Going Up To The Big Show

In baseball, when a player is promoted up from the minor leagues, to the majors, they say they are “going up to The Big Show”.  For me ‘The Big Show’, in equestrian terms, is the winter show season in Wellington Florida. The Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) for the hunter- jumper riders and the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) for the dressage riders. It really is the Big Leagues!

The AGDF is now in the final weekend of the winter season with the 12th CDI (Concours Dressage Internationale) taking place. Twelve CDIs are more than most entire countries mount in a single season. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional dressage competitor in North America you must come and compete at the AGDF and if you are trying to qualify for team selection for the World Equestrian Games(WEG) or the Olympics you must come to compete at the AGDF.

What I like about the shows at the AGDF is the chance to see some of the best riders competing.  I like to see the Friday night freestyle competitions under the lights and also see the Grand Prix competitions during the daytime.  This is a chance to see all of the top US and Canadian riders who, this year, are competing to get qualifying scores to go to WEG. I can watch the warm up and see what exercises they are doing to prepare for going into the arena to ride their test. It is a chance to see the best and how they answer the difficult questions of a crowded warm up or a big atmosphere in the stadium.

Then there are “little people” like me. I like to choose a weekend when the AGDF is holding just a National show and not a CDI for competing. It is not quite so busy and quite so electric as it is when there is a CDI.  On the National show weekends there may be a jumper event taking place in the Derby field which is next to the dressage rings. There is still plenty of action going on in the two dressage warm ups and 3 competition rings.

AGDF-9461IMG_9462

This winter I competed at the AGDF in the Intermediare 1. The professional riders and the amateurs, like myself, compete together and our scores are divided up into Open (professional) and Amateur for the final standings.  This means I may be going into the ring right after a well known professional. In this photo I am in the ring riding my test and the rider you can see behind me rode for the USA in the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 World Equestrian Games.  She is warming up for her test. I do not recall seeing her in the warm up. I had to be in my own zone.

PersonalWEBlicense.LWilloughby.8GD92138©susanjstickle.com._ When warming up I cannot be concerned about how Biasini and I will look after a very good professional’s ride. I have to focus on getting my head together for my own ride.  I have to ask myself: “What horse do I have today?” “What horse will I have when I go into the show ring if this is the horse I have in the warm up?” “What movements do I need to review in the warm up?”  I usually have my coach Lou Denizard with me to help in the warm up and he will have good suggestions and directions. The last thing I think about is what another rider, who is an Olympian, may be doing.

In the warm up some professionals ride in  a very determined and focused way and I cannot be intimidated by that. I have to ride in a determined and focused way myself. And when I go into the ring I ride as if I belonged there. I belong there, riding at that level, and riding alongside the professionals.

I am very fortunate, at my age and stage in life, that I have good health, a very talented horse, that works in partnership with me, and I am able to compete at a place like the AGDF. I can compete in my version of The Big Show.

PersonalWEBlicense.LWilloughby.8GD84766©susanjstickle.com._

 

 

 

25 Comments Add yours

  1. This really resonated with me. What a major accomplishment to just MAKE IT in to those arenas. Dying on the inside with nerves, and I’m not even there 😲
    Be very proud of what you Do!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I have never done well with nerves so i have had to find ways of calming myself. Over the years i have got better at it. For me now i need to be very focused with Biasini so I find I am not so nervous.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, and you’ve also got tons of experience with him by now – you make a great team!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. anne leueen says:

        Thank you. As he was a nervous fellow at shows I had to be calm and now he is calm as well.

        Like

  2. Miss A says:

    Wow that last picture of you two…so majestic! Such a beautiful horse (and rider)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you . He is a very handsome fellow and quite a character as well!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thanks! I’ll pass that on to him. LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love how insightful these posts are; as someone who knows almost nothing about these competitions I certainly feel as if I’m there and can understand the excitement! Biasini is such an absolutely exquisite horse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you Michele. I’m glad you can get something from the ‘horsey’ blog posts. In some respects there are similarities to other pursuits in life. Thanks so much for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Alli Farkas says:

    I love the relaxed curb in your hand and the perfect position of your horse’s head…not so much with the “professional” riding behind you (tee hee).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      thank you Alli. That is such a nice compliment. I try hard to give the curb otherwise he gets too curled up and then behind the vertical and he pulls like a freight train . I am always trying to get better at keeping him up and light.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Emma Cownie says:

    I am waiting to hear which horse turns up!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Well i have to be ready for whatever arrives. It is up to me to be quick to spot potential “bully” moments and nip them in the bud. All while making it look like I’m just out for a nice ride in the park of course!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        Bit like being a teacher – you have to control the class whilst looking like you are not all that bothered, even if you are terrified of the class.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. anne leueen says:

        I think I would have been a very poor teacher. I used to teach Tai Chi to seniors ,as a volunteer, and that was ok but a class room full of kids or even worse, teenagers……yipes!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Emma Cownie says:

        Teenagers can be a laugh, but they are also be infuriating or quite scary. Fortunately the vast majority of kids I taught when I was teaching were great. It’s all about routine, so they know where they are at and who’s the boss. Not a million miles away from what you do, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. anne leueen says:

        You’re right routine and familiarity with it are very similar to working with horses.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Tonia says:

    Wow! Your ability to focus and not get rattled in that environment is so admirable. I would love to get to the place someday where I am competing at that show.

    Currently I compete Open because I teach beginner hunter/jumper lessons and work for a Hippotherapy program, so it is often that I am competing directly against esteemed professional riders/trainers I have taken lessons from.

    Intimidating, yes, and easy to feel a little like a fraud going into the ring as a “professional” when this is only my 6th year in a dressage saddle, my first time at 2nd level, and my PONY’S first time at 2nd level. BUT, we strut our stuff as well as we can anyway, and occasionally we beat the Big Guns on their fancy Warmbloods! That is always a fantastic feeling. 😀

    But the main comment I wanted to make was about watching the warm-up ring. A renowned trainer and judge once told me that the most brilliant rides he’s ever seen in public are never in the show ring…they’re always in the warm-up. “Watch the warm-up” was his advice too. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      I agree with the trainer who advised watching the warm up. Thanks for this wonderful comment. I bet you and your pony do very well. Carry on!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Brava!
    I applaud your determination in continuing and growing in your passion/craft…as a performer, I understand those jitters and the need to focus no matter who’s in the audience, etc.
    You and Biasini look fantastic, BTW.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you for understanding the “jitters” of performance. And I appreciate the compliment as well!

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Stunning pictures Anne! What a beauty…you and the horse. Have a lovely week end!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you so much. You have a happy weekend too!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Gymah says:

    So true. I sometimes find myself getting intimidated by the professionals and local Olympian at the provincial shows in my area, I can’t imagine what it must be like to compete in the Adequan Dressage Festival!

    Liked by 2 people

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