2002 U.S. National Championships

A Dream Come True!
Held in Louisville, KY from October 11-19


Again this year, we packed ourselves up at O-dark-30 and hit the road for Louisville. Bittersweet memories of Lady and PX two years ago were in the front of my mind. This year, the last year that Working Hunters will show at THE Nationals (they are starting a seperate Sporthorse National Championship in 2003), we took Post Exchange+, our 19 year old Anglo-Arabian stallion, and Silver Run Sohn, my 20 year old Purebred gelding. (I figured its now or never for my sweet Sohn!)

Because it rained most of the way to Kentucky, we didn't get to have our usual bug splat contest. (extra points for most colorful, most symmetrical, and biggest!) We weren't allowed to unload the boys at our favorite State Park in West Virginia at the half-way point this time - apparently the Park is no longer run by the State and is a "resort" now. Progress....

We did see a great sign on the way from the highway to the park advertising "Hillbilly Haven," how appropriate for West Virginia!

We were thrilled after a full day in the truck to finally see the sign for Kentucky, even though we had several hours to go before we got to Louisville.

We pulled into the Ky Fair and Expo Center around 4:30 pm, and found that they had wisely put the tent stables up near the arena we were actually showing in! What a treat! The only thing they hadn't planned on was the monsoon that day - our stalls were swamped! Luckily we had rubber mats and threw them down on top of the mess. The management sent over some extra shavings and wood chips to sop up things. Darn nice of 'em! We got the boys settled in and went off to check into our hotel. We looked like mud wrestlers and tracked up the lobby of the hotel with lovely Kentucky clay!

After walking and feeding the boys, we headed out for dinner at my FAVORITE rib place, Damon's. Mmmmmm! We went back to check the boys and then headed off to bed.

We had a full day for the horses to rest between our arrival and our show day. Considering their age, I thought that was wise. Cassie and I fed them early, then went in search of the show office to get our numbers, etc. We went back to the hotel to get Kim (she was sleeping in) and head back to the horses to ride them.

Sohn had rubbed a little callous on his fetlock and was a bit ouchy on it. As the schooling area they had set up next to our tent was a QUAGMIRE, we had to hike WAY up to the other end to ride under cover. Sohn was stiff, as was PX, but they both loosened up well after a bit.

We headed to the show office for the draw of numbers for the order of go in the hunter classes. Kim played Vanna White to the hilt, drawing numbered ping pong balls like a pro! (Perhaps a new career is on the horizon?!?)

We watched the jumper classes that evening, after hanging out in the vendors, etc. and after meeting one of our competitors I had written to on-line, Leslie Maurer from Canada. We happened to sit down to eat lunch at her table and I shortly figured out it was her! Small world! Kim managed to snag not one but FIVE posters of Tommy Garland from the Pfizer booth...and slept with one of em on her pillow that night!!We had a quick dinner at Mickey D's before hitting the sack to plan for our busy next day.

Our classes weren't slated to start until one hour after the morning session, which turned out to be about 2 pm. The horses were washed and braided and ready to go when they called us. The Open warm-up was first, and Cassie had a decent ride and figured out the lines. By the time the Half-Arab class came along, she was ready. Her first course was good! She got a call back, much to all of our delights! Her second course was not as good as her first, but she still got a call back and thereby had met her goal!! We were so happy for her!

Her hack class went well and after a looong wait, they announced the Top Ten, and she was one of them!!!!! What a great feeling to see her accomplishment! I was so proud!

Next came my Amateur warm-up with Sohn. I had walked him into the arena to watch Cassie's hack class and he was WIDE EYED! When we went in for our warm-up, he sucked back at almost all the jumps, so afterwards, I got out the "bad boy" spurs....they seem to dispel the boogey men!

Sohn's two courses came first, and he was awesome! He galloped around with confidence, I was so proud of him! They finally announced the call backs and he was included! I was thrilled! His second course was fabulous too, and again he got a call back! I was beside myself with pride in my old boy!!!

PX's classes were next - I had little time to warm him up after Sohn's call back as he was fourth to go. I couldn't get to the one schooling fence right to save my life (by now it was after midnight!) which was poorly lit and sitting in the middle of a stone dust schooling puddle! I was hustled into the ring and just kicked him into a gallop and WENT. He was PERFECT! What a relief! We got a call back! His next course was AWESOME too, but with maybe one long fence. Again he got a call back. This division held 19 horses!

{Keep in mind that by now it is 2:00 am, we can't see how any one else's courses have been going AND we have no idea how the three judges have placed us, just that we were one of the top ten highest scoring horses in each over fences class.}

Sohn's hack class was first, and he was feeling a little stiff and uncomfortable. He hacked well in spite of it and after that looong wait, was called into the National Top Ten!!!! I was so proud of him!!! The old boy had done it! (I always KNEW he could!)

