Competitors showed their fierce determination on the last day of the 2017 George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session as the 12 riders, divided into three teams of four, were not only jumping for bragging rights with a win in the Nations Cup format, but for tickets to the 2017 Longines FEIWorld Cup™ Finalin Omaha, Nebraska this March.
With the help of their celebrity chefs d’equipe Lauren Hough, Anne Kursinski and Beezie Madden, the riders tackled the jumping course twice each. After each of the rounds, Laura Kraut gave them thoughtful feedback, providing the participants and the spectators with useful tips and take-aways from the Olympic athlete. From verbalizing her pet peeves to advice on how to jump a better course, Laura’s words of wisdom were spot on.
Consider her advice to Caroline Dance, who was told to make judicious use of time early in the course, and although Laura was specific about a Nations Cup format, it’s sage advice for anyone. “Something I always think about when I’m in a grand prix Nations Cup, is if there’s a chance in the beginning of the course to go quick before you get to the meat of the course,” Laura said. “I always like to do that.”
When Gracie Marlowe posted a slow time, Laura was quick to lay blame on the rider instead of the horse, explaining that she needed to create energy, especially when they knocked down a rail in the third jump in the line down the long side. “You have got to put a leg on,” she said. “Help him out. Give him that reach. When you had that back rail, the first thing that should go through your mind is, ‘I just had a bad rail. I need to kick into gear and get going’ and, instead, you just went slower. You’ve got to get a reaction. [You made] zero effort to make the time here. I could have had a cup of coffee and come back by the time you got to the next jump. Get over fast. Make up time.”
Halie Robinson and her borrowed horse were eliminated in the first round when Halie was unseated with a pretty spectacular refusal. Laura admitted she would have been on guard when the horse was nervous upon entering the ring but she admonished Halie to ride the second round better. “I thought you lost him to the outside. You didn’t have your leg on,” Laura said, adding that the rider’s choices made no chance for the horse to clear the jump. “He did what he thought was the right thing to do.”
Coco Fath rode a solid rhythm and was under the time allowed, but her horse hit the tape on the far side of the open water jump, netting them four faults. “You rode slower to the water, which is the exact opposite of what you needed to do. You needed to build some more momentum and keep that momentum,” Laura said, reminding Coco that she created distance with their lack of impulsion. “If that happens, kick him. Pony kick him. Just anything to get him to react so that he jumps across.”
Laura told the riders they needed to help their horses over the jumps by using their bodies or applying legs and Maddy Goetzmann was praised as the first rider to assist her horse over the jumps and give the mare confidence.
Although Cooper Dean had a bit of a problem with his horse in the warm-up area, Laura reminded him to shake it off and move on. “Know that if you have problems in the warm-up area, that is not necessarily translating to the ring,” she suggested. And when he looked down to adjust his reins during his ride, Laura told him he should adjust them by feel. “That’s lesson No. 1. You don’t do that with your stirrup do you? The same thing with your reins. Do not look down.”
During the second round, the riders took Laura’s advice to heart with fewer faults and faster times.
Gracie came away with a clear round and no time faults and Laura labeled it one of the best rides of the day. Gracie’s chef d’equipe, Beezie Madden, said the rider was more determined in the schooling area and it shone though in her ride. She trusted her horse but Laura once again suggested that more leg and more strength would give her horse impulsion.
Maya Nayyar shorted her time to within the time allowed but knocked down the airy vertical after the open water jump. The course designer, Conrad Homfeld, changed the jump between rounds by widening it and adding a rail and Maya’s horse noticed the difference. She was quick to urge him onward over the jump but then her reaction time slowed. They pulled a rail at the next jump and Maya momentarily lost her focus. “When you have a fence down, that’s happened. That’s past,” Laura reminded her.
Taylor St. Jacques was praised for her handling of her horse’s refusal at the water jump with her quick reprimand and then confidently going toward it again. “You’ve done him some good and you learned that you can be tough and make something happen,” Laura told her. “That’s a great lesson for all young riders, that when something goes wrong, particularly when they [the horses] are afraid and they stop, to not give up. Re-approach it and give him confidence and give yourself confidence. I’m pleased.”
Brian Moggre and Laura had already talked about the difference in a horse between the first round and the second round and his big, heavy horse was sweaty the first time he came in the ring on the hot and humid South Florida day. In the second round, it became obvious that the horse ran out of energy, which was understandable. “But that being said, you didn’t lose your focus,” Laura told Brian. “The only place I would say you could have been better is, at that point, you should know that you’re running out of horse. Use this to fight for the last jump and lift him over.”
Cooper came back with an improved time and a smooth ride and Laura was happy with his ride, until he pulled a rail and Cooper looked back to confirm. “The whole idea of turning around and looking back – you were almost doing it before he hit the ground,” Laura chided. “Possibly, there was something in your body that contorted that made him pull it down, but at any rate, never, ever look back. Never.”
In the end, she was happy with what Cooper and all the participants learned during the training series and she praised their application of their new skills. When the points were tallied, Anne Kursinski’s team, made up of Maddy Goetzmann, Maya Nayyar, T.J. O’Mara and Halie Robinson, were the victors and they claimed their World Cup tickets as well as bragging rights for 2017.