Sometimes you just get really lucky in life. I’m still grinning from Friday and know that my chance of ever getting to do something like this again in my life is slim to none.
Every two years Pony Clubs around the world put together a team of elite young riders to travel to a host country and compete. There are five countries involved: US, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand. The host country rotates so that each one hosts every 10 years.
Not only is 2017 an InterPacific year, but it is a year for the US to host. To make the stars align even more, Trainer, who has been the US team coach the last four competitions, stepped aside as coach this year and instead got wrangled into the position of organizer. This means that not only is the US hosting, but it is being hosted at the barn I train at.
Told you this would never align again like this.
The thing about the IPE is that the host country needs to provide the horses for the entire event which lasts nearly two weeks. This year the riders landed in SC on the 28th and the first riding event was a fun games day and trail ride on Friday the 30th. Apparently the riders from Hong Kong had zero access to any riding outside an arena, so getting them out on trail was a big priority for Trainer.
Once the schedule was set, poor Trainer had the stressful job of gathering up over 30 horses for the day. When she asked if Gem could be used I jumped on the opportunity. Words fail me to express how amazing I think this entire thing is. Getting young riders out into the world, seeing how things go in other cultures, making new friends, and riding local horses? I’m jealous I never knew this even existed when I was young enough to participate.
I closed my office on Friday and blocked my surgery schedule. I think I was more excited to do this than any event where I rode my horse! Gem and I pulled into the barn around 745am and I got her settled into a stall for the morning. The forecast was ugly. A major storm was supposed to crash down on us at any moment, but the excitement of all the riders made it feel like the sun was shining all morning.
The riders got to choose what horse they wanted for the day. I know Gem looks a little plain next to all the fancy paint horses and tall, lean TBs so I worried nobody would really want her. A lovely girl from Australia stopped by and asked if she could ride her. I was so happy she wasn’t the last one picked in gym class!
I tacked her up in her jump gear and told the young rider, who was B rated in Pony Club which basically means she rides better than I likely ever will, that she could do anything she liked. There was nothing she could do to Gem to break her that I haven’t already tried.
The rain started coming down right as everyone wandered to the arena for the games, but since it is winter back at their home a warm summer rain wasn’t going to spoil their fun.
The first game was pole bending and I got to watch the practice run. The girl started trotting but soon got Gem flying at the canter and Gem was game on. She was even doing flying lead changes between the poles! Trainer laughed saying maybe I was persuing the wrong discipline with her.
Unfortunately, I missed the actual competitive round as I got wrangled to be interviewed by the local news station as an owner. I have zero intention of watching that horror show on TV. I’m just hoping they worked some magical editing skills to make me not look like a complete moron. Apparently though Gem did amazing. Trainer laughed again saying that this is the perfect example of a task based activity and how well Gem does when she gets the point. Sigh. Maybe I need to buy some blingy shirts and cowboy boots?
After that they played with a flag race, some cup stuff and spent about an hour and a half just having fun. Gem did amazing. I can’t stress enough how proud I am of her. Even in the torrential downpour, she stood quietly waiting her turn and was game on when asked. Trainer even mentioned how competitive she is and it is true. Gem hates conditioning/training but adores competition.
When all the games were finished, they took a short break and talked about the poker ride that was up next. I’m sure most people know what that is, but basically you go on trail and pick up cards along the way to make a poker hand. The team with the best hand wins.
They asked if I’d mind standing in the rain forest to hand out a card and so I missed most of the action. I did get to see Gem as she rode by me and the girl had a huge smile on her face. She was gushing about how awesome Gem had been for her and said her friends were jealous! Made my heart melt to hear.
After that it was time to untack and eat lunch. My rider gave me a special pin from her home Pony Club as a thank you. She told me that she had never ridden a horse who could trot so fast. In the games she would ask for more speed and Gem would just up her trotting. She did get her to canter a lot too, but she said her trot was so fast she didn’t need to canter. On trail, she could tell Gem wanted to trot and not walk so she let her. She apparently even took her over a down bank and a small roll top! She said Gem was hesitant but once she put her leg on and told her she really did want her to go, she popped over no issue. Sounds about right.
All too soon lunch was over and it was time to load up and go home. I wished her luck the rest of the week. This weekend is the first real competition with a CT that’s set up for BN with dressage then cross country and then next weekend is a 3′ jumper show for them. I was asked to jump judge on Sunday so I told her I’d be rooting for her.
I felt really lucky to be involved in this. Every rider was thankful and excited to be there and learn all they could about riding in the US. Maybe some day Wyatt will get into it and be on the team.