Finally, at 2:30 a.m., PX's hack class started. Unfortunately, he had been standing around during the other hack and felt a little stiff too when we went in the ring. But he hacked very well and felt fine after the first canter, having loosened back up, I guess.

We lined up, waiting, waiting, waiting. Then they called for the Steward. I heard them talking about someone being unsound, but didn't know who they were referring to. Finally, they call the Top Ten and we were one of them!!! I was tickled to death! We got Top Tens on EVERYONE!!! What a thrill!

Then they called the Reserve Champion, an incredible horse that had won Open Champion with a professional rider earlier that night. I thought, "Oh well, we surely didn't beat THAT horse!" As they dragged out the announcement of Champion, they ended it by saying my number!!! I fell down around PX's neck and hugged him, I was totally in shock!!!! We were NATIONAL CHAMPION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A dream you don't even dream of!

Lots of photos and a long walk to the farrier stand for shoe weighing and toe measuring followed. I asked the Steward what the soundness thing was all about. He said they had asked him if the National Champion could be a lame horse. He told them, "Yes if he has the most points!" and, in my slow-brained state, I realized he meant US! "Me? I was lame?" He said "Yup, but you had so many points over fences it didn't matter, you still won." I was upset, thinking about how I could have blown the whole thing not warming him up enough, but THANK GOD we still did it!!!!

Only my Dad and Kim's Dad answered the phone calls at 3:30 am...even Jeff was comatose at home and didn't hear the phone! We were so excited, we could hardly believe it!! Kim was prancing around with the red rose garland around her like Miss America, saying "I always wanted one of these!" We had to take care of the horses and tuck them in, giggling and being silly the whole time. We went home to sleep a couple hours before having to go back to feed our superstars.

Morning came EARLY, it all seemed like a dream until I got to the barn and told our other friends who hadn't stayed up for the marathon! Everyone was so happy for us little peons doing so well!

I went back to pick up Cassie and Kim, then we were off to the TROPHY ROOM to get our goodies!! The trophy is HUGE and GORGEOUS, the Top Ten plaques are similar to the ones we had won before. We also picked up copies of the Judges' cards to see how we had pinned.

Cassie had finished in fourth place over all, against 24 competitors, mostly professionals! She was very pleased, as we all were!

Sohn had finished FIFTH overall, out of 13! One judge had even pinned him first on his second trip !

In PX's Amateur classes, he was first on all 3 cards in his first course; then was first-second-first in his second course!! He didn't receive any points for the under saddle though. But still....

We were leaving early Monday morning, so we took the boys over to a grassy spot behind Broadbent to take some photos of our own. They were still tired and we had a tough time getting their ears up! We also took them grazing on the side of the highway, they were THRILLED!

We went shopping for goodies (Cassie wanted one of those rolled halters for Paradoks) and we ordered our Top Ten and Champion coats from Uncle Bob's (?). Even got to tease Scott Brumfeld about his photo in the "Men of NSH" calendar (wooo-wooooooo!) Nearly wiped out by feeding time, we fed the boys, packed up most of our stuff and headed out for our celebration dinner.

Not wanting to be boring and go back to Damon's, we had seen the sign for Darryl's along 64 and decided to try it. We got off at the exit, Kim noticing that it said "1813" under the sign which we assumed meant the address, as there was no Darryl's in sight. So we drove and drove until we passed the 1600 block, still with no Darryl's!!!!! We turned around and headed back to the sign by the highway, only to find another Darryl's sign...this one marking the lot where Darryl's USED to be....now there was only a pile of dirt with a pipe sticking out of it. Apparently, Darryl was no longer with us...

So, being tired and having no imagination, plus being HUNGRY, we headed for the known. Damon's it was. Good Margaritas, good steaks, it hit the spot! We were in bed early for our journey home the next day.

We left around 8 am, packing up those darned rubber mats was a PAIN, and I drove most of the way as Kim was suffering with a toothache (had that sucker ripped out the next day, too!) It was chilly, but sunny, so again, no bugs :-(

We got home around 7:30 p.m. to be greeted by these amazing signs Cetta, Kelly, Leena, Cindy, Anjulii and Alex had made welcoming the Champion and Top Ten Winners back! It was so good to be home!

Tremendous thanks go to Debbi, Leena and Cetta (plus kids!) that fed the horses at home while we were away; Kim for letting us take the "bus" for our superstars; Katie for the great coaching job here at home (she was on her HONEYMOON while we were at the show....how DARE she!); my mom and dad for taking care of Snickers and her new puppies (and for answering the PHONE that night!) and everyone else who had a part in us getting there and home safely and successfully!

THANK YOU ALL!!!!!!!! We couldn't have done it without you!