Saddle Seat Wednesday
Part 1 [Road to the World Cup: Have Saddle, Will Travel]
Like any other team sport, the U.S. Saddle Seat Team has practice. Before I went to our first practice at Cascade Stables in New Orleans, LA, many people would ask me “what exactly do you practice?” That was a question I had asked myself. What would we practice? We all know how to ride, so exactly what would we be doing?
In my opinion, practice is more for the coaches because they have to learn each rider’s strengths and weaknesses. At the World Cup competition, the team will draw 6 horses and it is up to the coaches to decide which rider will ride which horse during the competition. The coaches will have to evaluate the horse and determine what rider’s strength would fit that horse best in order to get the best scores. So at our team practice, the coaches had us ride multiple horses to evaluate what type horses we look best on and which ones we get along with the most. I rode a total of 3 five-gaited horses and did a pattern on each.
The coaches also did individual interviews. I was asked what I believe my strengths are and if I would rather rider a lazy horse or a game horse. I explained that I am an aggressive rider (could be a strength or a weakness) and a lazy horse compliments my riding style more.
When I was a kid, Jennifer Fernambucq of Heathermoor Farm, was my trainer while she and my mom had a barn together. I also rode with Desiree Clausen of Cardinal Farm for a year. This is where I got my equitation training. Other than that, I’ve had my mom as my trainer. So I had to adjust to other coaches. I am obviously not as comfortable with them as I am with my mom. When I feel something is not perfect, I can stop and pick my mom’s brain on how to make it better. With the coaches, I have to figure out how to make it perfect on my own. I guess that is because that is how it will be at the World Cup Competition.
I am extremely comfortable on a new horse. I am confident (maybe a little cocky) that I can jump on anything and ride it well. It’s hard to show the coaches this since I don’t know them well. I guess this is something that was awkward for me and maybe a little internally frustrating. I don’t know how to tell two strangers to put me on anything and I promise you can count on me.
Practice also encouraged team bonding. Although the competition is individual, we all feed off of each other’s energy and need to build trust. They want us to encourage each other and give each other feedback on the horse we are riding because your teammate might end up competing on that horse. So if I tell someone a horse I practiced on likes steady hands versus busy hands then they will trust that information to help them succeed.
We definitely bonded! We would stay up together in someone’s hotel room talking and playing games. We played the game What Do You Meme, which was a fun way to learn everyone’s personalities. We have a group Snap Chat going and we all communicate every day with one another.
All of my teammates are younger than me. I am 6 years older than the next oldest; 9 years older than the average. Although I joke about being the grandmother of the team, I don’t feel an age difference when it comes to the competition and horses. I only feel the difference when we are all hanging out at the hotel and they start talking about school or boyfriends. Then I feel like an old married lady.
We also had play time. We played horse soccer. The objective of horse soccer is the same as regular soccer, get the ball in the goal and score the most points, except the ball we used was massive. We had to use the horse to kick the ball (we basically used their bodies to move the ball around the arena) and score goals. This was probably the most fun horse game I have ever played!