By Plaid Horse Intern Bailey Fuller
The conclusion of EAP National Finals was an exciting one and I would like to say congratulations to Carly Williams on her win and Cody Wooten on second place. They rode wonderfully all weekend.
Saturday, Clinician Olympic Gold Medalist Peter Wylde focused on course work with all the riders and horses to prepare for the Nations Cup on Sunday. I felt like I was getting to know my green horse, Donna, a little bit better every moment I was on her. She was wonderful during our session, but I unfortunately fell off (landing mostly on my feet) due to a miscommunication between Donna and I to an oxer off a bending line. I got right back on, got over the oxer and did the full course. She was a little hot and green, but that final course was great.
Bailey Fuller and Donna. Photo: Tricia Booker/USHJA Archives.
On Saturday night, there was a banquet to celebrate and recognize the EAP finalists and the Horsemanship Quiz Finalists. There was great food, lots of laughs, and many raffle prizes. The teams and chef d’equips for Sunday’s Nations Cup were also announced. My team, fondly named team Rothchild, had the amazing Kip Rosenthal as our chef d’equip.
The nerve racking final day came too soon and the riders were up early after little sleep to prepare their horses, braid, and walk the course with Peter. There were 15 jumps crammed in the indoor ring at the University of Findlay, and the course was tough but doable. There were forward lines, tight bending lines, an in and out, and a triple combination.
Most of the riders had good, clean trips in the first round, but a few had trouble, including me. My horse was very nervous and decided not to leave the ground in the long 5 stride line that were fence 1 and 2 of the course. I unfortunately fell off (again) but was fine. Luckily, I was the anchor rider and the rest of my team all had clean rounds before me.
I shook off my first round (and my sore back) and got back on for the second round. While I was flatting, my awesome groom, Sarah Sprague of Horsemanship Quiz Finals, reported back to me that my teammate had a rail and I needed to go clear to get our team into the jump off. No pressure, right? Sarah advised me to grit my teeth (growl a little) and just get my green horse around that course. I went into that ring not knowing whether I would stay in the saddle or not, but telling myself to get over every jump. And that’s what I did. With some growling, some back seat riding, and a little help from the crowd clucking, I made it around that course and went clear. I couldn’t believe I did it!! It was not pretty, but I got my team into the jump off for gold.
Halie Robinson was the rider for our team to compete for gold in the jump off. She went second after Abigail Graham, had a clean, fast round, and won our team that gold medal!
After the jump off for the gold medal, the 5 riders chosen for the work off switched horses and rode their shortened course to compete for the individual win. Both Cody Wooten and Carly Williams had beautiful rounds and Carly ended up pulling out the win.
Overall, the EAP National Finals was a great experience and I am so grateful to have been chosen to compete in it.
The Gold Medal Team Rothchild guided by chef d’equipe Kip Rosenthal. Halie Robinson, Abigail Grace Kelley, McKenzie Kasper, and Bailey Fuller.