Story and photos by Erin Gilmore
After Day One’s dressage work and Day Two’s gymnastic exercises, the clinic culminated with a mock Nations Cup competition, complete with post analysis of every rider’s round by Olympian Laura Kraut.
The incredible opportunity afforded to the 12 young riders participating in the Training Sessions was underscored by today’s format; none other than Anne Kursinski, Beezie Madden and Lauren Hough coached three teams of four over the two-round mock competition. The course was designed by legendary American course designer Conrad Homfeld, providing a technical track complete with a full size water jump and demanding technical questions set at 1.30m – 1.35m.
Kraut led the day’s events, stepping into the arena after every single round to talk directly to each rider and comment on the choices they made in their ride.
“One of my passions is riding a Nations Cup,” Kraut said. “I absolutely love it, for me it’s the pinnacle of the sport.”
Kraut passed that passion on to the riders, many of whom were riding borrowed, unfamiliar horses and were faced with a challenge to ride around clean. Danielle Roskins, who qualified for the Training Session by winning the 2015 EAP Final, had a tough ride in Round 1 aboard a bold, strong warmblood. But she overcame a refusal born out of an indecisive ride in Round 1 to return in Round 2 with a steady connection and an improved track.
“I think you win the most improved award,” Kraut told Roskins after Round 2. “Huge improvement this time. Still probably not as perfect as you’d like, but you got her back just enough to get it done.”
Katherine Strauss and TJ O’Mara rode some of the best rounds of the day, keeping their horses on the forward pace needed to complete the course in the 76 seconds time allowed. A left hand hairpin turn to a liverpool vertical was one bogey fence that came down often, and horses tended to get flat over the triple combination that rode along the far side of the rail at the end of the course.
But for every moment of weakness, Kraut had an encouraging word for the riders that pinpointed where they could have made a different decision, and what they were doing right.
“It seems obvious that you can come back and correct your mistakes in the second round [of a Nations Cup], but you don’t know that because you’re dealing with a horse,” Kraut said. “It’s not really a given that the second round is easier. In fact sometimes the second round is more difficult.”
That proved true for Ransome Rombauer, whose borrowed horse pulled a couple of rails in Round 1, and refused at the water jump in Round 2. But Rombauer displayed a determined focus, giving her horse the forward ride needed to clear the water the second time around. “When you have a refusal and things go wrong, not only the rider can lose their focus, the horse can too. So well done keeping yours,” Kraut said.
When Kelly Cruciotti’s horse tired in Round 2, Kraut commented, “that’s just one of the rounds you’re going to have. I feel you lost a little concentration, and you could have made it much better. A lot of horses, when they have one or two down, they give up a little bit. Stay strong, you’re a fantastic rider. It’s disappointing but you ride beautifully, you ride well, and hopefully you’ve learned something today.”
For the record, Anne Kursinski’s team of Katherine Strauss, Eve Jobs, Danielle Roskins, and Victoria Colvin won the mock Nations Cup on 28 cumulative faults. But there were also no losers this week; for everyone who partook in this year’s GHM Horsemastership Training Sessions, the knowledge and experiences gained are priceless.