2003 Sport Horse Nationals

PX does it again!!
Held in Lexington, VA from September 17-21


What a difference a year makes. Where it was just we 3 Musketeers (Kim, Cassie and Peggy) last year, this year we took a whole entourage with us for the inaugural Sport Horse Nationals. Katie Rose (plus Trooper and Ivy!) came up from her new home in Atlanta to be our coach; Debbi, Kim, Cassie and I rounded out the group. We were taking PX, and three newbies: Braveheart, Zeal (Kharry On+), and Soli.

Our plan was to leave on Thursday early for an afternoon arrival in time for the all-day hunter schooling in the coliseum. But with Hurricane Isabel looming, we decided to leave after feeding time on Wednesday. Katie followed behind us as we made the 5 hour trip in the dark with our four boys. We arrived after 11 pm, found our stalls, got the boys settled and our stuff unloaded, then headed off to find the cabin we had rented for the duration.

Thursday dawned with light rain and a light breeze (very different, thankfully, from the Hurricane we expected!!) We fed the guys and ourselves, then tacked up to take advantage of the schooling session they were having all day in the coliseum.

Kim and Soli had some issues, but worked them out after some good help from Katie. Debbi and Zeal had already been scratched from doing the working hunter since they really weren't ready, but still had the Hunter Hack, and Cassie needed to school Zeal for her Working Hunter division. We had decided that PX didn't need the extra school, so he got the day off! Braveheart and Peggy had a wild time of it jumping some of the scariest stuff B had ever seen! Luckily, Peggy had planned to do only the Hunter Hacks with him also.

We used up the whole day with schooling and shopping at the vendors, and headed back to the cabin to make a big pot of spaghetti for everyone for dinner! We invited Kim and Katie Nennstiehl back to our place for the night, since the storm was supposed to really kick up over night and they were sleeping in their trailer! We didn't want them to blow away overnight! The storm did blow a bit that night, but hardly as bad as they got it at home.

The next day were the Hunter Hack classes. Kim hadn't entered them, so she was our "groom" for the day. Peggy rode first on Braveheart in the PB Hunter Hack Open, and he was a little "up" his first class. Debbi rode Zeal next, in the PB Hunter Hack AAOTR and he was not very cooperative! Excited by the indoor ring, he was very zippy and hard for Debbi to control. She gave it her best and still came out wearing a smile!

Peggy was next in the HA/AA Hunter Hack AAOTR and had a lovely ride, ending up Reserve National Champion on PX!! What a surprise!! Peggy rode Braveheart next in the PB Hunter Hack ATR against Cassie on Zeal. Braveheart was much more settled this time, but still didn't get a placing, as his jumps weren't the best and he was still a bit tense. Zeal was good, but didn't place either.

Cassie rode PX in the HA/AA Hunter Hack ATR next and won a Top Ten after a lovely ride!!

That evening, they were having a progressive barn party, so we walked around, chatted with other exhibitors and ate lots of goodies. We checked our warm-up times for the Adult Amateur classes the next day, and poor Kim was first!! We rushed off to the cabin to get to bed early, despite the horse show jitters that had everyone a bit on edge.

We were up before dawn on Saturday, Kim and Soli ran off to warm up while we stayed behind and did the barn work. I suggested that Debbi use her warm up ticket, even though she wasn't showing, just for the experience. Kim had a great warm-up and felt ready for the show...Debbi found Zeal to be a huge handful when it was their turn and only managed to jump two of the eight fences! It seems he thought it was a race!! Peggy's warm-up on PX later was not the best, but they too felt ready, despite having only ridden him over about 3 fences the entire year!!

Since the purebreds went first, Peggy was stuck back in the barn getting ready with PX while Kim was showing, so she didn't get to see them show. Everyone, especially Kim, was thrilled with her trips and she and Soli got a Top Ten!! YAHOO!

The announcer really had everyone going when she announced the Champion for these classes - for one class she told who won in 2001 and 2002 (both horses were also competing in 2003), making you think that one of them was champion again....but they weren't! Another time, she announced the winner from 2001 and 2002, then said "Your two-time National Champion is...." as it was the same horse from 2002.

