Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Jumping for Joy

In the warm up ring--warming up!
I attended my first horse show a week back at Thunderbird Equestrian Show Park. A venue  that is as fancy and lovely as it sounds. With its numerous towering, white barns, outdoor and indoor arenas and sweeping manicured lawns you can see why it is the place to compete in British Columbia. But until now I never had a reason to go.
My own brief equestrian experience never took me to Thunderbird, let alone into a ring, winning a ribbon (or two). However, during this week long competition, Bailey and her horse Quattro competed in daily jumping classes and placed in each one. Like any true fan it is impossible not to cheer (or clap, as is the way with horse shows) from the stands and say "I know her!" and find yourself blogging (or is that bragging?) about it.
From the outside looking in jumping is NOT for the faint of heart. Truly, you should see how tired horse and rider can be after completing their set but also the logistics of it all: literally leaping over a jump with a gigantic horse (none of those thoroughbreds are small) and managing to stay in the saddle. Heck, if I was judging that deserves a ribbon right there. But, of course at the jumping level which Bailey and Quattro are at, the stakes are higher. The class we watched the jumps were somewhere between two and a half to three feet in height which, when I first heard that did not seem high, but when you realized what has to make it over (a 1,000 pound horse and rider, all hopefully at once), it can put it into perspective. 

The arena where the class happened. This photo only shows half of the jumps.

And then there are the faults: penalties (deducted from your points) are given for knocking down poles, being too slow (time fault) or missing a jump altogether. Which can totally happen. The course changes per class. When the horse enters the ring it must be for the first time. The rider may have been able to walk around the course before, or at least look at a map, but it all needs to be memorized. 
As we were briefed on the above, our hearts pounded as Bailey entered the ring on Quattro. The announcer read their names and a buzzer sounded.
They were off!

Vaulting over the jumps and cantering around the arena as an easy team that had practised and practised to get to where they are now. And the focus. As they went around the ring, other buzzers from neighbouring arenas are going off, the announcer is giving a play-by-play on how the course is going, music is playing mingled with quiet clapping. When she finished I asked Bailey if she heard any of the background noise but she hadn't.
Competing requires complete concentration. The rider is anticipating the jump ahead while listening to their horse and the horse is listening to the rider--an important aspect in any type of teamwork.
Thankfully, Bailey did hear her name being called as she went to collect her fifth placed ribbon, but no fear, there were fourth, third and second placed ribbons to be gathered as well. That can make anyone jump for joy.