Four of us from New Jersey (Carey Williams, Anne Seline, Jorgen & Nick Olijslager) set off to GMHA in Vermont to participate in the Classic Format Training & Novice Three Day this past week. What an amazing adventure! Let me first say eventers are a really fun bunch of people!!! We cheer each other on all day-long, yes, us New Jersey folks are maybe a little louder than the New Englanders! Another example of the camaraderie; Anne was practicing her jog in the parking lot and her hat goes flying (dressed for a “garden party”!)... looked at me and asks if I have any bobbypins... sure I have those in my pocket.. NOT! A random lady walks by... here I have a few! How cool is that!!!
Our group of 4 riders had 8 to support and cheer us on!!! We certainly couldn't have done any of it without them! A special BIG thanks goes out to Hillary Horton, she went non stop as the pitcrew boss after phases C & D! Also a BIG thank you to Gretchen Creesy for tirelessly helping on endurance day, and her husband Chuck for videotaping! Of course the Olijslager girls were working hard too, Mia (9yrs) was in charge of cooling the riders down with drinks and Erika working hard on cooling the horses down! For me it was fun to finish second after Allison Springer on a PONY no less!!!), but none of that really mattered!!! Completing and participating in a Classic Format is the greatest experience you’ll ever have with your horse/pony! If you haven't done one yet... go do it if you can!!! Jorgen competed in the Novice Classic Format, which I was skeptical about, especially for Phase B (steeplechase)... but they slowed the time down at this level (admittedly Jorgen didn't exactly go slow there!!!) But the experience the kids and adults had was phenomenal!!! They were basically taken under their wing by John Williams and Marcia Kulak on their whole journey!!!
Tuesday: The journey
Tuesday started out really bright and early for all of us at our various barns to get to the truckstop on the highway by 6AM! From there it took us about 6 hours to get there! Only Carey had done a Classic Format a couple of years ago, the rest of us had no idea what was in store for us! No matter how many time you read Jimmy Wofford’s book on Training for the Classic Format and soak up as much information as you can, and eventers that have done one, you really don’t know that it’s really this much fun!!! Very glad we arrived early to set things up and settled in, as well as sign up for our first vet-inspection and steeplechase schooling. We all squeezed in a little hack and at 6PM we had our first mandatory briefing.
Wednesday: The jog and dressage
A packed day! First the JOG... that was actually my worst fear... Mr Dino (my pony) can be a little naughty at times and I was prepared for him to take off. He was thinking about it on the way back in the jog towards the Ground Jury... so they made me do it again... talk about torturing Nick!!! All our horses passed the jog, you just never know! A few did get rejected, how devastating that must have been! Overall the jog took a bit longer than anticipated so the Training level dressage was pushed back by an hour. After the jog the day really started, Jorgen did his dressage test around 11am... nice test (can always be better!)... little blow up/buck... but brought him right back... most of us are watching... after their test he gets called over by the judge at B... yes, we panic... what happened???? NOTHING!!! She complimented him!!! Kid's beaming when he comes out... (kid hates Dressage!!) Carey goes next, Mickey was not exactly happy doing dressage that day, but she settled and got it done! Now it's my turn and I start getting a little nervous… our dressage has not exactly been stellar all year and we had switched bits to a happy mouth last week. So here we go in, down centerline… are we at C yet? I love the BIG ring!!! We managed to do a pretty nice test without a blow up... even with the mower, chainsaw & cows in the far background! Cross-country course walk around was 2:30PM with Allison Springer and Bonnie Mosser! Unfortunately Anne had to miss it, since she was finishing up her dressage, a little disappointing for her for sure! Allison and Bonnie were so nice and helpful in reading the course, what a treat for us! Next at 3:30PM Steeplechase practice with John Williams, Marcia Kulak, Denny Emerson and others standing along the track yelling at you what to do. I was dreading that! When I think steeplechase I think jockey position over high timber/brush, being 6’3” not exactly my thing! Well Mr Dino really loved it, but I ditched the bridging of the reins they suggested I do, so I wouldn’t interfere, I like steering! Now Carey, Jorgen & I go and walk phases A & C with our ponies in the beaufiful hilly Vermont countryside. 6PM more presentations to get us prepped for Endurance day!
Thursday: The big day!
it's finally here! Phase A, what is it? 10 minute trot walk/trot/canter up and down the hills. We come in on time, but where the sheep were yesterday there now was a haying machine!!! Mr Dino’w ears were in my nose!!!...
Phase B, what is it? 3 minute steeplechase around the dressage area over 2 steeplechase fence, so you go around 3 times, and you better keep good count! We all breezed through that phase. What a thrill!