PX was in the next class. Peggy found out when she got there that they were doing the rounds alternating two or three horses at a time, rather than doing reverse order for second trips. What a great idea!! That way you did your first trip, had one or two trips to wait, then you did your second trip. That was a HUGE help.

Peggy did her first trip finally, and had a lovely round. PX was right on and nailed every fence. She came out and quickly learned her next course, rolled back in and had another great trip! They went outside to keep PX moving (remember last year?!?!?) and to wait for the call backs and Under Saddle phase.

In the middle of all of this, there was a storm brewing at home - one ingrateful boarder was causing problems and we received the news via cell phone. Peggy dealt with this stress while showing in her class - how thoughtless of these people to do this, fully well knowing what we were there for!

Anyway, despite the distractions from home, PX got called back for both jumping classes, much to our delight! So we headed into the Under Saddle class, not really sure what these judges were looking for, but trying to show our horses off to our best ability! Finally, they tallied the scores and PX and Peggy won another Top Ten...they were thrilled again to have done so well is such tough competition! Then they excused everyone from the ring and the announcer called the Reserve Champion, again a horse that was VERY hard to beat all year. We all figured Top Ten was it for us. Then the announcer says, "In 2001, your winner was Silveral Thalisz, in 2002, your winner was Post Exchange. In 2003, your winner, from Monkton, Maryland, is Post Exchange!!" Peggy drew a blank on it until our entourage screamed...she heard the beginning and thought that was the winning horse's name! It was PX again!!

Peggy burst into tears this time, knowing it was his last Nationals and being so surprised to have won again. Region 18 had donated the trophy, so Cheryl Ehrlick presented it to them. After an awesome victory gallop and jump for the photographers, we took more pics with the group. Everyone had a huge smile, but none bigger than Peggy's!

Of course, this victory meant an escort back to the barn for a blood and urine specimen from the old man. We waited patiently, took a bunch of photos with Molly Benstein from Arabian Horse Magazine who even got one of the USAE attendant in position to catch his pee!!!

After calling home to tell everyone the good news, we planned our celebration for the evening. Again we invited the Nennstiehls to join us, and while we finished up barn work, Kim and Cassie took off to go shopping for our celebration dinner. They came back with steaks to cook on the grill, salad, macs 'n' cheese, margaritas, Asti Spumante and a Congratulations cake!!! It was the best! How sweet of them to think of all my favorites!

We still had the whole ATR divisions to ride in the next day (not Peggy, she was DONE, honey!) Cassie and Kim had Zeal and Soli in the morning, then Cassie had PX in the afternoon. (We planned to leave Virginia for home right after their classes were over.) The courses they set for the amateurs were VERY tough...with a really short approach to a huge oxer on the diagonal. We watched horse after horse have a problem with it, some even refusing!

Kim and Soli got bogged down stumbling in that short turn and couldn't make it to the fence in their first trip. Kim really rode it in her second trip and laid down a decent trip, but not as nice as the day before. She didn't let it get her down, as she was still high on her Top Ten the day before!

Cassie tried to get Zeal to go quietly, but he'd jump the first jump of a line nicely, then overrun the distance to the second fence! It made for a very uneven course, but she got called back in both classes and got to go on to the Under Saddle. He hacked beautifully, but didn't get into the Top Ten.

Next, Cassie had her big class on PX. In her first trip, that darn short turn caused them a problem - he left off one leg and had to hustle to get to the second fence. That kept her out of the call backs for the first class. Her second trip was much better, but she complained that he wouldn't GO when she asked him to step up! She got a call back and went forward to the Under Saddle, although she was very disappointed with herself and him.

After a lovely hack class, Cassie was awarded a Top Ten again! I was so happy for her. Despite her problems in the first course, she concentrated and pulled it out! It wasn't until later that we would find out she was tied for Reserve Champion, but the other horse had more points over fences, so he got it. That made her feel a TON better!!

We did a hasty job of packing up, loading up and heading home. It would have been nice to rest and leave the next day, but there was too much going on back at home to be gone another minute! Katie left straight away for home in Atlanta...after many hugs and thank you's for her awesome help!

It felt wonderful to get home that night...made the whole horse show feel like a dream, which it was. A dream come true again!!