Competing in a Classic 3-Day was a wonderful, educational and thrilling experience. This past October, Quinn and I did the Novice 3-Day at Waredaca and if doing a 3-Day is on your bucket list…I say JUST DO IT! There is nothing more satisfying than time spent with your horse training for it, the actual four days immersed in activities and competition with family and friends and on the final day cantering thru the finish flags in show jumping. I had not competed in a long format 3 day in more than 15 years and yes, I do feel a bit old. Way back when, I competed in two 3-days at the One Star/Preliminary level. I tried to look myself up on the USEA rider page to see exactly when I did my 3-Days but records are not listed that far back. Heading into the Waredaca challenge, as age snuck up on me and time passed, it seems I’ve forgotten a lot of things. So here is a recap of the four days, for your benefit and pleasure as well as mine.
In early September, after we had qualified, I decided to send in my entry to Waredaca. At first, I was a little reluctant, as I had never been to an away show with Quinn. It’s also my busy work season so taking time off is a bit tricky. Three other friends and riders from Nancy Ligon’s Firefly Farm, where I train and board were going . We headed off bright and early at 4:00 a.m. on the Thursday of. I trailered separately because I had so much gear to take. I’d been packing for over a week prior. When planning for a 3-Day you certainly need a lot of equipment, supplies, clothing (including clothes for all types of weather and temperatures and for the jog) and of course lots of food. My truck and trailer were both packed to the brim with all.
We arrived at about 7:30 a.m., just in time to settle our horses into their temporary stabling. Once they were settled we headed off to the briefing where we met all the helpful officials and volunteers who were there throughout the weekend to assist. During the briefing they went over the schedule and any details that we might need such as: where to park and ride on the property, which volunteer or official was in charge of what, the location of the jog, dressage, XC, roads and tracks, steeplechase, show jumping and the pub. Did I say pub?!?! Yes! There is a Waredaca Brewing Company on the grounds and their beer tasted so good after XC.
After the briefing, the veterinarian Dr. Chad Davis, of Davis Equine, examined all of our horses so he would have a base line on each horse. Then we quickly got to work getting our horses cleaned up and braided and ourselves dressed so we could be ready for the first horse inspection (also referred to as “the jog”). Earlier, at the briefing, Eric Smiley, one of the clinicians, who is also an international competitor and FEI official, showed us the correct way to present and jog our horses for the ground jury. I’m grateful for his tips, as I had forgotten a few things about how to properly present my horse. Thankfully, upon presenting and jogging, Quinn and I “were accepted.” After the jog, both the novice and training riders (about 70 of us) split up and loaded into trucks. We were driven out on roads and tracks and taught all about the path and gates we needed to go thru. Getting lost on roads and tracks or falling off was indeed one of my fears from the time I entered the event. I am happy to report neither occurred on endurance day. In the afternoon, there was a dressage test overview clinic, given by Pam Wiedemann and Jane Cory (both officials on the ground jury) where we watched a demo rider ride our test. They talked us thru what we saw and happily welcomed and answered our questions. Right after, Eric took us out on the XC course to walk and get our first glimpse of the course. Eric shared insights and there were plenty of laughs as he talked and walked. He is a wealth of knowledge but he always keeps things light and funny which seemed to calm my nerves throughout the weekend. In the evening Waredaca hosted a dinner featuring more informative talks about the weekend. I was so exhausted at dinner that I nearly had my head in my plate. That night, due to mental overload and physical fatigue, I was seriously worried that I might not be able to complete the weekend.
After a good night’s sleep where I did not wake once, I rose feeling refreshed and ready for the first day of competition which was dressage. Even after lots of hand walking on Thursday, Quinn was a bit up on Friday morning when I first put my foot in the stirrup. Nancy met me at warm up and he soon settled down and went to work. I love this trait about him! Once he has a moment to settle and we begin working he is usually all business. He put in a nice and respectable test and to my surprise we ended up in 2nd place after the first day of competition. That afternoon we had the opportunity to school two steeplechase fences with Eric coaching us through it. We were also able to hack out on roads and tracks. I can’t describe the degree of excitement it is to gallop that fast over steeplechase fences. It is so exhilarating! If I could bottle and sell the adrenaline rush you get after doing steeplechase I would be a millionaire. Everyone should experience that high. On Friday, after we finished in the barn, Waredaca hosted another dinner with Andrea Waldo, a sports psychologist, speaking on "How to bring you’re A-Game" to the event. Eric’s practice session, another XC walk and Andrea’s talk had me prepared for Saturday.
Saturday morning it was game on. I had my times for phase A (roads and tracks), B, (steeplechase), C (roads and tracks) and D (XC) all taped on my arm under a plastic sleeve in case of rain or excessive sweat. I was prepared and I had formulated a detailed plan on how to ride everything. In addition, I had an amazing team in place to help. My husband, Bill, and my friend Sandy were my vet box crew and they were ready to meet and help Quinn and I when we trotted in before XC. My friend Nan was stationed at the end of Steeplechase to check that Quinn still had all of his four shoes. Nancy and the Firefly team were there and ready in case I needed anything.
The weather and temperatures were perfect as we headed off on phase A. We came to Phase B with a couple minutes to spare. We walked a bit, took a breath and when it was our turn we took off and I tried to stay out of Quinn’s way as we blazed around the track and 5 fences in 2:16. Our first fence was an …”o’h S#%!… fence but Quinn said Mom, I’ve got this. And he did. As we pulled up through the finish flags, we trotted by Nan, and she gave me a thumbs up indicating we indeed had all our shoes. We immediately continued on to phase C which was actually Phase A backwards with a few extra gates and kilometers. Phase C is ridden at the trot but you do get to a chance to walk here and there. It is meant as a recovery phase before you get to the vet box where you have ten minutes to recover and regroup before XC. We arrived to the vet box a couple minutes early as planned. In the box, Dr. Davis and his team of veterinarians, checked Quinn’s pulse, respiration and temperature when he entered and then five minutes later he was rechecked by the same team and cleared to go out on course. I hopped back on and off we went. The course was a challenging one with two waters and many questions to keep both of us on our toes. Quinn rocked it and we finished at 6:16 …14 seconds fast of the optimum time of 6:30. After we left the XC recovery box, Quinn had two baths, settled in his stall for some down time and then was blanketed, walked, wrapped, hugged and given several different types of treats to taste test.
Sunday morning I woke early to braid and prep for the final horse inspection and jog. Quinn jogged sound and was “accepted.” Hearing my favorite announcer, Brian O’Connor, say those words put a swell in my heart and a smile on my face. Show jumping was held a few hours later and since we were still in second place Quinn and I were scheduled for second to last to go. I had butterflies in my stomach as Nancy warmed me up but as I entered the ring I took a breath, put my game face on and said to myself, follow your plan and JUST DO IT. We had a clear round and so did the rider in front of us. We ended up finishing 2nd on our dressage score of a 26 out of 38 riders and we also came away with the following awards: Best Placed Amateur, Best Placed Novice Level Amateur Riding a Gelding and Novice Champion TIP (Thoroughbred Incentive Program).
A huge thank you to OVCTA for giving me this scholarship to help defray some of the expenses and the opportunity to share my experience. If competing in a Classic 3 Day is on your bucket list, I highly encourage you to do it or if you just want to give back to the sport please volunteer at Waredaca. It’s such a great four days and you’ll learn so much valuable information about the Classic 3 Day.
Here are some sites to browse at your leisure.
A big thank you to Nancy Ligon for the wonderful images