I spent last weekend in Saugerties, NY, where the air temperature was over 100 degrees, much beastlier than my home further south along the NC/SC border. So much for cool summer breezes in the Northeast.
It was all the more remarkable because this was my annual foray to Lendon Gray’s Youth Dressage Festival, where I am on the show committee and where we had 325 kids competing, including 69 teams! Those of us on the committee spent the weekend concentrating on safety for the riders and horses in the hot weather, while we constantly scanned our cell phones for thunderstorm warnings. I don’t know how the kids do it (well, I do know, they’re young!). I was just sitting in a booth while judging, and I was constantly plied with bottled water, and I still got sick from the heat by mid-afternoon. My wonderful (!!) scribe put ice behind my neck, and I revived. I checked in later with our EMT and he reported that there were minor heat-related issues but everyone was fine. Whewww!
I was particularly thrilled to see Chloe Rizzi-Smith, all of 7 years old and maybe 40 pounds, competing at Training Level Test 3. Chloe is the daughter of my friend and former trainer Jessie Rizzi, and this was the first time I had seen them since I moved from New York to North Carolina four years ago. Chloe is a second-generation competitor at YDF. Jess won the Fourth Level division at the first YDF in 1999. It was called the NE Jr/YR Dressage Championship back then, and we’re all glad the name has been shortened. Jess used to teach me while holding Chloe in a pouch, and I used to hold Chloe while Jess was riding. Her little sister Ria also rode in the leadline class.
The festival had its own special Olympic moment Friday evening before the written test, when Lendon announced that Laura Graves had clinched the bronze medal for the U.S. dressage team in Rio that day. Laura was an early competitor at the YDF, so a shout-out went out to her from the crowd of kids, who were also thus inspired by the possibility that they might follow suit someday.
One of my jobs every year at the festival is to set up the Dressage Trail class, which was my brainstorm and thus became my responsibility. This meant getting up before people were even braiding on Sunday and setting up the ring, with the help of a volunteer flood of equally early risers. This class always provides wonderful picture moments every year since one of the obstacles involves picking up a bunch of carrots from atop a pile of hay and taking it to another pile of hay. It’s a great opportunity for the horses to get a snack and many of them attempt it, so a tug of war with the carrots often ensues. While I was judging freestyles, two other lucky judges got to do the trail class, but one of the mothers has promised to send me carrot twirling pictures and I will print those here next week if they arrive.