BY MACKENZIE FITCH
I began my equitation career last summer, riding with Troy Hendricks and Emily Corkhill at Kimber-View Stables in Glenmore, PA. Together we made a clear plan for the 2021 finals, the first being the NCEA.
The NCEA Final is made up of three components: over fences, flat, and a bracket for the top four riders. One of the exciting features of the flat phase is that it may include haunches-in, shoulder-in, and leg yielding. Also new for 2021 is the bracket. It’s when the top four riders switch horses over a course. Number one and number four switch horses as well as two and three.
My preparation to get ready for finals started with a wellness check by our vet to make sure my partner was sound and healthy. I began leasing Scooby, a 14 year-old Dutch Warmblood at the end of April. We hack three-four times a week and jump two to three times depending on the upcoming show. My trainer, Troy, focuses on the lateral movement of the horse and the poll, neck, and leg movement to ensure we are not flexing the horse too much. When it comes to jumping, my coaches like to incorporate past courses from the Maclay, Dover, Washington, Gladstone, etc. while adding their own twist.
As a team, we like to come up with tests that make the rider think more deeply about what they have to do after every jump to put the pieces together. Troy also likes to incorporate gymnastics, lay out cavalettis and focus on the striding by moving up or staying back and adding a stride each time we go around. One of my favorite exercises is the “ring of fire” as I like to call it. We put cavalettis in a circle and have each space between the cavaleties set at a certain stride which makes us work hard to get our horses back, and prepare for slick turns.
Not only is it vital to focus on your horse and training techniques but it is just as important for the rider to mentally prepare. I like to review videos of the previous years finals to see how the course was set, what the judges asked for the flat. I also review placings to try and confirm what they were expecting of the riders. Additionally, I critique my videos or horse show photos and look to see what I need to improve, whether it is my leg, my release, or other finer details.
At the actual horse show, waiting to get into the ring can always be a little nerve-wracking. I rarely get nervous, but when I do I just remind myself that I can do this. I have a great partner with me who is going to take great care of me. My trainers, parents, and the rest of the KVS team are very supportive of me and are always cheering me on. I am so lucky to have a great team and family behind me, knowing they will always be proud of me—no matter what happens.
The best advice I have ever gotten from anyone and that I still keep in the back of my mind every time I show, is that I deserve to be here. No matter how many times I fail or something is not going my way, it is my choice to fix it. If I want it badly enough, then I will chase for it. I know I am capable of anything I set my mind to.
Mackenzie Fitch is sixteen and lives in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. She’s been riding since she was six years old.