January 2, 2016—Twelve horse and rider combinations took to the Conrad Holmfeld-designed jumping course at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center to test their mettle and practice what they learned during the previous two days of the George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session.
Three teams of four riders under three famous chef d’équipes—Olympians Beezie Madden, Lauren Hough and Anne Kursinski—squared off in the Nations Cup-style competition. The young riders selected for the 10th annual clinic rode their horses two times over the same course for a combined team score. Laura Kraut critiqued each ride so that the riders and the spectators could benefit from the feedback.
After the first round of rides, Beezie's team of T.J. O’Mara, Daisy Farish, Ransome Rombauer and Kelli Cruciotti were in the lead, but after the dust from the second round settled, Anne's team of Katherine Strauss, Eve Jobs, Danielle "Dani" Roskens and Victoria "Tori" Colvin were victorious and won bragging rights as well as Limited Edition action figures of George Morris and his horse Rio. Coming in third was Lauren's team of Ailish Cunniffe, Mitch Endicott, Vivian Yowan and Lucy Deslauriers.
"I think Conrad set the most perfect course today," Laura said. "I think the kids learned a lot. We had a seminar last night that lasted almost two hours just talking team dynamics. … I thought it was fun to see the team so far behind [today] coming forward to win. It just gives you the inspiration to know that it’s never over until it’s over."
Laura said that one of her passions is riding in Nations Cups. "I absolutely love it. For me, that's just the pinnacle of the sport. This group of riders is hopefully our future to carry on and go to championships, to the Olympics and to win medals and to win Nations Cups. So, I'm very excited to give them this opportunity."
Conrad said he designed the course that included a water jump, a liverpool, a hairpin turn and a triple line after talking to Laura about what she had in mind. "I think it's doing its work properly," he said. "Not overfacing anyone or taking too much out of the horses who are facing a whole circuit [the rest of the winter show season]."
In her critiques, Laura offered the riders advice on how to improve. After the first round, she said to rider Ailish Cunniffe, "You rode to the yellow oxer, I thought, well but didn't encourage her to cross the oxer because you were thinking about the steady four. A nickel's worth more leg there and you'd have gotten across the back rail. When you're in a Nations Cup and there is so much pressure and you have a fence down, you've got to stay on it and not lose your focus and I thought you did very good there."
To Kelli Cruciotti she said, "He just jumped AT the third jump—something that's maybe good to know about him. In the second round, you are really going to have to learn how to relax him and keep him calm."
She praised riders when they had a better second round. "What I love to see is that you improved everything from the last round," Laura said to Eve Jobs. "The first line was fantastic, the second line was great. The four to one was fantastic because [your horse] loved to get to the verticals and just have you support her and then just get a beautiful jump."
Similarly Laura said to Lucy Deslauriers after the second round: "You were on a mission to make that water work this time … you not only had to correct your mistake, but add some confidence to him, which I thought you did very well. If I am going to be a little picky, I thought you could have stayed behind him a little bit more on the take off. You're just a touch in front of him. As a result of the water, he became a little bit more rowdy and a little bit tough to ride. But, you fought for it and you trusted his carefulness and his scope and he gave it to you."
Laura was pleased with the outcome of the three-day clinic and with the results the riders had in today’s competition. "It couldn’t have worked out any better, really," she concluded, adding that she would have loved to participate in a clinic like the George H. Morris one when she was younger. "Word should spread and it would be a goal I would work toward if I were a junior or young rider."
"I hope George would be proud," she said. "I think he would have enjoyed it."