Whitethorne Equitation Challenge Q&A with Winner Avery Glynn and More

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Photo © Mia Jones

BY MIA JONES

The Whitethorne class began similar to its start with early morning rides and emotions running high. After last night’s riders meeting all riders were itching for the chance to get back into the ring. 

All riders were allowed to return for Phase 3, no matter their score from the day before. The course, designed by Karen Healey, had a jumper feel with more questions being asked of the riders. After the finalization of both Phase 3 & 4 15-year-old Avery Glynn claimed the blue ribbon out of 82 riders. 

“She won the style award as well… she is very accurate and smooth. I think they (The top 6) were all really good riders and it could have been anybody’s day,” said judge, Emil Spadone.

We spoke with winner Avery Glynn as well as our spotlight riders, Nicole McMillion and Naomi Wegner, about their experience at the event.

Avery Glynn

What was your overall experience with the class?

I really like the class. This is the first time I’ve ever been in this class. I thought the courses were really well set. I think it’s good practice for indoors and other medal finals. The judging was good, overall I think it was really well done. 

Over the two rounds, how would you describe each individual round?

Both rounds asked for different tests. In the first round, there were parts where you could open then there were parts where you had to stay compact and do the set numbers in each line. The second round was a bit more of a jumper course and it was more open to stay on the gallop and continue that throughout the course. Then in the work-off, they brought in a couple of tests to see who would end up on top.

Do you think that the riders’ meeting was beneficial?

I thought the riders’ meeting was beneficial. I took a lot of what the judges said into account for my work-off today. They did mention last night that a standout thing was when people could land and hold the counter canter well and to hand gallop and really show that off so I made sure to do my best and ended up landing and holding both of my counter canters and I felt like my hand gallop fence was really strong as well. 

What did you do to prepare for your rounds at home?

I do a lot of single jumps and I practice things like landing and holding the counter canter and practice a lot of trot jumps, test things. Every once in and a while we almost do a medal finals type of course at home. I always jump lower at home than I usually do at shows. I usually jump between 2’6-3’0 because I feel like it’s a good way to practice for me and to practice a test without overusing my horses at home. 

What are your tips for navigating a difficult course?

I try and put it into sections, for example, yesterday for Phase 1 the first jump you had to show a little canter then jumps 2-5 were connected on a line so I wanted to separate a harder part of a course so I could do all those connected then made sure I had a spot to take a breathe and regroup before the next connected part of the course. I also use visualizing a lot when I’m learning my course. I think about each part and I also have a backup plan. 

What do you think overall of Whithorne?

I really like that they award the trainers. I feel like it’s a great thing because Jim Hagman has done so much for me over the years. I really appreciate everything he’s done for me and also my parents. They weren’t here this week but they’re almost at every show and have worked so hard with me over the years. I liked the format of the class, it was a great way to prepare for medal finals. Since it was on Tuesday and Wednesday it felt special and separate from the rest of the show. I feel like sometimes the medal finals blend in with the rest of the show. On Tuesday there were no other classes going so I feel like people were really able to focus on that class and it really made it feel special. 

Photo © Mia Jones

Naomi Wegner

What was your overall experience with the class?

I had a really good experience with the class. I think it was a really good learning opportunity that you don’t normally get because whether or not you were happy with the score you fully understood why you got that score. Then you have something to fix for the next day.

Over the two rounds, how would you describe each individual round?

I would say that the round from today was definitely more technical than the first round. The first round was a nice introduction to what today would be. The notes from the judges helped me come into the second round. 

Do you think that the riders’ meeting was beneficial?

I think it was because you got to talk to the judges in a Q&A style, so not only did you hear what they said on your comment cards but people would ask questions that definitely referred to styles that you could implement into your riding. We talked alot about full seat vs half seat and if that wasn’t specifically written on your card it was good to know for today. (Phase 3)

What did you do to prepare for your rounds?

I hacked my horse in the morning for both today and yesterday. The horse (El Grande) is a catch ride so I haven’t ridden it a lot prior but it’s owned by an amateur in my barn so I’ve seen it go around a lot. So I knew the horse’s style which was good going in. 

What are your tips for navigating a difficult course?

My tips will be taking everything step by step you want to make sure that when you go over your course with your trainer your talking about each individual aspect of the course like for this the first straight line and then the bending and then you focus on the “S” line then continue onto the rest of the course with a good plan. 

What do you think overall of Whithorne?

I had a great time on a fun horse and I can’t wait to do it next year.

Nicole McMillion

What was your overall experience with the class?

Overall I really love this class. I’ve done it three times now, and every time I truly appreciate the experience and feedback we get from it, especially heading into medal finals in a few weeks. 

Over the two rounds, how would you describe each individual round?

The first round is more of a hunter derby-style course. It tested our ability to show off a “brilliant” (the judges really emphasized that they were looking for brilliance) canter, while still answering the technical questions of the course. The second round was more jumper-style. Testing, again, our brilliance, but also our ability to maintain elegance and control when opening and collecting the stride of our horse.

Do you think that the riders’ meeting was beneficial?

I think, in this case, the riders meeting is a necessity. They really told us exactly what they were looking for in each round (brilliance) and the tracks and strides they expected us to do. 

What did you do to prepare for your rounds?

In both rounds, I went very near to the end. As someone who prefers to go towards the beginning, I find it most helpful to watch a few, create a good plan for myself and my horse, and then go distract myself. Today, for example, I watched the first 15 go, and then two of my friends and I sat in my car, watched some tv, and took a nap. 

What are your tips for navigating a difficult course?

The best piece of advice I can give for difficult courses is to stay relaxed and trust that you and your horse are more than capable of perfecting every aspect of it. There is nothing we do in the show ring that we haven’t done before, the stakes are just higher here. Trusting yourself and your horse, in my opinion, is one of the most important parts of preparing for your round. 

What do you think overall of Whithorne?

As a parting thought, I would just like to say that Georgy and the team at Whitethorne have truly done an amazing job with this class. It has truly been fantastic from the beginning, and every year it keeps getting better and better.

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