Riders Gallop into Summer
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As the school year comes to a close, the equestrians at Jamestown are shifting their focus onto every rider’s’ priority: the summer horse show season. Unlike other sports, horseback riders have no “off season,” but the summer season is the host of the majority of the shows in a year, leading up to the final competitions of the year.
Sophomore Devin Francis and junior Meredith Keesee are two of these students, who have a full season of shows lined up once or twice every weekend on the Middle Peninsula Horse Show Association and Hampton Roads Horse Show Series, two bigger horse show series of the tidewater area.
Both plan on chasing points through the Virginia Horse Shows Association (VHSA).Every year, the VHSA has an end of the year awards banquet for riders with the highest points out of each division, giving ribbons and silver plates or trophies to riders that rank first through eighth out of the state.
Though Francis and Keesee ride together at the same barn, they each have a different set of goals. A year end goal for Francis is to jump three feet at the VHSA year end finals, competing in the children’s hunter, thoroughbred hunter and pleasure divisions if she feels that she and her horse have improved enough. Devin said “this new horse, I’ve been riding her for a month. I have to learn more about her.”
Meredith’s goals are slightly more personal. Meredith said, “My biggest goal for the year is to get rid of my bad habits, like dropping my right shoulder and letting my hands get uneven. My smaller goals are just to grow more confident over bigger jumps and to be the best I can be for my horse.”
In the South Eastern area of Virginia, riders on the horse show circuits are extremely competitive. Many of the riders are some of the best in the state, and Devin is ready to become one of the big name riders of the area. Speculating on the competitiveness of the sport, Devin said, “Over the winter, I had to ride some difficult horses and learn how to handle myself in such a competitive area.”
Meredith says her most difficult part of the winter was not focusing on competing in such a competitive area, but that she was not sure if she would have a constant show horse to compete on. Meredith has had her new horse, Jag, for about five weeks, and said, “He is an eighteen year old ex-eventer who is slowly settling into the hunter pace, but we are still learning each other.” She has no concerns for the show season and is more focused on learning about Jag.
Meredith and Devin will both be competing in several divisions, but one of the most competitive will be the children’s hunter division. They will be competing against up to fifteen other experienced horse and rider combinations, and though they both will surely have their difficulties over the summer like every rider, especially with new horses, the show season is already off to a great start.
At the first horse show of the season, hosted by Foxtail Farm at the Wakefield 4-H center for the HRHSS, Devin and her horse, Guinevere, were champion of the children’s hunter, competing against twelve other combinations of talented horses and riders who have won awards nationally and statewide for many years. Meredith did not compete at the first horse show, but seems optimistic and ready to take on the children’s hunter with her new partner.
Devin says she is “worried about overall drama, like any other sport,” such as gossip and poor sportsmanship, but both she and Meredith are looking forward to a season full of ups and downs with their new partners, Guenevere and Jag.