Last Sunday Biasini and I were awarded the Reserve Championship for the FEI Freestyle classe Adult Amateur division. . The White Fences Championship Series consists of five shows starting in December and continuing to the end of April. I have competed in the January and February shows and this past weekend in the March show.
I did not win Reserve Champion by getting fabulous scores or winning the classes. I won the Reserve by turning up and riding down that centerline. This past weekend the show was a bigger educational experience than any I have previously experienced.
FRIDAY Covid-19 strikes the horse show world.
At midday we heard the news. All competitions sanctioned by the US Equestrian Federation were cancelled. Cancelled for 30 days. Cancelled. Those currently taking place could continue but all competition had to end by Monday March 16. Soon after we learned that the Dressage and Show Jumping World Cup competitions in Las Vegas were also cancelled. The Winter Equestrian Festival and the Adequan Global Dressage Festival were also stopping two weeks early. The horse world was following all major sports in the US, Canada and the UK. How did this affect the White Fences Championship series? It meant that this current show would be the last and the results would determine the Championship results.
Late afternoon Biasini and I entered the ring to do our Freestyle. I was walking past the judges stand to let Biasini have a look at the videographer when BOOM! Biasini leapt into the air and flew about 6 feet backwards and sideways! What?? There was nothing that the judge or scribe or I could see that had set him off. The judge asked if I was ok. I said yes and we then walked past another time and took up our position to signal for the start of the music. Our test was abysmal! I was struggling with Biasini throughout. He pulled like a freight train and acted as if every aid I gave him was something he was just not going to comply with. It was the Brigadier General Bully Biasini back again. He has been absent for about 4 years and I was not happy to meet him again.
All the work we have put in over that last year had gone right out the window. This was not about him being nervous. I had no sense of nervousness from him. I am not nervous in competition and I know myself well enough to know that.
I talked with Coach Lou and it was decided that the next day he would ride Biasini and do the Intermediare 1 technical test. The issue with Biasini was in the show ring and not when he was ridden at home. For me it meant a lot that Lou offered to ride Biasini. He has not ridden him since December and he has never done tempi changes with Biasini. To have a professional rider prepared to go into the ring on a horse he is not that familiar with is courageous. Not that Biasini would do anything dangerous but it could be difficult to ride a good test.
SATURDAY Lou rides Biasini.
I watched them closely in the warm up. I could see Biasini was trying his best to get the better of Coach Lou. But Lou is so quick and nimble that he could outsmart Biasini. Then they went in the ring for the test.
I could see how fast and decisive Lou’s corrections were. I observed carefully and knew I had to use the same corrections to not allow the Brigadier General take over. And Lou got the tempi changes as well!
After the test we talked about how Lou’s ride had gone. I was relieved when he told me that Biasini is a very tricky ride and not at all easy. So it is not just that I am a poor rider.
SUNDAY- Once more unto the breach!
Sunday I knew I had to get on and get back into the ring with Biasini. In the late morning he was resting peacefully in his stall. Was he resting up to have the energy to get the better of me? Or was he having a calm and peaceful day?
We warmed up and as it was a hot afternoon we kept it to a short warm up. Then into the ring. I walked him around the edge of the arena. The judge signalled for us to start. The music began. I remembered Lou’s quick corrections. I did my best to stay on top of where Biasini was and if needed give him those quick corrections. Also I knew that before every movement I had to have him balanced. Achieving this cost us several strides at the start of all the tempi changes and we did not get the required 5 changes. But other movements went well. At the end of the test I was happy with our recovery. Biasini had redeemed himself. Here is a video mistakes and all.
When Biasini had his braids out and was bathed, another of Lou’s students offered me a glass of champagne. Yes! She had brought champagne for Team Denizard to celebrate with!
Well I drank that glass and celebrated the fact that I had overcome my anger and disappointment in our Friday ride,my concerns about the uncalled for spook and had been able to ride, a not a perfect, but decent test. I did not quit. I turned up and I rode.
Then my husband David came to tell me that I was the Reserve Champion in the FEI Freestyle division! Competitors in this class can ride a Grand Prix or an Intermediare 1 freestyle test. The Champion was Kim Jackson who had ridden Grand Prix tests . I was thrilled to take Biasini over to collect our spectacular ribbon and prize, a lovely bridle bag.
Carmen Elisa Franco, one of the Championship organizers, had managed,on short notice, to tally all the results for the numerous classes and give out the ribbons and awards to all the Championship series competitors. Thank you Carmen I certainly appreciate all your work!
When we got back to Silver Drache Farm I hung Biasini’s ribbons on his stall including the Championship ribbon. He was quite proud of himself.
At the end of the day I reflected on the Covid-19 that is disrupting the entire world and causing havoc and chaos. But at the White Fences show ground there are some flowers that inspired me. Here is an orchid which has been placed into the crook of a tree and survives and blooms without a pot or fertilizer. Look how beautiful it is! I believe we will survive Covid-19 and recover to bloom again. Perhaps, we will come through with some changed perspectives about what matters in our lives.