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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2012 Region 5 Maclay Finals

Bad Blogger here: I'm afraid that lately I've been doing a lot of writing on certain bulletin boards, instead of my own blog. More immediate feedback! However, I know that my past posts on Maclay classes have been pretty popular, so I'm back to give the RiderWriter view of the Region 5 final. Judges were Geoff Teal and Mary Lisa Leffler.

Here is the course:
It was designed by Richard Jeffery, from Bournemouth, England. Here are the riders/horses:
Sorry for the lousy photo... this is my only copy of the entries and I did my best.
It's not your eyes!
There were 31 entries. I noticed a number of people I remembered from last year, and one really obvious thing: NO boys at all! I guess all the guys from this region have aged out.

As I think you can tell from the map, the course was very twisty with lots of bending lines. What was really interesting is that a lot of the jumps were natural. Fence 1 is on the left in this photo:

It's hard to see in these pictures, but there was a zig-zag line of post-and-rails down the middle of the ring. The whole thing looked very Derby-ish, actually. As they did two at the show this isn't wholly surprising, and I know I saw quite a few of these Maclay horses and riders in the 3' Derby last Friday night. At any rate, I thought this was really cool for a Maclay class, and a good development.

I have to say, though, that I was a bit surprised at which jump caused the most trouble. Not a post-and-rail, not one of the "fake tree" fences (which my dog barked at hysterically when they moved them between rounds at the Friday Derby, much to my chagrin) - no, it was the fairly ordinary-looking stone wall. Here's just one of a number of unfortunate refusals:
In addition to the refusals there were a lot of chips, a deer jump or two, and somebody plowed right through it. What was the big deal? The long bending line, or the appearance? I'm not sure.

It definitely took a skilled rider to make this course look smooth. Most people didn't achieve that, and the ones who did stood out. Everybody sorted out into three groups: a top group, a middle group who rode pretty well, and those who had a refusal or a bunch of chips. I only saw one rider who was a jumped-loose trainwreck from start to finish and made me wonder how on earth she qualified.
The nervous crowd of trainers, grooms, parents and friends at the in-gate.
You could feel the tension.
Accordingly, I mostly agreed with the groupings for the flat phase. There were three; I thought it was nice that they allowed everyone to come back. They were asked for the usual W/T/C in both directions, although it was "mixed up" with a number of random transitions. I was surprised again when they were not asked for any extensions. I guarantee you they will be in KY! Also, no dropping of stirrups and posting the trot. I remember when that was de rigeur for a flat phase.

Nobody moved up from the bottom group but one rider did from the second group, and I was very happy about that since she's one of my favorites (go, Bethany!). Six were called back to test from the high group and I picked the top three, so I was pleased with my eye. (I may know what good equitation on the flat looks like, but just don't ask me to do it, LOL). One thing I noticed that really amused me; I spent a lot of time back in my junior days being told to turn my *(&#!)^@ toes in. This clearly does not matter a whit anymore. Lots of highly-placed toes out past George's "maximum 45-degree angle!"

The test was hard, harder than the last few I've seen (two years ago, IIRC, there was no test, which I thought was a shame). All the jumps were arranged in a zig-zag down the middle of the ring. It went like this:

- Counter-canter #8
- Hand-gallop to #12 (a long ways, about half the ring)
- Canter #5
- Halt
- Counter-canter #1
- Trot the stone wall, #2 (lowered to 2')
- Sitting trot, then walk out

The test course, from the other side of the ring:

The first rider to return lost her first counter-canter, had no gallop, a late halt and made a complete hash of the trot jump, barely trotting it and then knocking it down. Not pretty. The second rider also had just an okay, short trot. Once again, this surprised me since surely they practice these plenty - maybe just not walls? The last four to test did much better and Hunter Holloway really nailed it, which moved her from second to first place. I especially liked her real gallop (if you've read my entry about the national Final last year you know this is a pet peeve), but she also had a text-book trot fence, quiet halt and an authoritative sitting trot.

[Side note: Hunter's mom Brandi won the $25,000 GP earlier Saturday, so it was quite a day for the Holloway girls!]

I mostly agreed with the final ranking of the riders. Hunter absolutely deserved the win, that's for sure; she was poised, effective and just looked like she knew what she was doing. I think this additional year of experience has helped her a lot and she'll do very well at the Finals. Let's keep the Region 5 streak going!

1. Hunter Holloway
2. Caroline McLeece
3. Kristin Lutz
4. Katherine Woodruff
5. Savannah Talcott
6. Kaitlyn Alsup
7. Barbara Ann Merryman
8. Emily Hartley
9. Landrie Folsom
10. Bethany Bolan
11. K C Thompson
12. Blair Julia Wright
13. Mackenzie Clark
14. Reily Reiker
15. Colleen McKenzie

Random attire/tack observations: I saw an equal number of CO helmets (GR8 and AYR8) and GPA Speed Airs. The Lady Speed Airs (with a giant brim) just look goofy indoors. :-) The usual navy jackets, some with an extremely subtle pinstripe. Seemed like an equal number of wrap and traditional choker-collared shirts. I did not know you could still monogram a wrap collar, but I prefer the traditional nonetheless. Most of the horses wore jumping boots front and back, in a color that "blended in." I guess that's okay in an Eq class, because you still can't have them in Hunters as far as I know.

The top 11 from here will go to KY. Good luck, ladies!