This week was week 5 at WEF and that means it was the first CSI 5* rated show of the season. This week brought together many of the best riders in the world all to compete for a piece of the $348,000 Saturday night Grand Prix, presented by Fidelity Investments.
What this week also brought was a lot of firsts, at least for me. I had never been invited to show a 5* let alone qualify for a Saturday night, so this week was a bit of dream to me.
The first hurdle was getting in the the 5* week. Riders are accepted based on their standings from the FEI world ranking list. WEF will go down that list until they have the pre-determined number (55 in the class) of riders that are eligible and accept the invitations.
My world ranking was good, but at WEF there are so many top riders that I would have to get really lucky to be invited. I went ahead and put my applications in and kept my fingers crossed.
Low and behold luck was on my side and Sunday evening I got the call telling me I had been accepted and that the jog was Tuesday at 1:00 pm.
I was absolutely elated! This was a week that I could use to gain insurmountable experience. I talked with my team and we decided that we should do three horses. The lineup for the this week was Haylie for the 1.45m speed classes, Chamonix for the Hollow Creek 1.50m on Sunday and Hadja for the WEF Qualifier and hopefully the Saturday night 5* Grand Prix.
Wednesday was the 1.45m warm up for Hadja and Cham and then the first International Ranking class with Haylie. Both Hadja and Cham went around in the warm up perfect. They jumped their 6 practice jumps, worked on a few things and left the ring, ready for the rest of the week.
Next came Haylie in the ranking speed class. We have been working diligently with Haylie for the past several weeks to keep preparing her for bigger and better classes. She has been only doing 2 and 3 star shows but this was a perfect opportunity for her to get some experience at a much higher level without putting her in a difficult position. So we went in and she jumped around great. She ended up having two down but they were both mistakes that we could easily fix. Things like, setting her up better to a line and helping her hind end in the air as she comes down from the jump. Overall we were really happy with her performance.
Thursday always proves to be the most stressful day of the week. Sometimes it seems like it is more stressful than the Saturday night class itself. The field garnered 57 of many of the best riders in the world. Including 6 of the worlds top 10 riders and 12 of the worlds top 30. Past Olympians, Gold medalists, you name it, they were there.
Both Hadja and I had our work cut out for us. We went into the class 9th, a perfect starting position. I have always done better when I go towards the beginning of the class. Maybe its because it doesn't allow me to watch too many go so I don't have to sit around and over think my ride.
Anyway, we went in and Hadja was amazing. She just touched a rail and it came down. 4 faults, it’s ok, just finish the course it will be ok. So I jump the final jump and just go over the time allowed by .2 of second. 1 time fault. Ugh
So I end my round with a total of 5 faults. Not horrible but not a stellar position when you have 57 of the worlds best riders competing for 38 spots.
After I finished our round, I gave Hadja a bunch of cookies, sent her back to the barn with a big kiss on the nose, and went up to watch the rest of the class. Rider after rider jumped clean, and Hadja and I steadily drop further down the leader board. At one point I left the ring, thinking there is no way I was going to make the cut. As time went on and more and more people went, both Hadja and I held on in the 25th-30th range. There was still hope.
Finally it came down to the last 12 riders. I was still in 30th. So that meant that we needed 4 of the riders in the last 12 to have more than 5 faults. In a normal Grand Prix I would say my odds would have been fairly good, but not here. With riders like Margie Engal and McClain Ward gracing the final 12 rides, my odds were not looking good. Could there still be hope?
The first of 12 riders goes, 8 faults. The next 3 go, all clear. 8 riders left. The next 2 riders go, both 8 faults. I started to think to myself I might actually make this. I go up to one of the stewards to see where I stood, not really knowing how many they actually took because there are some riders who are pre-qualified, so I went and asked.
I stood in 34th place with 4 left. They said you need to have to 2 more go behind you to make it. My heart started racing.
I watched and the 4th to last one had 8 faults the next 2 both went clean.
“Are you kidding me! It is going to come down to the last rider in the class to decide” I kid you not I cant make this up. The final rider went into the ring. One down in the beginning so 4 faults still ahead of me.
I hold by breathe…
He crosses the line in 77.5. The time allowed is 76. He has 1 time fault but I was faster… PHEW!
I was in!! Now for the real challenge. Saturday Night!
On Friday Haylie had her second ranking class. The mare went in and just did a great job. Had one down but where she was this time last year is night and day. We could not have been more proud. So Haylie was done for the week, good girl Haylie!
Now came time for my biggest challenge. My first 5* under the Saturday Night Lights in Wellington. To say I was nervous would be an understatement.
I had my favorite starting position again, I went 9th. Perfect.
The walk only confirmed my… “I wasn't in Kansas (or in this case Colorado for that matter) any more. The course was absolutely massive. It is what I would expect a 5* to be. 1.60m jumps with an incredibly hard track. As Hadja and I went in we both went right to work. Roll backs to triple combinations to bending lines to the biggest oxers I think I have ever seen. You name it, it was in there.
Hadja jumped her heart out and we finished the round with only 1 rail… and no time faults!!!!
Out of the 42 riders who competed only two went clear, and Hadja and I just missed the ribbons and ended up in 14th. I was elated!! Like I said before, it is not about how many Grand Prix’s you win. It is how many Grand Prix’s you don't win that teaches you to become a champion and Saturday night taught me that I can compete at this level. It also taught me that you cannot control the circumstances around you. The only thing you can control is the attitude in which you have and the effort you put into your craft. All you can ask for is the opportunity, and when the opportunity comes around… take it!!
Thank you everyone, your support has just been amazing!! Heres to the next couple weeks at WEF!!