Picking up where I left off in my December column, after the Maclay Regional back East and the USEF Talent Search East, I went home for a couple of days. I caught up on some missed exams at Santa Monica High School, then got back on the airplane to Washington D.C. to compete at the Verizon Center in downtown D.C.
This is the Washington International Horse Show Equitation Class that I competed in all year. The top 30 in the country who qualify out of 2,500 competitors are invited to enter the class. I ended up 18th on the ranking list, which meant I went 12th in the order of go for the first round.
The Washington has two phases, a Hunter and Jumper phase. It is judged on the effectiveness of the rider as well as his/her position throughout the course. The scores from both rounds are averaged and the top 10 called back for an evening class in which they trade horses and compete over the same jumper course from the previous round.
The ring at the Verizon Center is very narrow and some horses never get used to it. The ends of the ring are beautifully decorated with lavish flowerbeds and scaled down models of the national monuments. This is a real horse show complete with stands full of spectators and a jumbotron like they have at the World Cup in Las Vegas.
Me on Sander for victory lap at Washington International Horse Show - check out the scaled down Lincoln and Smithsonian monuments in the background.
Every minute of the show has been carefully thought out and every detail attended to. It was worth the zillions of dollars that I paid in entry fees to qualify for it. I did find out that $7 of every entry fee throughout the year goes to a charity. Management was a little vague about which charity, but it makes me feel a little better. I wish they would give some of it to organizations that help emerging riders such as the Ronnie Mutch Educational Foundation.
So, quick sum up: I rode Sander again, got a score of 85.66 in the Hunter round which brought me back standing in 7th place behind Maria Schaub, Victoria Birdsall, Maggie McAlary, Tina Dilandri, Mallory Olson and Molly Braswell. After the Jumper round the placings went as follows; 1st Maria Schaub, 2nd Molly Braswell, 3rd Tina Dilandri, 4th Jennifer Waxman, 5th Tatiana Dzavick, 6th Sara Green, 7th Carolyn Curcio, 8th me, 9th Matthew Metell, and 10th Victoria Birdsall.
Me and Sander.
At this point, the top 10 switched horses for the final round that evening. It consisted of a jumper round over the same course we went over earlier in the day. Now there was a real audience and the stands were packed (okay, semi-packed) with spectators arriving to watch the $100,000 World Cup Qualifier Grand Prix, which followed our work-off. There were no real disasters on the traded horses. I was lucky enough (or so I thought) to switch on to Littlefoot, who Tatiana had been riding. I had a bad final fence, well I actually pop chipped, and clunked through it, which dropped me to 10th.
I guess I might have been better off on a different horse. The Final placings were Maria Schaub (1st), Tina Dilandri (2nd), Tatiana Dzavik (3rd), Jennifer Waxman (4th), Sara Green (5th), Carolyn Curcio (6th), Molly Braswell (7th), Matthew Metell (8th), Victoria Birdsall (9th), Me (10th). I should probably mention that Maria won it with a rail in the jumper phase and in the switch. Tina Dilandri, from the West Coast (La Jolla/Tucson), rode great throughout the whole weekend and I thought that she might have won.
The positives: this is one of the most exciting, dynamic shows I have ever competed in. It is a great spectator show and the city of Washington D.C. is a great city with millions of things to do and see. Many of the East Coast parents told me that this is how Madison Square Garden used to be. I would love to come back and compete in this show in the High Junior Jumpers and maybe one day in the Grand Prix.
The negatives: The show is a logistical nightmare for the barn managers and staff. The horses are kept in a layover facility and vanned in at the last possible moment. They are stabled on the sidewalk and getting equipment, hay and shavings in and out is a major ordeal.
Me at the Cosmos Club - home away from home to
22 Noble Laureates and 3 Presidents.
Me, General Lafayette and his horse.
Schooling in the middle of the night makes for frayed nerves and sleepy eyes. I think this is a show that you should think long and hard about doing if you are from the West Coast. Imagine getting your horse here and having it stop on the first fence: You would be really sad.
It is a very expensive show and yet it is one of the few that the grandparents could go to and be comfortable. It even has elevators and wheel chair access as well as handicapped seating. It has all the amenities and a rider lounge stocked with food, drinks, salad, real lunch and tables and chairs. I even saw Margie Goldstein Engle break out a deck of cards and chips for a game of poker with the guys. Hmmm…I hope I get to do this show again.
No Cultural Void
In case any of you think I live in a cultural void because I am a working student, I will tell you that I did learn a little about U.S. history while I was in Washington D.C.
My grandfather Edward, a mad scientist/engineer/inventor, arranged for me to stay at the Cosmos Club on Embassy Row. This was a very cool experience, sort of like having a sleep-over at the Smithsonian Institute. Every nook and cranny of this historical mansion is filled with important documents, artwork and glass vitrines of armaments, navigational equipment, etc. Amongst the notable members were Presidents Taft, Wilson, and Hoover, as well as 20 Nobel Laureates.
General Jackson and his horse in front of the White House.
Photo: Courtesy of the Cosmos Club archive
On the second floor there is a cool bronze of General Lafayette mounted on his horse. Lafayette was a French Marquis who came to the U.S. at 19 to fight in the American Revolution. He became best friends with Washington and later named his son George Washington Lafayette. It prompted me to think about the symbolism in equestrian military statues. Lafayette is on a horse with four feet on the ground. This supposedly signifies that he died peacefully or of natural causes. A horse with both front legs in the air means the person on the horse died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. When I looked around D.C. a little more I realized that this is not always the case. The very beautiful statue of Andrew Jackson by Clark Mills depicts Jackson on a rearing horse greeting his troops. Here’s the catch: Jackson did not die in battle. He lived to a ripe old age. But he did own horses and raced them. In the late 1700s and early 1800s Congress would regularly adjourn for horse races at the track east of Washington circle.
End of history lesson.
Next stop-Harrisburg and the USEF Hunt Seat Equitation Final.