(published on Ecogold blog, too!)
After several false starts, I was able to meet up and walk the cross country course with Hannah Sue Burnett. Hannah, a lovely, athletic, charming woman was eager to accommodate my needs (I had fractured a heel a few months ago, and couldn’t walk as fast as I used to!), and to answer all my questions as we walked. I felt like Cinderella…or perhaps Kate Middleton!
The first few jumps, she explained, were “easy”…save one, they were downhill approaches, and while the size/spread were intimidating to me, Hannah assured me that her horse would have no problem with them. “He’s very honest, and he’ll try to do anything I point him at!” Hannah assured me. She likes to see her stride and ride to it, something she’s been doing since she was twelve years old, when she rode her pony up to Preliminary.
I asked her what her favorite part of eventing, and she told me that stadium jumping was her favorite because, and I quote, she is a “control freak”. She loves the measured step, seeing the exact stride, and body control of stadium. I asked if she liked dressage, too, and she laughed; “I should, and I guess I do. I’m learning to love it. We’ve been working really hard on it, and I think we’re on the verge of a breakthrough. I’m really excited about tomorrow.” Hannah rides “Nike” at 10 tomorrow, first rider tomorrow!
Her biggest challenge, particularly in dressage, is that she expects a lot of her horses, and then fears that she puts too much pressure on them. In cross country, her biggest “bugaboo” is, believe it not, smaller fences! “When you ride the big fences all the time and are suddenly confronted with a smaller one, you lose the ability to see your stride, and both you and your horse come to it underpowered/tentative!” I can only imagine what THAT must feel like!
Another challenge that’s come to the fore only recently is that of remembering courses. “I’ve always been really good at remembering courses, dressage tests, and so forth. But as I ride more horses in competition at different levels, I am suddenly having brain farts; at Red Hills I had three horses at three levels, and while the SJ fences were the same, the courses were different. I accidently left a fence out of one of the levels that was left out in another. That type of thing never happened before! So I’m going to have to work harder to learn my tests/courses.”
I asked her how she kept positive when walking (and riding) a course, and Hannah responded that being positive and thinking ahead were some of the biggest challenges of riding. As she walks her course, she gives herself a positive pep talk, and thinks about how she’ll ride each fence—THEN she walks and thinks about thinking about the NEXT fence as she comes to the fence before it. “It’s sort of like thinking with peripheral vision” Hannah noted. What a great illustration….I’ll have to work on that!
As we finished, I asked about her “Equestrian Bucket List”. Hannah would love to be on a US team, win a medal, and ride in England.
Hannah explained that she had to hurry; she was singing at a memorial service for eventing organizing legend Rebecca Broussard. “You SING?” I asked incredulously. Yes, Hannah sings at weddings and so forth (but she gets nervous when she’s in front of people). “It’s something I’d like to do more of after I retire from eventing,” Hannah mused. “I love singing.” When I asked her what she wanted to do with it, Hannah replied: “I want to be a rock star!”
Rock on, Hannah! I’ll be cheering for you tomorrow!