Off to Phase C... Anne’s husband, Harvey, was there to check our horses shoes and provided a quick refreshment to both horses and riders. Phase C, what is it? You cool your horse down a little by walking and doing a little trot for 20 minutes to arrive at the 10 minute vetbox... I did get a little scare when I passed the steeplechase area and a horse had just slipped and fallen and thought it was Anne! Luckily it was not and the horse and rider were fine. We were all very glad Carey was the first to go early in the morning, so Anne, Jorgen & I could see what actually happened in the 10minute vet box. You arrive and the vet immediately checks your horse’s heartrate and temperature and the tireless pitcrew starts the cooling down process by slapping water/scrape/water/scrape... vet checks again and you jog for the Ground Jury. This is the fastest 10minutes in your life!
Now off to Cross Country Phase D. I kept hearing from those that had done the Classic Format in the past that you would have a different horse under you... maybe... Mr. Dino was Mr BOLD as usual! His clear message was leave me alone... just point me in the right direction and tell me to slow down when you want me to! Did I mention there five or six streams/water passings on course? Let's torture Nick and Dino, since we really don’t like getting our precious feet wet! But he didn't even blink!!!
Nice cross country jumping questions, nothing overwhelming! Janine designed really fun courses! Fences 1 - 3 flowed really well, than up a hill over an inviting jump with a big drop to a nice ditch, than back up the hill over a smaller fence 7, than back down the hill with a sharp left turn at the bottom over a sizeable jump! It was all about steering and quality canter at fence 7! Next to fence 8, ditch in front of log/brush! Rode beautifully! Fence 9 was the water to Fence 10, a chevron with an option to turn left before the tree or go around the tree, there was no way we’d be turning in front of the tree! Creek number 2 - no problem (whew!) and a nice long gallop to 11 and quickly to Fence 12, the BIG trakehner which you had to approach on a odd angle, another long gallop up, left around a corner to Fence 13 at the top of the hill, continuing left, left, left to Fence 14, and then down the hill to Fence 15, continue through the tree line across creek number 4, hard left and up hill to a hard right to Fence 16 (which was also part of Preliminary angled bounce, so there was not a lot of space to jump it, nice challenge for us! Another nice long gallop to Fence 17, a corner. Then a left bend to the coffin - 18abc (fences were definitely skinnies here! Two more fences to go… Fence 19 table and down the hill, through creek number 4 (good boy!), sharp left to Fence 20, a roll top and then the finish line! Exhilarating!
Jorgen had awesome ride too.... but later we see he got time on cross country, his watch said 4:40... but the board said 5:23... we ask PJG to please double check... something is wrong... but not much we could do... a little disappointing but they had an amazing ride!
Cool down and pamper our horses, the pitcrew was hard a work once again! All our horses got released very quickly by the vets after Phase D! Later the Olijslager girls took Duffy to the brook to stand in the deep water, they had a blast! Duffy loves the water, he’s famous for dunking half his head in a bucket and spraying anyone in the vicinity on the way out! I think they were in there playing for 45 minutes! I even ventured out there with Mr. Dino for a while, he was very happy to graze for a while off the banks!
The official stadium course walks were scheduled in the late afternoon, again great tips from the officials. Dinner with our group of 12 was a blast!
Friday: Another jog & stadium
Another early morning, had to braid at 5:30 am and the next jog started at 7AM! We get Jorgen ready for stadium jumping, a beautiful clean round! I could not watch Carey’s round, but she did great I heard! Anne does her very posed one while I’m in the warm up ring. Mr Dino who loves to touch the rails and had a good knock in warm up and rails came flying (my fault of course asking him to leave out a stride! We go into the stadium ring... we get through fence 4ab (a one stride) we get through fence 6ab (in&out) and I'm thinking don't get flat here to 7, now a tough turn to fence 8 (big triple bar)... we cleared it (I’m breathing)... now 5 strides to fence 9... oh wait one more jump!!! Don't mess it up now! and we cross the finish line!! Woohoo!!! Big cheers...
Jorgen received another "special" award, donated by Marcia Kulak, the Horsemanship award (talent)... a training scholarship, pretty cool!!!
Tired ponies and happy T3DersFriday night we all get back to New Jersey and turn our ponies out, they now all get some well deserved time off!!!
What an amazing adventure!!! We are definitely hooked!!! Longformat is a must!!! Jorgen is lobbying hard to do Waredaca in October! We would like to send a big thank you to Heather Mason and Clarissa Wilmerding for getting us ready for this wonderful experience! Finally our special thanks to the Organizers for a fabulous experience and ALL the volunteers!!!
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