All The Thoughts

Adventures in Saddle Seat


Coach Courtney’s caption on Facebook:
So this just happened…. 6 years in the making.

Adult Pleasure WTC National Finals
National Academy Championship Horse Show
This is the more to say that I mentioned earlier [Show Report, That Elusive Sunday Blue]. I will try not to be obnoxious about this on a regular basis. After today. For today, you get all of it, from the outrageously negative to the outrageously positive.
First a huge & public thank you to everyone who helped. From coach to supportive husband to dad with a towel who wipes off the toes of our boots before our classes. From tacking up to in-ring advice to taking victory photos, one travels in crowd of people whose collective goal is to help you do your best. Everything I said four years ago remains true:

How Many People Does It Take To Ride a Horse?
All of them.
[Important Questions from NACHS 2014, Partย 2]

You and the horse may be in the ring alone, but you can’t do it alone.
Back to me.

How does it feel one week in?
The voices lost no time. Most of these, I heard on the way home. A few came along later.

Voices: You didn’t win the second final.
Me: I won one.

Voices: In fact, you rode fairly badly.
Me: Thanks for the reminder.

Voices: You didn’t even get asked to do the pattern. That never happens. Patterns are your thing.
Me: You have to equitate well enough on the rail to be asked to do the pattern. I didn’t.

Voices: The win was a fluke.
Me: Fine. Makes up for the times I lost on flukes.

Voices: You kinda slacked on the equitating during the victory pass … it was just Academy … all that time and money could have been put toward the goals with Milton that you claim to have … it was just one class … a horse show is hardly world peace, or universal sanitation, or …
Me: Do you EVER shut up?
Voices: No.
I won the Pleasure – i.e. showmanship – Final and resoundingly lost the Equitation Final. Has the time on Milton made me more aware of how the horse is going than of how I am sitting? Is my equitation fading to be replaced by riding better? Is this a bad thing? Of course, both would be nice.
You would think that SIX Reserve National Finals titles would come close to having the same weight as ONE National Championship. They don’t. [That Moment When …]
One issue with Nationals is that it takes place over three days, and the classes within each day are separated by several hours. Throughout the rest of the year, Academy is two classes, wait for the Championship, done. It’s not even all-day showing. A handful of classes in a few hours can be survived on stress and adrenaline. For six classes over three days, one needs to have developed coping mechanics for stress and food and sleep. I do not have/have lost said mechanisms. Didn’t affect my rides, but I paid for it every other time of the day. My system took almost a week to recover from the mistreatment.
From outside looking in, you expect the day you win to be a coronation. You and your equine partner will lay down a flawless performance that reflects your months/years of patient training together. The crowd will gasp in amazement. The judges will toss accolades at your head.

If it happens that way, that’s fantastic.

Maybe it’s a convergence of factors. Maybe you are on a borrowed horse, who you rode for the first time two weeks ago, and your round feels as if you are figuring it out on the fly. Maybe you are the one in the right place at the right time when the favorite has a bad hair morning, and the numbers on the judges’ card are so scattered that you slide into first even though one of the three judges doesn’t even have you in the ribbons.

Still counts as a win.

A win, any win, is simply one competition. It is not the final referendum on you as a person, or the talent of your horse, or the quality of your training. It is one moment on one day. However, it is much, much easier to parade this enlightened attitude with a blue clutched tightly in one’s hot little paw.
Someone asked if I felt I had earned it. I had trouble processing the question. I was in the ring. I did everything they asked. They called me first. I guess that means I earned it. What would be the alternative?
In 12 Finals, I have
6 seconds
3 thirds
2 top ten (4th & 10th)
1 first
Videos of my victory pass are over on the SSF Facebook page. Along with many other happy ribbon snaps.
There was discussion of the possibility that helmets might have been a contributing factor to lower that expected placings. Helmetless wins & high placings were noted in a few classes. Could easily have been coincidence. *IF* that happened – not saying it did – that’s a hit I will take all day long.
Has winning been everything I hoped it would be? Yes.
What actually happened in the second class on Sunday? Watchers on the rail said the first trot was good. During the second canter, horse got tired/excited. Ditto rider. Tigger got heavy in the hand. Instead of sitting up and finessing. I got sucked into a pulling match. The horse always wins those. Thundering around is bad enough in a hunter flat class. It looks even worse in a saddle seat class when the rest of the competition is dinking around at a dainty, teacup canter. Plus the rider heaving and flapping like a loose sail in the wind.

Or perhaps I inflate my errors. Coach Courtney still thought I was going to be asked to do the pattern. Five of the 12 were.

I remain the highest-placed Academy rider at Stepping Stone Farm.

To be fair, the claim leans heavily on the terms “SSF” and “rider”. This year, we had a guest rider on an SSF horse who won five of their six classes, including one of the finals, a SSF rider who took 2rd & 3rd in the finals, and an Academy driver who won a class.

So, in a technical sense, I am the highest-placed SSF Academy rider. In reality, I’m tied for the title.
I call this section, Whinings of a Lotus Eater. I was a neurovore for most of the show. I was so over it. I say that every year, but not usually during the show. Every day, before the first class, I was a hot mess. A sniveling, hysterical hot mess. If I could have found an honorable way to leave, an excuse that did not feel like sour grapes or bad sportsmanship, I would have been on it in a New York minute.

As soon as I mounted up, I was fine. Even in warm-up, I wasn’t anxious, particularly when it was clear that it wasn’t my weekend (Yeah, I know). The nerves are horrible beforehand. They clear as soon as I sit in the saddle. I know this will happen. It helps not at all.
Will I go back next year? Well, this year the Alabama Hunter Jumper Association year-end show was the same weekend (ironically, 45 minutes away in Franklin TN). They have a .65 meter (~2 foot) jumper division. Just sayin’.
I haven’t talked about much about my fearless mount, mostly about me & my riding. I sat on Tigger for a few minutes at SSF [Talking Back]. Then, I warmed him up briefly on Thursday at Nationals. I was still figuring out how to ask him to canter in our first class together on Saturday (hint, don’t pitch forward and throw him on his forehand. Saddlebreds do not respond well to this.) The first final was the fifth time I had ridden him.

There wasn’t time to hear the story Tigger had to tell [Sam & Natalie, Dottie]. I had to let him do his thing while metaphorically running alongside and hoping to keep up.
Of all the rides I’ve had in Miller Coliseum, this is the one that wins? Bugs Bunny was correct. One never knows, do one?
Tigger is The World’s Greatest Horse. Other horses who wish to vie for the title may do so by winning big, fluffy ribbons.
National Champion. Nothing can take those words away. Not even me.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

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