My whole European experience this summer has been amazing. I have been thrilled with Wizard as we were able to produce stronger and more consistent performances each time we went down centerline.
Finishing in the top 10 at Aachen was incredible and I wanted to keep the momentum going, so I chose to compete at the CDI in Verden, Germany, held three weeks after Aachen.
I often say that one of the hardest parts of our sport is finding a balance that keeps your horses improving, but also keeps them physically and mentally happy and eager to work. After Aachen, I gave Wizard a whole week to decompress and rest and just have fun. He went in his turnout, we went on long trail rides and played with some cavaletti work to keep him fit and mix up his routine a bit.
During this week, I spent time watching the videos of my rides from the show, going over the comments from my tests, and coming up with a plan of what I wanted to improve on for the next competition. Then it was back to work, preparing for the Verden CDI with a clear plan of what I wanted to work on, so that every minute of my schooling time could be well spent.
At this point, Wizard knows his job, so now its up to me to look at my tests and say to myself, "How can I make a 7 become a 7.5, and 7.5 become an 8?" It comes down to little things like making sure you know exactly where and how you want to prepare for each movement, and figuring out where you can push for a little more and where you need to stay safe.
So with this plan in my mind, we headed off to Verden. I had been warned that the Verden atmosphere could be quite a lot for some horses to handle, but Wizard seemed to be pretty cool with all the chaos and commotion going on there. The World Young Horse Championships are held during the same show there, and that was amazing to watch.
I was like a kid in a candy store, drooling over all the incredibly gorgeous young horses flying around the rings! It was very eye-opening to see the quality of their 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-year-old horses over here. I even met the people who owned Wizard when he was a 3-year-old stallion. I found out that Wizard had shown as a 3-year-old in the very same ring where I was riding my Grand Prix test with him 12 years later. Pretty cool!
I was very happy with the way Wizard handled all the commotion, including everyone pulling out their umbrellas when the rain started, right as we were going down centerline for our Grand Prix test. I thought we were able to produce one of our most powerful and dynamic Grand Prix rides yet, and the scores reflected it with a solid 71.74 percent There were still areas where little rider mistakes cost me points, and I am confident we can score higher yet, when I clean those up. But it was our best Grand Prix test so far in Europe, and I was thrilled with the direction our work is going.
A few days after we got home from the show the final team for the World Equestrian Games was announced, and I was overjoyed that Wizard and I were named to it! It is such an incredible honor to get to ride for the USA, and I still can hardly believe that Wizard has matured from a hot-head rambunctious small tour horse, to carrying me to Brentina Cup champion, the Olympics and now a World Equestrian Games. It has been such an incredible journey with him, with so many ups and downs along the way.
I can’t begin to thank the Thomas family enough for giving me the opportunity to ride such an amazing horse, and Debbie McDonald for her never-ending dedication and help. My good friend, Liz Austin, sent me a quote when she heard I made the team, and I thought it summed up the whole journey of horses so well: "You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything, Or it could be nothing. But you keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and realize you’ve climbed a mountain."
I just feel so incredibly thankful to be able to keep climbing these "mountains" with Wizard!