You all will remember my story of Lauren’s friend Caitlyn who was working hard to make the national finals. This weekend she went to Harrisburg, Penn. as a qualified finalist in the Pessoa Medal Finals. Pennsylvania is a long way from Texas. Her horse Ky and trainer, Trapp, traveled long days and nights. Ky was stalled in many unfamiliar places. Ky and Caitlyn met up on Friday to continue living the dream of riding the national finals.
We watched as a live feed from USEF brought us the ‘warm-up’ round yesterday. Caitlyn was one of over 260 junior riders looking for a spot in the top-eight. We watched on our little computer in Wharton, Texas as Caitlyn entered the big arena in Harrisburg. Before her had gone some of the top young riders in country, Lillie Keenan, Jacob Pope, Tori Colvin and Shawn Casady. The camera caught her face clearly as she rode into the ring, calm but determined. Her warm-up round was beautiful. She did not place in the top ten riders of her section but certainly rode well.
This morning, once today’s course was posted, the 250 plus riders and their trainers swarmed the arena like a million ants, walking the course, determining strategy and seeing the jumps up close. There is no warm-up ride to this final event. The horse goes in the arena and is expected to jump what is there, sight unseen. Caitlyn was deep in the list of riders. It made for long hours, waiting and watching as some of the country’s best went before her. Finally it was time for Caitlyn and Ky to enter the tunnel to the arena. I was scared to death just watching. Caitlyn had poise and calm far greater than her years of experience. It was not that long ago that Caitlyn just started these USEF shows and just had this year of hitting the nationals. Some of these kids started in national pony finals as six-year olds.
Caitlyn and Ky negotiated the course well. Former judges and top trainers felt she had a great ride but it would not be enough to make the cut for the finals.
Which is too bad on many accounts. Not just that, wow, it would have been great to see her make the work-off (the ultimate challenge of the final), but because Caitlyn and Ky do their best work when given the most difficult course. And tonight’s work-off was just that, a demanding course that asked a lot of the horse and rider. But nothing Caitlyn and Ky had not practiced a million times in the last few years. They would have been superb!
Caitlyn (and Ky) have everything to be proud of tonight as they head to Baltimore before tomorrow’s long trip home. A nation of horse crazy girls (and so many of her peers right here in Houston) watched a few years ago when Animal Planet did a reality show about how difficult it was to make it on the road to the national finals. We all watched it. But only Caitlyn went on and actually did it. She did all work, rode all the shows, practiced all the moves and built up the points to make it to the top shows in the United States.
So I say to you, Caitlyn-You are amazing! We back here at home could not be more proud of you tonight!