Monday, November 07, 2005


George Morris' Speech

The thing about the draw of numbers for the Maclay that I enjoyed the most was the talk that George Morris and Susie Humes gave about what they were expecting in this final. I found this talk very insightful and inspiring.

In the beginning, Mr. Morris emphasized the importance of events such as this. He said that the equitation is really only a part of American riding and that it is a shame because it really teaches you the basics and necessities of riding well and position. I found him personally inspiring in this part of his speech because he said that style and execution were the most important. Also, that while the equitation is a "beauty contest" and a rider's body structure matters, he has known amazing riders who do not fit the typical equitation body types and some of these riders were the best the division has ever known. The main example he used was Katie Prudent. Since I am one of those who were not blessed with the perfect equitation body, those comments meant a lot to me and gave me confidence going into the next day.

Next he made it clear that horsemanship would be a major part in judging this finals. Not only your presentation with your horse, but that soundness was the most important thing. He praised the ASPCA for their efforts and thanked them for supporting the event. He also said that without a horse being sound, it is very hard for the horse to compete to the best of its ability and, therefore, it is unfair to the horse and also puts the horse in rider in danger. He said that the judges could tell from any gate if the horses were sound and that they would really be looking for this.

George then moved to the specifics of the competition, saying that both Susie Humes and he were more traditional in their views of proper equitation and that is what they would be looking for. They did not want any gaudy clothing--they wanted boots polished and well turned-out horses and riders. It was the riders' and trainers' jobs to make sure that the rider's appearance or the equipment did not take away from the horse.

The comments that spurred curiosity and murmurs from the audience were his references to the course that he and Susie had designed. He said that the first jump was not commonly used today. Also, there would be many options throughout the course and they were expecting people to not always take the easy route. They wanted the riders to show off and also pointed out that brilliance would be what the judges were looking for. Mr. Morris ended his speech with an attempt to reach out at the audience and said that he had been in this position as a rider and trainer and that he wished everyone the best of luck.

I hope that I have given a good summary of his speech and I know that I definitely thought it was something important to hear before the final. Mr. Morris has a reputation as one of the most important figures in the equitation world, and I think everyone was curious as to what he was specifically looking for in this competition. If anyone else was there for the speech and I miss something really important, please let me know!


Sunday of the Maclay Finals

I considered myself lucky Sunday morning (the morning of Maclay finals) when my trainer said I had to be at the barn at 5:30 am. This was a gift compared to the 1:30 am or even 3:30 am times I had arrived there these past few days. I brought my equitation horse Chagall to show here and my trainer Andre was nice enough to ride him for me that morning. In the class, I went 56th in the order and I was quite pleased with my round, except for one jump where I had a rail. That was a little disappointing because I felt that overall my round was quite good and this mistake would obviously count against me. I ended up being called back 18th going into the flat phase. After that, I was moved up to 11th place, which for me is a victory in itself because I struggle on the flat sometimes. I do not have the typical equitation body type so I have to work extra hard with my trainer on my position. Lucky for me, I have a very beautiful horse so he helps the overall picture.

We then had to wait 2 hours while the $50,000 Animal Planet Sport Horse Cup took place so it was a little nerve-wrecking waiting all that time for the second round. I was the 7th rider to return (there were 18 total and it came back in reverse order) and I felt that my second round may not have been as good as the first, but still pretty solid. The main problem with this round was that my horse really rubbed about 3 or 4 jumps so that took away from the overall smoothness. I think Chagall was just too tired! These horses do a lot at a show like this, or at any finals. I didn't end up getting a ribbon which I was a little disappointed about but I felt good about myself and my riding so I was pleased.

Earlier in the week, I had shown in the $40,000 Jr/AO Grand Prix on one of my jumpers Lavaro and I placed 3rd. The next day I also did another jumper class, the $15,000 Pro Team competition, on my horse Jerremy. The best 3 scores were counted and also the fastest times. Our team, consisting of me, Haylie Jayne, Sarah Segal, and Margie Engle (our professional), placed first because we had 3 clear rounds and really fast times. This weekend I won a lot of prize money, all of which I donate to Just World International. I am a junior representative for the organization.

Because of all of these events, I feel that I had a pretty great weekend. Of course when the Maclay was over, I shed a few tears because it is the end of a great junior career for me. The hardest part of aging out for me is that I love my equitation and hunter horses so much and it is almost an unbearable thought for me that I will have to part with them in the next couple weeks. Even still, I feel that I have accomplished so much over the years and I'm looking forward to hopefully many jumper successes in the years to come.

Photo Caption: Natalie Johnson in the Maclay. Copyright 2005 by Nancy Jaffer.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


Saturday Night

I woke up at 1:40 this morning (that would be a.m.!) because they have assigned schooling times for the Maclay schooling ours was from 2 to 2:30 a.m. I didn't need an alarm clock. Addie Phillips (who also rides with Andre Dignelli and Heritage) was staying with me and she got me up.

I was pretty exhausted, so my warm-up round on Chagall probably wasn't as good as it could have been; going to the last line I kind of chipped. I was looking for a little more of a confidence-boosting ride. But I still feel okay because I've had a really good finals so far and I think my horse was perfect. He didn't do anything wrong.

But I think I need to go to bed really early tonight and get my rest. I don't feel that nervous. I go 56th in the Maclay tomorrow morning, so I have a good spot. I'm the kind of person who needs to watch other riders.

They had a big deal involving the draw for order of go in the Maclay, where we all sat together, had a sandwich and heard a series of speakers after we found out our starting order.

The draw thing was a little intimidating, because they did it right there in the Oncenter, near the warm-up ring. For the Medal, they pre-draw it and just read it off. This morning, there was suspense waiting between the names as they announced them, and sitting through that was a little intense. George Morris, who is judging the Maclay with Susie Humes, gave us a little talk and told us what they're looking for. The judges emphasize being very traditional and that's a good thing to know when you're going to the ring.

This is my last class as a junior and I'm pretty sad about that. Whenever anyone mentions it to me, I definitely get a little teary-eyed. I love my horses so much and for me, it's hard to part with them.

Posted by Natalie Johnson

Photo caption: Natalie Johnson crosses the street from the arena to the warm-up area with junior jumper Jeremy. Copyright 2005 Nancy Jaffer

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