Getting to ride in one of the Big Eq finals classes is a dream for many equestrians. I’m sure those of us that haven’t been so lucky wonder what it’s like to ride one of those courses as we watch each rider do their round – I know I do! I’m happy to announce that Kendra Harnch, who rode at the Medal Finals at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, wrote a guest post about her trip to finals including how she rode the course with her horse, Squish!
You can check out Kendra & Squish’s round here, thanks to USEF Network!
ps. If the video does not load, you can click the search bar and type in “Kendra.”
Hi guys! My name is Kendra Harnch or as some of you may know me by my Twitter name “ACircuitRoyalty.” I was ecstatic when Jess asked me to write a synopsis on my experience at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. It has been an absolute roller coaster of emotions throughout this past year.
Let’s back up a few months and talk about when my eq horse went suddenly lame. His name is Vanquish aka “Squish.” He is a 16’1”, dark bay, 10 year old gelding. We were two weeks out from attending WEF for the circuit and Squish suddenly went lame. We quickly realized Squish needed a few well-deserved months off. Throughout the circuit I tried multitudes of horses, and none of them were the correct fit. I was ready to accept that an eq final was not in my future. As we were approaching our summer show in Venice, FL, our vet recommended giving Squish a try in the show ring. Squish had been back about a month or so at that point. I showed him in his first “Big Eq” class back, and we won the Pessoa Medal his first show back. I was overwhelmed with happiness and the sudden flow of emotions that maybe I could pursue my goal after all.
Squish and I qualified for the Pessoa Medal Final and Maclay Regionals within a month and a half of the cut-off date. To say it was a bit of an adventure would be a definite understatement.
My family has their own private farm and my brother rides as well. Squish and I did not change much on our daily routine; he spends every night, all night, outside. We trail rode and had good flats during the week. A week or so prior to Finals, I went to Waters Edge with Waddy Oursler. He helped me prepare both mentally and “physically” with Squish. I was a bit nervous for this year because the past year when I showed at the Pennsylvania National Horseshow in the Pessoa Medal Finals I did not have the round I wanted. I was very determined to make this year a successful and fun one for both me and Squish.
My mom, brother and I loaded into the truck with trailer in tow on October 7, arriving at the Pennsylvania National Horseshow on the 8th. With in owning our own farm we do it all ourselves with no grooms or hired help. This year my brother was also competing the second week of Harrisburg. Personally I felt that having my brother there to talk about the nerves and how the course was helped calm me down.
I flatted Squish on Thursday in the practice ring and he felt awesome. On Friday we flatted very early, and Squish didn’t even bat an eye. Later that day all the riders from my barn had a quick lesson to school the horses. Saturday rolled around, and it was time for the un-judged schooling in the ring where you get to make up your own course and jump around the ring for 90 seconds. I went in the first group of riders; Squish had never felt so ready before. We jumped a few in the regular and small schooling ring and went in the show ring. The schooling went really well and Squish felt confident, as did I. I gave him one more quick flat in the ring around 10 pm. Finally it was Sunday, and I woke up feeling ready to have a great round. I hurried to go feed and muck Squishy’s stall and take him for a quick walk before the 6:15 am course walk. As I walked into the ring and saw the course in the actual ring instead of on the printer paper I was beyond excited.
The first jump looked like so much fun, tons of brush with hay bales underneath. After the first jump there was a very forward four stride to a balancing five or a bit of a going four. We all knew the judges would be looking for a steady five after such a forward line. My goal was to catch a fluid solid distance out of the corner to the four stride while being able to immediately balance up for the five stride. Unfortunately I balanced Squish just a bit too much to the immediate five and bent out for the six. I wasn’t going to let that stop me from having a good rest of my round. I continued to the gate for the flowing eight stride, and we met it really well. I then looked for the coop jump, which lined up with the Swedish oxer by the in-gate. That line could have been ridden in either a going eight or a “right there” nine. I chose to do the right there nine with Squish as he usually lands right, and I didn’t want to risk him falling off the lead for the forward eight. After we completed that we slowed down and balanced for the triple combination which was a one stride to a two stride. We were nearing the end of the course at this point. I had a good approach to the skinny birch jump, which was a forward five strides to the oxer. Squish was right there for me as we moved up. Finally the last jump was approaching and coincidentally it was the first jump one last time. I got a bit picky to it, but it worked out for Squish and I as he jumped it beautifully.
As I was exiting the ring I couldn’t contain my happiness. I jumped off of Squish and gave him a plethora of mints that I keep in my pocket for him. Walking through the tunnel to meet my mom and Frank I was replaying it all in my head, anxious to hear their opinions on the course. My mom was over the moon. It was certainly a huge improvement from last year. Frank was very supportive and helped me analyze the course.
Afterwards while I was washing Squish I was over the moon with happiness and most importantly so proud of Squish. I came to the Pennsylvania National Horseshow and achieved my goal, which for a good portion of the year wasn’t looking so promising.
After it was all over I sat down and reviewed the past week and realized that between the nerves and the emotions I actually had a ton of fun. That is what riding is all about to me: having fun and enjoying the love I have for my horses. Overall I would say my experience at Pessoa Medal Finals was a personal success.
I will always be grateful to the people who made this experience possible for me. My mom, my trainers and most importantly my amazing horse Vanquish. I would also like to give a very special shout out to ALL the online support I received you’ll never know how much it meant to me and Squish.
All photos are property of Kendra Harnch. Please do not use without permission.