Since WEF has finished and the majority of the “big,” equitation riders have left town, it is time for our less experienced or younger riders to take the stage and compete for those crucial points that qualify them for the USEF medal, the ASPCA maclay, and USEF talent search finals.
Circuit is a difficult time to qualify because all the best juniors are here in Florida and vying for those precious wins that not only help them qualify for the year end final, but also for the very prestigious George Morris equitation classic, a special event for big Eq class winners during the season. This big event has taken on a life all it’s own, and has become such a big deal, that the Eq kids treat the class as if it were one of the finals.
A win in any Medal, Maclay, Washington or USEF talent search class during the Winter Equestrian Festival qualifies a rider for the championship, and since their are roughly 150 kids hoping to make it into the class, competition is fierce. This year around 35 riders made the cut and competed. What’s different about the class is that the kids need to coach themselves and compete without the aid of their trainers. It’s a nice feeling sitting in the stands and whooping for your student whom you have trained nearly every step of the way, especially when they do well. We were fortunate enough to have one of our most experienced junior riders, Liza Finsness, compete in the classic and fare very well, she finished 7th, this year.
Now that the GHM is in the books and the number of equitation competitors has dwindled down considerably, the task at hand, has become to qualify. Our riders, such as Maggie Savoie, Maggie Botkin, Michael Kocher, Morgane Qualls, Lauren Biddle, Lia Screnci, and Camilla Conessa, still need points.
Now we worry about the Eq classes filling, not what section we are in. We worry about all the horses making it over the water jump in the talent search, and less about how many strides we will do from one to two. We worry about how many points we need , how many points she / he may need, or how many riders does it take to make the points count double! I don’t care if you’ve won the finals or have gone to the Olympics, at some moment in time, you counted points in this sport. It’s a necessary rite of passage, that all of us competitive equestrians need to go through. They do not give “byes” to the finals, you must qualify.
We strive to make it to the finals to test our students against the best, maybe they won’t win this year, but it’s practice for the next time, when they might. Qualifying for a finals , for some kids may be the highest point they reach in their riding careers, for some it may be a stepping stone to future glory, either way, I believe the goal is sound , noble and worthy. I’ve known many riders that have qualified for the finals by the skin of their teeth and gone on to get ribbons in the actual event. The struggle to make it, to qualify for something worthwhile, to have a goal, is admirable.
Our students need something to set their sights on, to measure their progress against, to have a goal. Qualifying for the finals provides us the tool necessary to point our riders, up.