Over the years of this blog, I have written about our journey to the USEF Zone finals. The United States Equestrian Federation divides the country into Zones and those states compete for points over who is the best of whatever division in which they are showing their horses. Although Hawaii is just one zone (probably because it would be hard to trailer to a show in Hawaii from anywhere else), the other zone definitions by states are not necessarily equal in terms of size (geographically or by population).
Somehow, Texas (which clearly could be a whole zone all on its own based on size-I mean Alaska, Hawaii, Texas-which is clearly bigger?) ended up being placed in a zone with five other states. So, Lauren and her fellow Texas riders compete for points with riders from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Louisiana, and Kansas. Now, does anyone actually make shows in all those states, probably not. Six states in the NE would be a possibility but these six states in our Zone 7 are geographically disperse.
In the past, Lauren has qualified for finals three times on her horse, Irish Midnight, aka Mickey, the first time in hunters (where they had no chance of winning at all but it was fun to go) and twice in jumpers once in the Children’s Low Jumper and once in the Adult Low Jumpers but they have never walked away with a ribbon.
This year very little thought was given to zone finals. We had qualified early in the year based upon Feather’s and Lauren’s performance at one of the first winter shows. Then she added some points at the Oklahoma Go Show this summer. But that was before she broke her arm and her hand stayed permanently paralyzed in a claw position. And before her grandma died leaving a hole in our hearts. And before the thought of jumping a horse over a big fence was something to be feared instead of something she loved.
Personally, I was pretty happy with Dev riding the mare and pushing her up to new heights. I didn’t want to worry about how Lauren would grip the reins or hold a crop or intuitively know how to set the mare to a slower pace without a right hand to count on. I was not keen on zone finals. But Dev thought they should do it so off they went.
I usually try to get out to see her ride during the week but I have been sick with various ailments and have had a lot of work to catch up on. Or so went my excuse. When Lauren called me Friday to tell me they had a refusal in the .85 (about 2’6″) I just wanted her to quit. I figured if they couldn’t get through that they were never going over three feet in the following classes. I literally sat at my desk at work and silently cried. I was just so afraid it was useless and that Lauren would be hurt more.
I texted my three dearest friends and both my other daughters to say a prayer for Lauren as she headed to the next round which would be set at a meter high (3’3″). My friend Lynn sent the following prayer:
Keep Lauren safe and give her the confidence and the courage to face her fears and ride straight through them, Amen
My friend Kathy told me “she has already achieved a lot just getting back on and riding through the in gate. Great rounds will come.”
Friends are awesome. And they were right. Friday she rode into the meter round with Feather and caught the first pole creating an immediate four faults, but then something just synched and they were perfect. They did not place but rode very well.
Friday night and Saturday found me with horrible stomach flu which I blame on my granddaughters but fear and apprehension could have been a culprit as well. Probably for the second time in the history of Lauren’s shows I was not with her on an important day. I got texts later that they had placed fourth in one class (Out of 40) and were just out of the ribbons in the other.
This morning on the last day of the show I woke up feeling better than I had in a week (gee, wonder why). I was off to sit at the ring and watch and write down the times of every single rider in her big group. Lauren was 37th to go. I had seen falls, lots of pulled rails, many, many stops and only completely clear round for the adults. Even John de Leyer’s horses had some issues. I felt good about Feather as I watched her warm up. Lauren was riding easy and clean.
Feather flew around the course never even rubbing as pole or chancing a refusal. It was a beautiful round. And again, Lauren never used her legs, spurs or crop to ask for more from Feather, they just flew together to victory. What a sight it was to see! I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else today than watching this ride with this brave girl on this wonderful horse.
In the end, she was first in this class for both the Zone and the Division with only one other double clean rider, she combined the points for both her Zone classes and the division classes and ended up as follows:
Tied for Champion for Zone 7 Finals *****see below
Tied for Reserve champ for the division
It has been a year when the lows have really been low for us, but just as clearly these highs have really been top-notch. I would have never dreamed when this little Flagmount horse got off the trailer from Florida she would take us so far. Yet, even then I had a hint of a dream, a dream of a once in lifetime horse and we are so blessed.
Thank you especially to my daughter Ally who has been our savior and the only way this barn has kept running in the dark days and big thanks to Dev Branham who believed in Lauren even on a little bay horse and has helped us develop Feather to what she is today. And to so many of you that urged us on, prayed for us and will be here for us still as Lauren and I go back to surgery once again. Thank you for riding along! God bless.
I had a couple of things wrong.
First, Lauren was Zone Champion all by herself and not tied with anyone. And second, the class on Saturday where we thought she did not place, she actually placed sixth.