Well, it’s been about a month, and I figured it was about time to put some words on paper (virtual paper at least) about my experience at WEG.
It was an amazing, humbling, exhausting, incredible, eye-opening, once-in-a-lifetime experience. During the day-to-day, I really did not have the time or ability to process the enormity of what was happening around me, as I was pretty focused on the job I was there to do. There were certainly a few moments where it all sunk in, though!!
In terms of the riding piece, I am generally pleased. As a competitor, it seems I sometimes get caught up in the mistakes and places I could have done better. Honestly, I do think that Dylan and I put in really solid tests for where we both are in our skill development. We obviously have not competed at this level before, and I am learning about riding and asking for collection at the same time that Dylan is learning how to do it!
Dylan’s trot-work was the best it’s ever been. The trade-off for pushing the envelope a bit and getting that great trot-work, however, was tension in the walk and a few problems with the contact in the canter. It simply a factor of his comfort level in the training, and my skill as a rider – if I had a few more years under my belt I could have perhaps given him the confidence he needed. It’s always a risk to ask your horse for just a little more in a show situation, but at the same time, progress is made through risk. Perhaps I would have scored exactly the same if I had gone and ridden a conservative, “safe” test, but I certainly would have been left wondering “what if”.
Mostly, I am very proud of Dylan. Our horses are such amazing creatures for putting up with every ridiculous thing we throw at them. Dylan traveled well, settled into all his different housing situations well, and just rolled with all the punches. Particularly at the horse park, I was impressed with his ability to look around at the dozens of golf carts, jumbotrons, four-in-hand carts, banners, flags, tents, and the non-stop chaos, and I swear he sighed, rolled his eyes, as if to say “oh silly humans!”. I think Dylan’s highlight of the show was grazing on the cross country course. (He seemed enamored with the cross country course in general…he was definitely staring dreamily every time we passed it…was it all that green grass, or is he fantasizing about a career change?!)
In terms of my highlights…
Participating in opening ceremonies, with the reining team hijacking our golf cart (made me feel way less silly about needing to ride in the cart AND about wearing the cowboy hat),
Meeting the best athletes from around the world, as well as having random encounters with US Team members in the hotel restaurant. I definitely had stars in my eyes, but occasionally would remember I was wearing the same outfit as they were!!
Watching the dressage freestyles, and getting to see Totilas and Edward Gal in person. There is just no tension in that horse whatsoever, it’s remarkable. I must admit, in terms of personal preference, I LOVED Fuego’s freestyle. I have re-watched it on youtube at least 10 times.
Watching my teammates tests. We have an amazing group of riders, and I was so honored to be a part of this group. I am so excited about the future of US Para. In the same vein, it was also incredible to watch the world champion para riders – to see how effortless, how beautiful their rides are. It certainly gave me vision of where I need to be, and I imagine that is true for all the US riders.
Early mornings at KER. Kentucky Equine Research hosted us for our training camp prior to the games. Jenny and I would typically head over to the facility pretty early in the morning, just as the sun was coming up. I will never forget the mist on the pastures, the moon waxing as the sun came up, and pulling into the driveway to see Dylan.
So what’s next?
I earned my initial qualification for 2012 Paralympics by earning a 60% at WEG (only one aspect of qualifying and eventually being selected). However, after seeing the quality of horses and riders competing at this level, I know I have a lot of work to do.
I am also graduating from school in 5 months, and will have to either start my own practice or find a practice to join once I am licensed as an acupuncturist.
I have a lot to think about, and a lot to keep me busy in the next few weeks. I will do my best to keep everyone posted!!