Gearing Up For World Cup

Blogger Susan Artes earns an impressive finish in the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix in Thermal, Calif., as she gets ready to head for Vegas and the Longines FEI World Cup Show Jumping Final.
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Since my last blog, I've been participating at the HITS shows in Thermal.

Susan Artes and Zamiro, AIG $1 Million Grand Prix

Susan Artes and Zamiro, AIG $1 Million Grand Prix

While the Longines FEI World Cup Show Jumping Final has been my main focus, the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix, presented by MortgageCall, also has been a high priority for me. For the third year in a row, it was California's most prestigious show jumping event -- with the biggest payoff.

Show manager Tom Struzzeri outdid himself this year, putting on a spectacular competition in which I was proud to be a participant. Certainly, I was nervous in the days preceding the grand prix, in part because it will be the last big event for Zamiro and me before we head to Vegas.

I am thrilled to have had a clear round and made it into the jump-off. My mistake in the jump-off, where I had a fence down, gave me fifth place. But the prize money check of $75,000 made me feel like a winner anyway.

I've truly been overwhelmed by the show of support I've received from my fellow competitors. Riders I have adored and tried to emulate over the years have given me words of wisdom and encouragement. Our sport is different than any other, because not only do men and women compete against each other, but so do riders ranging in age from 18 to 60-something. Skill is more important than physical strength, and experience in many cases reigns over youthful exuberance.

While I can't speak for what goes on elsewhere in the world, I can say from my experiences in California that riders help each other. We discuss which way a line might ride best for our individual horses. It all comes down to who best executes the plan they choose, assuming, of course, the horse holds up his end of the bargain. It was such a great day for me to be fifth in such a big class. That gives me the confidence I need as I prepare for the Final in the next few weeks.

I'll be stepping up Zamiro's fitness level, as we generally don't jump as many rounds over big jumps as we'll be doing in the Final. I'm fortunate that my arena at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center is relatively small -- because that's also the case with the ring at the Thomas & Mack Center in Vegas. Happily, my partner, Max Dolger, knows how to set courses in small spaces because of his extensive experience in the indoor arenas in Europe. We have several big trees around which we have to navigate as well, so blind turns are something to which I've become accustomed.

It was thrilling to be contacted by the U.S. Equestrian Federation, asking what size shirts and jackets the Zamiro team wears. That made the fact that we're actually going to Vegas start to feel like reality.

Susan Artes and Zamiro, AIG $1 Million Grand Prix

Susan Artes and Zamiro, AIG $1 Million Grand Prix

I want to remember each small moment leading up to the Final. The support I feel has been tremendous, from show announcers, stewards, show office secretaries, back gate starters, riders, owners, students and peers. Now the countdown begins!

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