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Versatile Horse and Rider Success! (Part Two)

Published: 11/30/2009
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Read this second installment of Sherrye Johnson-Trafton experience at the Equine Affaire's Versatile Horse & Rider Competition.

For more information on Sherrye and Sable Oak Equestrian Center, click here.
A special thanks to Tony DeCosta for these great photos. Click here for Tony's site.

By Sherrye Johnson-Trafton
I set out for Springfield on November 11th in the early morning with all my equipment, tack, clothes, practice props and of course, Cat and Slick. I had my faithful sidekicks: my mom Pat Johnson, and client/friend Ona Lee Corrigan who came along for the adventure.
We arrived safely in Springfield 3 ½ hours later. The vet approved our health papers and then we were off to find the stall assignments and pick up the packet that contained the patterns for the competition. I eagerly read the Versatility Competition course and the order of go. A smile spread across my face as I realized that I had studied and practiced all the right things over the summer. I even guessed right about the haunted tunnel, consecutive jumps and the Garroche pole obstacles; all three were part of the preliminary course.
After my mom, Ona and I unloaded the horses and made sure they were comfy we took the truck and trailer to the camper area behind the giant slide on the other side of the fairgrounds. We set up camp and had lunch before heading back to the stalling area to set up our tack stall.
I then trucked off to the Stroh building to help set up the AQHA Region 6 booth. I waited until the practice for Fantasia was over in the coliseum before making my way with my homemade Garroche pole to practice. I’d like to say a big thank you to my friend Raeanne Bowden who lent me the material!
There were just a few folks practicing at that time of night and it got real quiet after 11pm. This was great because I was able to work on relaxation, giving to the bit and transitions while practicing the pattern in my mind. It was a dream come true to have the place all to myself for practice.
I got back to the barn, put blankets and hoods on my horses so they would be warm despite their very short hair coats. When I made it back to the camper around midnight, my sidekicks were sound asleep. I washed up and I went over the course map one last time before going to sleep.
It was an early rise the next day. I was up at 4:30am and off to the barn to feed up. It was still chilly so I put puffy winter coolers on after saddling. I ponied Slick and Cat to the coliseum so I could continue practicing the moves of the course with my imagination. I got the horses back to the barn by 7 am and then I went back to the camper to shower and get ready for opening day.
I was going to be the 9am-1pm volunteer AQHA Professional Horseman at the AQHA Region 6 booth. I had to have Slick ready by 4pm for a photographing horses demo with Tony DeCosta What a ham Slick was for the camera and the crowd!
After barn work that evening, the crew and I attended Fantasia along with friend Donna Rosciti. I just loved the Canadian Cowgirls and their Pony Man skit. It was very touching and an out of the box presentation that I am sure really touched many families with children that use therapeutic riding.
Overall, it was a very entertaining night and we all had a ball. I was off to bed at 11pm that night only to rise early so that we could load up the golf cart with my props and jumps so I could practice some more.
Friday morning my pit crew helped me set up my props. While I was practicing, a few other competitors came in and I invited them to use my obstacles since it was not a closed practice session. Joann and Kim took me up on my offer. We had fun but had to clean up my props quickly as other non- competitors came in to practice that morning. The day passed much like the last: eat, shower, volunteer, and then back to the camper to get my English attire and get ready for the first nights preliminary round.
My husband, John, and students arrived late that afternoon to help lend a hand and provide support. Morgan and Lauren had never been to the Equine Affaire before and they were not only impressed but had a lot of fun too!
I participated in the walk through of the course around 5pm with the other competitors and asked questions. I was pleased to see that I was not the only person dressed in English attire. I was 2nd to go in the first preliminary night and Slick and I galloped around the warm up pen to get our energy level up. Slick is a “more whoa than go” horse and needs to be in front of your leg.
I used a combination of Jane Savoie (3 count work with leg) and Lisa Wilcox (boxing with the upper thigh) techniques to get Slick engaged. We entered the coliseum to a cheering crowd and finished our course clean with a time of 5:26.
I rode conservatively, striving for precision instead of time. Slick was fabulous in the ground tie and really poured it on in the gallop around the perimeter at the end of the pattern. Slick and I had the highest score after Friday night’s preliminary round.
That night after my run, I attended the AQHA Region 6 Affiliate meeting at Storrowtown Tavern. The meeting finished around 10:30pm and John and I checked on the horses after the meeting, topping off water and giving more hay. It was quite cold and blankets with hoods were on again. John and I went to the hotel where I showered, looked over the course, and hit the clean sheets so I could prepare mentally for my ride on Catari Saturday evening.

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12/2/2009 Cathy T.
ABSOLUTELY wonderful to see some Maine talent at the competition !
12/3/2009 Sherri T
Maine 4-Hers know that Maine rules at the ESE grounds!! you are keeping the legend going!!

"An owner of a Tennessee Walking Horse once said that his horse reminded him of a lightning rod, for, as he rode, all the sorrows of his heart flowed down through the splendid muscles of his horse and were grounded in the earth." - Marguerite Henry