The IHSA experience is always very interesting for my girls and me. I have enjoyed coaching these young women more than I could have possibly imagined. They have become known as "My Girls" when friends and family ask about them. To be honest I live vicariously through them. I have tapped back into my youth when they are with me. They have no idea how important they are to me and how much I will miss them when we move from Pennsylvania to Indiana. Until then though, I will continue to coach them and fill them with as much experience as I can, and stuff a lifetime of memories into theirs and my mind.
West Virginia University hosted the November two day show and did a fabulous job of hosting. Their coach, Bobby is a tremendous coach, and it shows in his team. This team sets the bar for every other IHSA team in the country, in what a coach should instill in their riders. I'm not just talking ability, which they have loads of, I measure a person by how they treat others, and Bobby's team exemplifies this. They are great competitors and are number one when it comes to sportsmanship. When I first came on the scene several years ago, his team was so very inviting and kind. They are the most sincere and kind young women and men you could possibly imagine. I truly appreciate all that the WVU team and their coach Bobby have done to help our Western Region.
On to the particulars of the show: My team consisted of four riders at this show, Becky, Danielle, Amy and Alumni rider, Elizabeth. They were faced with a new challenge at this show. Almost all of the horses were spur broke. Okay, you say, what's the big deal with spur broke? Spurs to me, have always me been used for elevated movement and/or an extension of your leg to use as an aid. Spur Broke in some AQHA horses now means something completely opposite. To slow the horse down you apply the spur, if you apply too much they will stop. The horses that were used at this show were very well trained horses, but a lot of riders struggled with the concept of using the spurs to slow the horse down. Bobby offered advice to riders to help them as much as he could, by the second show of the first day, the riders began to get more comfortable with the "spur broke" concept.
One of my riders, Amy, who has been very determined to become a better rider, surprised even me on Saturday. Once, prior to the show, I threw a pair of spurs on her to get her used to having them and popped her on IRS to get used to using them. At the show, she drew a horse named Elmer, a lovely horse, but with a too new saddle with stirrups that had not been turned yet, we realized too late. As she was loping in the ring, she lost one stirrup and then the other; she tried her best to regain them without breaking gait to no avail. The stirrups just were not turned, so there was no way she would get them. She was DQ for losing them, but that didn't matter, Amy had a tremendous ride, performing almost the entire class without stirrups on a spur broke horse. I felt she should have gotten bonus points for riding the class no stirrups and keeping almost perfect cadence. Oh well, rules are rules. Bobby did chastise me for not asking for a different saddle. My team does not like to complain, unless it's obvious, but Bobby was right, she would have placed had she had a saddle that worked. Amy received two 5ths and 6th. She is 16 points away from pointing out.
Becky, had a fantastic weekend, she pointed out of level 13 and is competing at the Regional show in March. On Sunday afternoon, she competed as an Open rider. We bumped her level and she did have a fantastic ride on a beautiful grey mare named Piggy. (Think Miss Piggy from the Muppets.) Piggy was all binged out. Becky also grappled with the concept of "spur broke". It goes against all your instincts when you're on a horse. Becky did extremely well though and had it all figured out before the judge switched directions. She placed 3rd, 4th and 2nd during the weekend and is very excited to be able to compete in reining at the next show.
Elizabeth is one of those riders that you just scratch your head and say "What was the Judge thinking?" Liz is one of my best riders. She is just a little itsy bity rider, but she has tremendous skill. She is able to ride the most rambunctious horse and make it look easy, and yet the judges generally do not take notice. I am convinced she needs an outfit that just pops and screams look at me! I have always encouraged my girls to wear dark chaps because if their leg is not extremely quiet, colored chaps will draw attention to that. Liz has an extremely quiet leg and equally quiet hands; she is one with the horse when she rides and should be placed way higher than she has recently. During this weekend she placed 4th, 5th, and two 6th's. Liz needs 8 more points to qualify for the Regional Show. She deserves to move on so hopefully the judge will see what I and several others see.
Itsy Bitsy rider number two on the team would be Danielle. She is a walk / trot rider and is becoming a very capable rider. She is having the same issues as Liz I believe. She is a fantastic rider and looks great on a horse and again like Liz, is one with the horse. She does not move. I would have to say, she is probably one of my best walk/trot riders. I just do not understand what the judges are seeing though or more importantly not seeing. I have also suggested she should wear an outfit that just screams "Look at me!" she can pull it off. Danielle placed 4th and three 3rds during the weekend, but in my opinion she had 1st place rides every time she went into the ring. She is 11 points from pointing out.
Our next show weekend is March 14th and 15th. In the meantime the girls are enjoying a much deserved break as they finish up finals and head home for the Holidays. They will return to the barn the end of January to get ready for the March show.