline fueled bliss or heartbreak. So that comes to the thoughts that followed my round with Haylie. Sometimes things don't always go as you would like. Sometimes they actually go the complete opposite. But the fact that you get to go into a class like that with an animal that is willing to give you a 110% effort is nothing short of the most incredible feeling I can ever express.
What Saturday night taught me was that it is not about how many Grand Prix's you win but it is about the Grand Prix's you don't win. In fact, it is the Grand Prix's that you stop out in and have a few rails down, that teach you how to compete and how to perform.
I am so thankful and blessed to ride a horse like her.
Thank you all for reading and we look forward to Week three of WEF.
Let me know what you think in the comments about a time you have had to overcome adversity in competition.