Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

I can't believe it's been nearly two months since I've managed to visit with you via the blog.  I fear I'll never get around to finishing my Haiti posts - so if I don't, know that we had a fabulous time with Beaver, Kathy, their kids and all the lovely people serving in Haiti.  The Haitian people were lovely - even if Port au Prince does scare me a bit.  I've taken wild taxi drives in Nigeria and sat white knuckled in vehicles in South Africa (and the fright wasn't just from being on the "wrong" side of the road), but traffic in nothing I've ever experienced.  Really.  Unbelievable.  After seeing Kathy Brooks navigate the bumper-to bumper chaos, she is my hero now more than ever.  I'll never be half the woman she is.

I'd like to say I'll be back in the saddle here at my blog, but it is the saddle - and the horse - and the trips to the barn that keep me from being here already.  And it isn't looking to improve any time soon, though with school being out, maybe I can carve out some time to spend with you all.

The Queen
Hannah's regular show season came to an successful end yesterday.  Not only was she the High Point winner for her age division at the show, she clinched the title of Queen for the Coastal Empire Association AND is the overall High Point winner in the 13-19 age division for the 2011-2012 Coastal Empire show season.  I suppose that makes me the mother of the queen - quite an honor, don't you think?  I think that simply means I get to continue transporting her to the barn so she can live up to her title when she competes against the eight other queens in their own Horsemanship class at the state show over Labor Day weekend.

Hannah also competed in her first American Quarter Horse Association show, the Region 10 Experience in Jacksonville last weekend.  It was the epitome of that old catchphrase from ABC's Wide World of Sports- The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  (And I'm pretty sure I'm dating myself by remembering that, aren't I?  I don't suppose the Wide World of Sports has been on television for quite some time).  We knew the competition would be stiff, but we didn't know it would be so plentiful.  Hannah's English classes boasted about 25 riders each and her Western nearly 20.  After not placing in either English class on Friday, I was bracing to have one disappointed girl.

Hannah, Grace and Wendy
Not to fear, my girl rose to the occasion and she and Grace (a.k.a. Zippin With Chocolet - her offical show name) placed 5th in the Western Pleasure class, qualifying her to attend the AQHA Novice Youth Champions in Tennessee in October.  The thrill of victory was sweet.

Hannah optimistically prepared for her Western Horsemanship class, a class she normally excels in, and is the class that qualified her for Queen of Coastal Empire.  Horsemanship is a "pattern class", a class that the rider individually rides a pattern the judge has selected.  In this case it was trot from cone A to cone B.  Stop at cone B and pivot 180 degrees to the right.  Back the horse to cone C, etc.  Hannah was the 10th rider and up to that point no one had ridden a really successful pattern.  None of the riders could pivot their horses well and I knew Hannah had recently made great strides pivoting Grace.  The door was wide open for Hannah to ride in and set a very high bar for the remaining riders.  She trotted in, began her pivot and was flawless...but she kept going until she'd done a 360 degree pivot...and we all knew she had completely blanked out and forgotten the pattern.  She was facing the wrong direction to begin the next element.  She trotted Grace around toward the judges and politely asked to be excused.  They nodded.  The agony of defeat was palpable - really, my heart was broken and beating out of my chest.  Picture being the lone rider in front of five judges in an arena big enough for rock concerts - and your mind going completely blank.  Just thinking of that happening to me nearly sends me into cardiac arrest.

But, like the champion that she is, she chalked it up to experience (I probably would have bawled my eyes out) and will have a fabulous story to tell younger riders that she might some day end up coaching.  We all went to bed Saturday night with the agony of defeat ringing in our ears - or in my case, replaying in my mind.

Sunday, Mother's Day, was just the Showmanship class.  We thought the class might start around lunch time and we'd be home by mid afternoon.  The joke was on us!  Her class finally started at 5:30, so I spent a leisurely Mother's day on shed-row watching some fabulous horses come and go.   I can't even describe how badly I wanted Hannah to do well - if for no other reason than to recover her confidence that had taken a beating the day before.  I think there were nineteen girls in the class and they all looked amazing.  I knew a couple of elements were less than perfect and figured Hannah would not be super-duper excited about her performance.  But thankfully the judges saw something they liked at placed her 5th, again qualifying her for the show in Tennessee in October.  Victory is even sweeter after the previous day's defeat.

The fifth place winner sporting her new Showmanship jacket


We can't even begin to explain how thankful we are for Wendy (Hannah's trainer and Grace's owner) allowing Hannah to ride such a lovely horse - and for dragging Hannah all over South East Georgia Saturday after Saturday to compete.  We are humbled and thankful for bringing Wendy into our lives.  She has truly made huge sacrifices for our child and  transformed her into a competitor that would make any trainer proud.  Hannah is not only a graceful winner, but is also - what is even more difficult - a graceful loser.  I've seen plenty of riders have tantrums and take their frustrations out on their parents or other adults.  Through the loving guidance of a wise trainer, Hannah has become not only a skilled rider, but a lovely young lady.