Rocking Horse from a Student’s Perpective
In late November my jumper McIntosh passed away. It was very difficult I have never gone through anything like this in my life. However, I was fortunate to have been leasing Cherry Hill Farms, Hat Trick and Elisa Wallace’s upper level event horse, Faris. My parents bought Hat Trick for Christmas for me. Hat Trick was a wonderful gift and now that I own Hat Trick it was really exciting for me to be competing at Rocking Horse.
While this is my first blog for TWS, perhaps a little introduction about me would be appropriate in order to allow a personal touch about my experiences as working student for TWS. My name is Briggs Surratt, 16 and a sophomore at Maclay High School in Tallahassee Florida. I began riding at 11 and rode at the hunter/jumper barn, Cavallo Farm in Llyod, Florida. I have only been eventing since spring of 2012 and began riding with Rick Wallace, an upper level event rider and trainer for two years. Without him I would not be where I am today and I am a working student for him at TWS’s base at Cherry Hill Farm in Tallahassee, Florida.
The preparation for Rocking Horse started in December 2012 and I was excited because Rick had indicated I might be ready to head out at the training level. My success in the fall which included a 2nd place finish on Hat Trick and 15th place on Faris in the Novice Rider Divisions gave me confidence that my horses were prepared for the move up. I will note that Rick has me competing in the hunter/jumpers as well with both Faris and Hat Trick (more on that later in another blog).
My year started off competing in the Gulf Coast Hunter Jumper Show in Pensacola in early January. I did very well and finished in 4th place in the Maclay Medal on Hat Trick and did the children’s adult/jumpers on him as well. Faris stayed home due to a small tendon tear he had in the fall of 2012 and we felt it best if we waited another month to do the 3’6 on him in the small junior hunters. The following week I competed Faris at Cavallo Farm’s local SHJA show and finished as champion in the Children’s Hunter Division at 3’3 with a clean sweep of the division.
Rick and I left Cherry Hill Farm for Rocking Horse on Thursday because Rick started competing on Friday with his upper level horse Ultimate Victory (Cody). He was competing in the Open Intermediate Division in preparation for going Advance in a couple of weeks back at Rocking Horse Winter II. His second horse, Ultimate Decision (Mark) was competing in his first event since Rick purchased him in November from Eugene Abello. Mark had never competed before and was going in the Novice Horse Division.
On Friday Rick rode Cody in the morning in dressage and scored 35.2. This placed them in the middle of the pack after the large OI division completed the dressage phase. Stadium was a couple hours later and the twisting course caused problems all day and Rick dropped two unfortunate rails. I noticed that Cody was jumping great and my opinion was that he was ready for cross country on Saturday.
After Rick was done showing Friday, he gave me a Dressage lesson with Hat Trick. We worked on stretching in the beginning, transitions, and getting him off the forehand. Hat Trick felt great and had we had an awesome lesson. I was feeling very confident. The other TWS students began arriving on Friday and the barn was alive with activity. Taylor Dileo and Parker Miller of course wanted my help with their tack trunks, and I swore that Taylor’s tack trunk had a dead body in it because it was so heavy.
On Saturday, Cody was second to go from TWS. Taylor Dileo and Rebel’s Legacy started off the students competing in the Novice Rider A division in dressage. Rick and Cody had a fantastic cross country coming off the course looking like he just had a small gallop around the property. Their clear round looked beautiful with only 1.6 time faults, Rick stated that he was very pleased with their go. This was only the beginning of a hectic day.
I went in for my Dressage test in the Novice Rider B division on Hat Trick at 1:35 and Rick on Mark at 1:40 in the Novice Horse division. Rick had just enough time to give me a quick warm up and the same for himself. He also had to give Taylor a quick jump warm up for her stadium. Previously Taylor scored a 33.0 in Dressage and was tied for 4th. Taylor went in and laid down a double clear in Stadium, which pushed her up to tied for 2nd in NRA.
There was not much time think about my test and I did my test at the same time as Rick and Mark were doing theirs in the ring next to me. I received a score of 29.6 which was my best ever dressage score in my short career in eventing. I beat my previous best of 31.5 on William owned by Elisa Wallace. (Elisa is Rick’s daughter who is upper level event rider from Jasper Georgia where Team Wallace North is stationed. Elisa was long- listed for the 2008 Beijing Olympics on her retired horses, Jackson and Leap of Faith.)
I was pumped and could not wait to do my stadium later in the day. Rick and Mark scored a scored an amazing 27.4 to the lead NH division. I got prepared to do my stadium while Parker was doing her dressage test at the Beginner Novice rider division. She scored a 34.5 and was tied for 5th going into Stadium. It was my turn for stadium. After a good warm up and Rick giving me my final instructions, I went in and had a double clear. Rick had to simultaneously watch Parker in Dressage and me in Stadium. Then Rick had to do his Stadium on Mark. Mark had two rails and some navigational issues during stadium but it seemed to be a very positive round for his first event and show for that matter.
Sunday was the most exciting day of the event. Rick on Mark had an amazing clear cross country with only 2.40 time penalties placing then in a final 10th place. Taylor was tied for 2nd going into cross country and she had a amazing double clear round. Rick had discussed the importance of optimum time not only for understanding our pace but in cases of ties. Closest to optimum breaks the tie in your favor. Taylor was closest to the optimum and the person in the lead had faults which pushed her into first place. I was next to do cross country and was in 2nd going into it. I had a nice and easy double clear round. When I finished I did not realize I was the last to go in my division, and did not hear the announcement saying if I double cleared I would win. So when I was coming of the course I thought I was in 2nd until I saw my placing on the board. I was ecstatic that I finished first and it was my first win of my career in the eventing world.
I am moving up to Training at the next event up at Poplar in February, and it is a great feeling that I will be moving up to the Training Division with a win under my belt. Now it was getting really interesting, two of the three TWS students at Rocking Horse had won in both Novice Rider A and Novice Rider B. It was Parker’s turn for her cross country, and she was tied for 3rd going into it. She doubled cleared and moved up to 1st place, since she was closest to the optimum. She came in 15 seconds to optimum and the person she was tied with came in 35 seconds from optimum. Now I could see why Rick was telling us the importance of this part of eventing.
It was Parker’s first show with her new horse Jos Baco, who was Jon Hollings ex-Advance horse which Parker got for Christmas as well!!!! TWS had three wins (which by the way is what Hat Trick is define as in sports terms – 3 wins) and was very remarkable that all three of us came in first. We could not have done it without Rick because of the way he pushes us in training everyday (not stirrup day at CHF is a painful day), and thank you Rick. We are all moving up at the next show, I will also be moving up to Training and Parker will move up to Novice at Poplar Place Farm in Georgia this weekend. Rick will be doing Advanced/Intermediate on Cody and Training/Novice on Mark ! We will miss Taylor this weekend and her trunk. I am really looking forward to the this weekend and in fact, I should go to bed since we leave in the morning.