My Silver Lining and the Road to the Dressage Nationals

My Silver Lining and the Road to the Dressage Nationals

By Elaine Harmon

In August on 2013, I lost my beloved horse, Lincoln. My heart was broken and full of sadness; I really didn’t think I could allow myself to love another horse as much as I loved him. With the support of the best husband and great friends, I started riding again. I enjoyed the riding and was grateful for the opportunity, but in my heart, I knew I needed the bond of my own horse. So I started looking…and looking, and looking. I tried a few nice horses but the fit just wasn’t there. 

I was on the Dressage Daily website one day and there she was. She instantly caught my eye, but she was young, chestnut, and a mare! Not at all what I was looking for…but I liked her! So, with the support and guidance of my husband, friends, and trainers Linda Strine and Lynn Quast, I decided to give her a try. In early February of this year, Linda and I headed to Huntsville, Alabama to try this young mare. I liked her as soon as I saw her. She was beautiful and sweet, we bonded instantly. Not so fast, my head said, let’s see how she is under saddle. She was just what I needed and wanted, quiet, sweet, with a good brain. I was hooked!

In mid February, in the cold and snow, Gerlinde Beckers and I traveled to Huntsville to bring Roslyn home. Each day since then, our bond has gotten even stronger and my heart is once again filled with joy.

Having a young horse and starting all over is a lot of fun, but very humbling. She is a blank slate which is great. She responds to the things I do right but also to the things I do wrong. She is tolerant but depends on me to show her the way, therefore making me a more correct rider.

After our first month together, our training was going well so we decided to start getting some show experience. Our first schooling show went well, so a month later we went to our first Recognized Dressage Show. We received a qualifying score for Regional Championships at Training level. I thought to myself, ‘Is it too soon to try and qualify for Regionals?’ She is young and I have only had her for a few months, but things were going so well, so why not give it a try? The experience would be good for both of us, so off to Texas we went to try and get our final qualifying score. We received our qualifying score and returned to Katy, Texas in early October for the USDF Region 9 Championships. I had no expectations because we had only been together as a team for seven months; I really just wanted to go for the experience and training.

The Regional Championships are very exciting and overwhelming, especially for a young horse. There are horses everywhere, flowers, vendors, and scary noises, especially the very large, loud blackbirds that have no fear of horses! We began our day with one very large buck in our warm-up test that the judge was very impressed by—unfortunately we didn’t get extra points for it! From then on, Roslyn was a star! She handled everything like she had done it a hundred times. We received a 69.1%, 6th place, in our USDF Championship class. I was thrilled with my girl and so proud of all we had accomplished in such a short time and the trust we had developed in one another. I soon learned from the USDF that our performance/score at Regionals had earned us an invitation to the US Dressage Finals in Lexington, Kentucky. The National Championships? Really? Me? Wow! I was on Cloud 9!

The US Dressage Finals consists of the top horse/rider combinations from each of the nine Regional Championships. It is open to Open and Adult Amateur riders based on their placing and score at their Regional Championships. It was held in early November, about one month after our Regional Championships, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. I was so excited, but then the reality set in. Kentucky is a long way away, 12-13 hours. How would we get there? It is such an honor and would be such a great experience, so I discussed it with my husband, Roy, and my trainer Lynn Quast and there was no question—we were going!!

It was a very pleasant 70 degree November morning when Lynn Quast, Kimberly Schultz, Lesley Johnson, and myself (and of course Miss Roslyn) left for Kentucky. It would take all four of us to make this happen. The weather changed to cold, windy, and rainy by the time we arrived in the dark at the Kentucky Horse Park. The next morning, I quickly became overwhelmed! The Horse Park is huge! So big that we rented a golf cart to get around. There were approximately 500 horses from all over the United States. I met people from coast to coast, from Washington State to South Carolina and even Alaska!

I remember feeling such a range of emotions from fear and inadequacy to excitement and pride. It was such a personal accomplishment and an honor to earn a qualifying score and an invitation to the Finals! As far as I know, we were the only horse/rider combination representing the state of Louisiana—but No Pressure!!

When I went to the Alltech arena to pick up my packet, I became very emotional, tears of pride and joy filled my eyes. This was really happening. Roslyn and I were a team and we were competing in the US Dressage Finals! I had transitioned from a spectator to a competitor. It was a special and surreal moment.

The weather stayed cold and windy until the very last day when the sun finally came out (just in time for my Championship ride!) The horse gods were smiling on me. The competition was intimidating and the quality of horses spectacular! As I entered the warm-up area, one particular horse caught my eye. Wow, this horse was fabulous! Surely he was showing at least Second level…Nope—he was my competition!!

As I finished my warm-up and entered the competition arena, I looked up and saw our name in lights. A huge smile came over my face and I knew everything was going to be okay. I wanted to soak it all in and enjoy every moment of this special time.

Roslyn was such a good girl, she did everything I asked. At the end of our ride, tears of pride and joy once again filled my eyes. We did it!! No, we didn’t win anything, but after only 7 months together, my young, chestnut mare and I had successfully and respectably competed at the US Dressage Finals. What a rush! I have been on a high ever since and smile every time I think about the experience.

I would like to thank Lynn, Kimberly, and Lesley for taking me to Kentucky. We worked hard but laughed and shopped a lot! I feel like Folsom, Louisiana, SEDA, and Equi-Best Equestrian Center were well represented.

I am so grateful to my family and friends for all of their love, support, and encouragement. They have made such a special time in my life even more special. I am very lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful people. They have helped me realize that there is always a silver lining, so never give up hope and never give up your dreams.

Elaine Harmon and Roslyn KB at Regionals. Photo © Susan Stickle

Elaine Harmon and Roslyn KB at Regionals. Photo © Susan Stickle

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