by Suzannah Rogers | Williamsburg Technical College
The excitement of waking up and knowing I was leaving for an equestrian national championship was unreal! But the training before it was the tough part.
Living on a farm of horses and crops, I had many tasks to accomplish, and training for an equestrian championship was something I was passionate about adding to my daily routine. I was sixteen at the time. I had to get up at seven in the morning, every morning, to feed animals, and train for the big horse show. My dad is a farmer, and the corn was ready to be harvested, and I had to help him pick it before I left for Illinois. I know how to drive just about every tractor and truck on the farm, so helping him was no big deal. It took away time from training, but it had to be done. I spent most of the day outside preparing myself and my partner, my horse, Adrenaline Rush.
To start my day, I would jog for a mile to make sure I stayed fit. Then I would have to feed all nine horses and do all the chores that were required of me. It was super important to keep a schedule for the week to ensure Rush and I stayed happy, healthy and fit. We would go on trail rides as well as training hard in the ring. The trail rides were our favorite part. We got to feel the cool breeze with the sun beating down on us throughout the summer.
The United States Equestrian Federation National Championships is for the top twelve riders out of about fifteen different titles all held in one weekend in Wayne, Illinois, toward the end of August at the Lamplight Equestrian Center. I was competing in the FEI Pony Rider division, against eight other riders.
The trip going to Lamplight was about a 24-hour drive, which is a difficult ride. We stopped in Indiana for a day and a half to let Rush rest and to ride him to make sure he wasn’t sore. We loaded up the next morning and were on our way to the championships. We ended up getting to Lamplight sometime in the afternoon which was perfect to let Rush walk around and see the facility and while my mom could set up our horse trailer.
The next day we were able to hack around the property to make sure Rush was happy and focused. We had our FEI jog where all the judges get the first impression of me and my horse, and so the Veterinarian can verify that my horse is not lame. Rush enjoyed the crowd’s encouraging clapping and noise for the jog. Rush and I did not have our Championship ride until that Saturday, so we had two days to prepare and view the competition. I got to see a lot of my horse friends and enjoy the weather. I watched a lot of the best riders and horses perform which was motivated me to think that I made it here just like they did.
We had to draw an order of go out of a jar to make it fair for everyone, and I was third to last in the order of go. I was next up to go, when the rider in front of me was coming up the center-line, and her horse bucked and threw her off and started running aimlessly. Meanwhile, Rush and I were waiting for our turn, and I just felt that we were going to make a mistake. We went around the ring, and all of these people were watching me. I took a deep breath and started my test. As I was finishing my test, I knew it was the best test I had ever ridden. To be sixteen and have to focus hard is not easy, especially with chaos going on then. I halted and saluted and started crying. All the stress and pressure put upon us was just released as I saw my name go up on the leaderboard for first place. We had won the first day by a point above everyone else. We did our victory lap.
My family celebrated with a steak dinner that night. I had so many calls from home telling me that they were watching and wishing me congratulations. I still couldn’t believe I had won.
The next day was Sunday, so it was the last day, which meant it was almost time to go home. But I still had one more ride. I was in the middle of the order of go for Sunday. We rode two tests, a team, an individual, and they were averaged into your overall score. I came in second that day, and I was so disappointed because I thought I had come in second for overall.
I heard someone calling my name, and it was the lady in charge of awards telling me that I needed to jump off my pony so she could put his ribbon on. I was so ecstatic. I started crying and hugging my mom and trainer, and of course the pony. I could not have won the championships without the hard work and perseverance from my family, trainer and Rush. All because I live on a farm in a small town, I was able to apply my strong work ethic to train my horse to give the crowd the best showing of a horse’s grace and style.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.