Saturday, June 11, 2016

Gigi Reflects on Her Roller Coaster Ride at Para Selection Trials in Michigan!

The home of the Waterloo Hunt Club, Grass Lake, MI, is a State forest! One of the most beautiful venues I have seen, the expansive five-ring show ground is shaded by stately trees, providing many comfortable spots for watching or grazing. The lunch pavilion was perfectly situated with a great view of the warm-up and competition rings. The many and varied representatives of the Dressage Pony division provided the best entertainment!

Rio Rio had no problems with the many distractions around the competition ring, including the four-ring-circus of adjacent competitors and the warm-up area behind the judges' booth! We presented our best Grade1a Team test ever...steady and energetic...even Missy agreed! Knowing how much we had improved over the winter, I was a little disappointed in my 70% score but determined to ride the same quality test on Saturday.
Erich Linder Photography
Meanwhile, Laurietta Oakleaf and her beautiful Friesian stallion, Niekele Fan Busenitz, blew everyone away to score 68%, becoming the overnight leader of the National Division! Joining Blue Hill Farm South in Ocala this winter, Laurietta and Nikki have blossomed under Missy's coaching!

Saturday was another beautiful day in Michigan, warm, blue skies and a nice breeze. Laurietta had another nice ride in the Individual Championship test to finish the day as Reserve Champion in the National Division!

Back in the High Performance division, Rio and I bombed! On this most important day of my entire Para Equestrian career, we got our worst score ever! A fly started to harass Rio shortly after we turned right at C and, never stoic, she just had to kick out between M and B. Only one judge gave me three points for that movement but that was punishment enough to drop my score to 66.37%! As I left the ring, Missy stated the obvious , "I guess we'll have to find something else (besides the Paralympics) to do this fall..."

I was devastated. Isn't it typical of a horse to take you to the highest point and then the depths of "black despair"? I spent the rainy afternoon in the barn with Rio, and FEI stewards, Denise Heitmann Pool and Marilyn Kulifay, trying to be philosophical at the implosion of my hopes for Rio (and Rio Rio). (I really enjoyed their moral support as well as that of Pat Sweeney and Sandy Rafferty, there to help at every turn!)

Sunday brought a whole new variety of anxiety with thunderstorms rolling through and random weather delays. Laurietta, Nikki and Missy were on their final walk around the competition ring when they were sent to the tent for an hour delay! They were able to rally in time to clinch Reserve in the National Championships!!!

Laurietta & Kathy Amos-Jacob

After a great pep talk from Becca Hart and Alex Philpin about not giving up and the "fat lady singing", I was ready to truly enjoy riding my horse without all that competitive pressure. Missy did a great job of warming Rio up through the warm-up ring puddles so the standing water in the show ring was no problem! Once again, Marlene Whitaker's lovely composition of music from "The King and I" was a hit with the crowd and the judges. I won the Grade 1a Freestyle and the Grade 1a Championship, finishing in sixth place in the Selection Trials!

Erich Linder Photography

The USEF asks us to avoid speculation on the composition of the Paralympic team. My scores from this weekend will be averaged with my International competition scores to determine my ranking for the team to be named in a few weeks. Fingers crossed, light a candle or whatever voodoo you use...all your best wishes on my behalf are greatly appreciated!!!

My utmost gratitude to Missy, for her riding and coaching ability, determination and just hard work on my behalf and Laurietta's! And to Jessica for all her wisdom and ability to jump on Rio when Missy was away and Clive Milkins too, for his mid-winter clinics! And Gail Baumander for keeping Rio happy and well-oiled! (And Rachel Gross, an original member of Rio's team, instrumental in my great scores from Mannheim!) And my Blue Hill farm support group, working students, boarders, Moms and Pari!  Lisa Thomas, Todd Meister, Stacey Kent, Bonnie Kibbe, Laura Spilhaus and Sharon Bennet. Special supporters: Susan Opengart, Amy Coughlin, Nancy Deale, Barb Riggs and Team Africa!

Most of all, thanks to my family and wonderful encouraging friends! ~ Gigi

Gigi & Kathy

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