Remembering the Festival of Champions

What a whirlwind these past few weeks have been.

Just last month, I was competing my young stallion, Faolan, in the Intermediare national championships at the Dutta Corp. Festival of Champions, in Gladstone, New Jersey, home of the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation.

Since I live less than an hour from that historic venue, I felt like the home town girl with a very loud cheering section. It was awesome to be able to have so many friends and family there to support us.

Early this year, when I went down to Florida to compete in some CDIs, I had Gladstone in the back of my mind. I knew it might be a longshot for us, since Faolan is so young at only eight years old, and we’re both very new to the CDI ring.

As the season went on and I could feel my horse improve, it became a goal. When we got our invitation less than two weeks before the show, I was incredibly excited. Being from New Jersey, I would always go to the Festival of Champions to watch the best horses and riders in the country compete. When I received the invitation from the U.S. Equestrian Federation, it truly felt like a dream coming true.

My goal was to qualify to be there. After we received our invite, my plan was to pretty much do our best, but mostly just enjoy the experience. All of the Intermediare and Grand Prix championship horses were stabled in the main barn. It was truly awesome to spend a week in that wonderful stable with my horse and some of our country’s best riders.

We were in the downstairs section of the main barn, with the same group of horses and riders that we were stabled with in most of the CDIs in Florida, so it was great to see all the familiar faces. The camaraderie back in the barns was awesome, as everyone supported each other. I also met a few of the West Coast riders who were stabled upstairs. They were super nice, and had all traveled so far to be there.

The competition itself was great, although it got incredibly hot for a few of the days we were competing. My horse finished better in the placings every time we went down center line. He was 10th in the Intermediare Freestyle on the last day of competition, and ended up 11th overall in the championship out of 16 horses. He’s still so young, and we have so many areas in which we need to improve, but I was so incredibly proud of him. It felt like we truly belonged there, and that was the best feeling ever!

Being at the USET, and in those incredible stables, with all of those horses and riders, was very inspirational—especially thinking back to all the great names that have been there over the decades. It gives you more drive to keep doing what we love.

Hearing the speeches at the competitors’ party and watching the videos from the Olympics in Rio, inside the main rotunda at Gladstone, made us all feel part of something special. Hopefully we’ll be back at the Festival for more years to come.

In September, I’ll be competing in the CDIs in Saugerties and at Dressage at Devon, so we have a lot to do before then. Look for my next blog—I’ll tell you how we’re getting ready for our upcoming shows. 






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