by Sophie St.Clair
In my run up to the USHJA Children’s & Adult Amateur Western Regional Jumper Championship I have been waiting for two things most expectantly. First, to officially be invited to compete from the USHJA and Zone 10 Jumper Committee. Second, to see what my ranking will be when my points are tabulated. This week both have been revealed.
On Tuesday, I received the letter from USHJA congratulating me and inviting me to compete! I suspected on some level that I was going to the championship because the numbers thankfully aren’t subjective. I had enough points accumulated to find myself in the top 12 applicants. Even if all 12 of the top applicants continued to earn points and the ranking churned over each week I still felt I would be in the running. But until you are invited officially, you aren’t guaranteed a spot. What makes this letter so momentous is that it is a year’s worth of planning, preparation, competition, strategy, frustration, elation, commitment and hard work culminating in one letter acknowledging that I, along with my partner Sjapoo, deserve to be there.
In December of last year I heard this newly formed Championship was coming. I had heard mention of it earlier in 2012 but not until the end of that year had it been announced officially. The second I heard it was on my mother, my trainer David Sterckx and I sat down to determine what our plan was for 2013. Previously, I had wanted to move up to the 1.20M. I had already finished fifth in the 2012 Zone 10 Children’s Jumper Division. But David knew that for me to go up we needed some retooling. In his mind we would need to adjust from lucky winning rides to strategic rides that would result in wins. And, as I would learn, there’s a big difference. When this Championship presented itself it was the perfect vehicle to accomplish that goal. Initially, I wasn’t so sure about another year at 1.10M and perceived this to be a step back. Now, in this last year, I have learned so much that with new eyes I can see it was the mature, long game decision.
Early in my year of re-education I experienced hit and miss results. I wasn’t able to put behind me my need for speed and crazy passion to win. In fact, what was worse, I was scaring Sjapoo. At one point, I dropped down to the Low Children’s Jumper classes for both me and Sjapoo to regain our confidence. David said it was for an undetermined amount of time and only when we began riding in the manner he was looking for would that change. At the time, I remember thinking “I’m stepping back again! I am risking valuable time earning points in the Children’s Jumpers.” David said, “Forget about the Championship. If it’s supposed to happen it will. What’s more important is getting it right.”
This week the proof was in the results. The California standings for the Regional Jumper Championship were updated on Wednesday. It reported me and Sjapoo sitting in first place in California. Even if I hold that spot just for a moment or if I am lucky enough to carry that accomplishment with me into the Championship it will be another confirmation that I have really put in the work this year.
Happy as I am about the current standings I know that many variables play a part in determining the ranking of the riders. Variables like how many shows did we all go to, how well did we perform at those shows, did we split time between more than one horse, did schoolwork play a part, and the list is too numerous to be complete. All are very good riders and real competitors. While I can be proud for a moment and enjoy the recognition, I know that I have my work cut out for me. And that work won’t end when the Championship is over. These are my peers, my contemporaries, the same people I will be seeing at the shows and in my classes for years to come. All of these riders want to win and to be competing with them is both an honor and a privilege. It’s truly anyone’s guess which States teams and which individuals will take home the honors that week. But we can all be proud of our accomplishment in this inaugural year of the USHJA Children’s and Adult Amateur Regional Jumper Championship. We made it!