Today, we are very excited to welcome contributor Sue van der Linden as an “official” HJU Blogger…wohooo! Welcome to the HJU family, Sue!
A Hunter Jumper at Dressage at Devon
Those of you who read my blogs know that I’m more of a hunter/jumper person. “So what in the heck am I doing at a dressage show?” you ask. Well, if you listen to all the trainers I’ve had over the years — if you were merely conscious at the recent George Morris clinic, for that matter — then you know that all good jumping starts with excellent flat work.
Goodness knows that my flat work is far from what it should be. So I see Dressage at Devon as an opportunity to view the art of dressage up close, and I’m thinking this will be really good for my riding. I’ll learn a whole lot about flat work and collection and carriage and impulsion and being on the bit and framing and all the things that I need to improve my own riding.
Truth be told, it didn’t hurt that my friends and I had so much fun at the big Devon show this summer. With that experience under our belts, we were itching to go back. So go we did! We pulled out of my driveway at 6:30am on Sunday morning, and hauled up the road with a car load of horse crazy women and a trunk full of refreshments.
Two hours, and a couple of Starbucks stops later, we were there. North of the Mason-Dixon Line though it is, I must say, I’m beginning to feel more and more at home in Devon. My southern family probably thinks that’s heresy. But, hey, I go where the horse people are…
I must admit, this show was different. Not a little bit, but a lot. Really distinct. I could feel it while I was there. But I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that made this Devon experience so unique from the others.
Then as I scanned through my thousands (yes, thousands) of photos from the day, it dawned on me. It was the smiles. Everyone was smiling. From the tiny kids on their ponies in the lead-line division, all the way to the super talented FEI class riders — everyone was smiling.
Maybe it was because I was so eager to get back to Devon. Yes, that’s true.
Maybe it was being there with friends. Absolutely! These women are the best!
Maybe it was because we were there on the day of the freestyle competitions. Everyone always feels better when things are more creative and have more of a personal signature on them.
Maybe it was because everyone looked so refined and elegant in their competition clothes. I don’t know that I look that good when I’m dressing up for an evening out.
Maybe it was the perfect weather and autumnal decorations. There were firey colored mums everywhere, and I truly needed my sweatshirt the entire day.
Whatever it was, the riders entered the ring with their horses, and rode their hearts out to music that meant something to them. And it showed!
But the one overarching thing that made this show so special was that everyone smiled. Riders smiled when they entered the arena. They smiled while they were doing their routines. They smiled when they were finished. They pushed their horses to do things most of us only dream of. Heck, the horses even seemed to be enjoying themselves more than usual.
Did they ride perfectly? Probably not, but I’ll be darned if I could see it through all the smiles. These riders were bringing their best stuff, and having a fabulous time doing it.
They knew they had worked hard and practiced, so in reality they were here to show us how fabulous they were. We noticed! It was a bit hard to miss really — from the elegant tip of the top hat, to the more boisterous fist pumps.
They rode their best for themselves and their horses. They rooted for their competitors. And they congratulated each other on great performances. These riders were a real tribute to the art of dressage. More importantly, they were a tribute to the concept of sportsmanship.
As always, the riders are so approachable, and so down to earth. While my friend, Paula, and I were roaming the grounds, we stopped at a practice space next to the formal practice ring. There was a man and his gelding, getting ready for their turn in the Dixon Oval. So Paula and I started snapping photos.
In a moment, a woman approached us. It turns out she was Rebecca Kramer, wife of Thorsten Kramer who was riding Altair’s Luck (they call him Billy Bob) in the USEF Fourth Level Test 3 for the first time at Devon.
There were so many fabulous riders and memorable rides — Tom Dvorak, Silva Martin, Lauren Sammis, Kimberly Herslow, Benjamin Albright, Ashley Holzer, Kelly Layne. But the one who stole the show for us was Carlos Munoz, riding his Trakehner, Klouseau. While they finished second in the FEI Intermediate 1 Freestyle Open, his ride was electrifying.
I guess the rest of the crowd was too refined to sing along with his music and sway in time to the mare’s steps. But my friends and I did — loudly. For Carlos, it was as if the world had dropped away, and the only thing out there was his horse, and him. He had a ball out there, and so did Klouseau. It was a sight to see. I’m really glad I did.
I’m not entirely sure that I figured out anything new on how to balance, or stay with my horse’s motion. But I was reminded how important it is to be in the moment. And how if you are, that great things come of that.
Sue van der Linden
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