Central Park Horse Show: Part 2

If you missed my first post on the beginning of the action-packed week of the Central Park Horse Show, check it out here. Now, to pick up where I left off, going in to Friday…

Friday was the first day that there was a matinee performance, starting in the afternoon around 1:30pm. The crowd gathered as soon as the gates opened for the U.S. Open Dressage Grand Prix presented by none other than BREYER Model Horses! If you’ve been following my blog for a little while, you’ll know that I visited Breyerfest this past summer while I was in KY for NAJYRC and it was amazing.

During an interview with Charlotte Dujardin, it wasn’t long before fans spotted her and started lining up to talk with her and get autographs. She was so gracious and it obviously made the day extra special for so many of the young riders who could hardly contain their excitement upon meeting her.

It was a gorgeous afternoon (if anything, a little bit warm), so there were lots of people passing through the park who were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the horses headed from the temporary stabling area to the ring.

Into the ring we go!

Not sure you can ask for a better in-gate view.

I ran back and forth between the ring and the behind the scenes of the riders making their way through the park. Here one of the teams makes it down the final path toward the in-gate.

One of my goals for working the 2016 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival is to learn a lot more about dressage. If anyone wants to come by and help educate me, that would be awesome. I know a little but would definitely like to learn more.

One of my favorite parts of watching the dressage at Central Park was how so many of the riders were smiling even DURING their tests.

…and then looking up at people in the audience who were also smiling!

(Click to play) Not a bad view during a day at the office!

Matching smiles! 🙂

If you didn’t already know, there were a few logistical challenges in the scheduling of the events of the Central Park Horse Show this year. For one, there was a free Global Citizen Concert held on Saturday in Central Park featuring Pearl Jam, Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, and Beyonce. Literally a completely free Beyonce concert in New York City, so there were huge crowds. I had no idea about this concert until a few days before I was to leave for the horse show, so I guess that goes to show where my priorities/interests are. Not only was that concert occurring simultaneously, but Pope Francis himself also made his first ever visit to the United States, which happened to cross over with the show on Friday in Central Park. Kind of a big deal.

After the dressage finished up in the afternoon, I had a few hours before the Friday evening events were to start up. However, I had been given what turned out to be the very exciting and amusing task of gathering with a few other photographers to try and capture some photos of the Pope going by the schooling/temporary stabling area. For almost all of Friday, all of Central Park was closed/perimetered-off for the security of the Pope as he made his way around NYC, including a little jaunt through the actual park. There was no one allowed in the park except for in a very small quadrant where we were having our horse show, and the only people allowed to pass through the park were those with permission going to/from the stabling area to the ring area.

Around 4:30, I had to make my way from the ring where the dressage had ended to the temporary stabling area where the Pope was to eventually pass by. This meant that, after a pat-down by Secret Service and having my ID checked (Secret Service: “There sure are a lot of you horse people from Florida!”), I was given permission to walk through an entirely deserted Central Park to where I needed to be. It was the craziest thing ever to look around in all directions and see NO ONE, in the middle of Central Park, in the middle of NYC. It was definitely a surreal moment that I will remember forever.

Beginning my walk all alone through Central Park.

Approaching the end of my walk where I can see the fences around the temporary stabling and, in the distance, the crowd waiting for the Pope to go by.

Inside the temporary stabling area, everyone was excited to have convenient trailers and bags of shavings to stand on for the best view in the house.

Please be careful up there.

Even though most of us were distracted waiting around for the Pope, some horses and their teams were actually busy preparing for the event to begin in a few hours.

At this point, the three other photographers were on a fork lift to try and get a good angle of where the pope would be coming through, and I was standing next to them on the top step of a ladder (because I felt like standing on a wooden pallet balanced on top of a forklift was kind of dangerous). Candice King (pictured) was in the ring schooling and decided to take a photo of us. Hi, Candice!!

(click to enlarge) THE POPE.

Josh Walker from the Chronicle of the Horse ended up capturing this epic photobomb with Charlotte Dujardin. Definitely a moment we’ll all remember forever, and also a moment I couldn’t have dreamed up happening, ever. What series of events over the past year led me to be standing here at this moment?!

Back at the ring a few hours later, the action was starting with the 1.20m Jr/Am Class.

Jenn Gates and Everest De Muze took home the win!

The scene for the Grand Prix, about to begin. The course was tight and challenging due to the ring’s shape and size resembling more of what you’d see at an indoor event, but it was fantastic for spectating.

There were lots of “New York” themed jumps like this one with little touches like the clouds around the Empire State Building. It added to the event feeling truly special.

Schuyler Riley prepares to enter the ring for Friday night’s U.S. Open $212,000 FEI 3* Grand Prix.

The entire show was beautifully broadcast on NBC Sports. I think I managed to photobomb their cameras at least a few times over at the in-gate.

After the first round, only two riders made it clear to the jump off: Sharn Wordley and Daniel Bluman.

Daniel Bluman proved too speedy for Sharn and captured the victory after coming in 3rd the day before in the Welcome class.

Daniel also won the $25,000 US Open Bonus for his performance over the two days, so we had to get a picture of him with the check. During the picture, the champagne that he had loosened for the victory celebration exploded randomly on its own behind him, prompting Mark Bellissimo to place the cork on his head.

Sharn takes an extra swig of champagne before heading off to the press conference.

 

There was lots of fun at the press conference, with Sharn talking about Daniel bargaining with him in the warmup ring to split the prize money and Rolex watch when he realized they were the only two left.

There was a fun contest among the media to see who could pick the winner of the Grand Prix. Lindsay Brock from Jennifer Wood Media won and received this huge bottle of champagne as a prize, so I obviously asked her to pose for a picture with it as she sat back down to begin working on the night’s press release. I’m not telling anyone who I picked. 🙂

After a long day at the show I had barely eaten dinner, so on the way back to the hotel I stopped for a hearty meal at one of New York’s finest dining establishments: 99 Cent Pizza. (But seriously)

It was actually delicious and this was my stop on the way back from the show around midnight for multiple nights before heading on to the hotel to go through photos.

On to Saturday, which featured a matinee show of Hunters.

There were amazing natural hunter jumps featuring New York inspired surroundings like graffiti and subway stations. Truly like nothing I had ever seen before. This was one of the many ways that the Central Park Horse Show worked to make the hunter events more spectator friendly, especially for those who might not be as familiar with the finer nuances of the actual judging.

Bobby Murphy and Ian Debeer, pictured, were two of the masterminds behind the design of the Hunter course jumps. During an interview with these two, Ian said his background is in photography and Bobby said they designed the front side of the jump for the horse, and the back side for the photo so that the riders would have something truly memorable to remember the event by.

Before the action started that day, Land Rover hosted a free activity for kids where they could come ride in mini cars around a course. I tried it out myself and it was super fun and you can stalk my @meg_at_ Instagram for the photo.

Even junior rider Gia Rinaldi took advantage of the mini Land Rover, maybe as a different type of course walk for her hunter rounds later that day. (Spoiler alert: It worked.)

The first competition of the day was a Musical Freestyle Pony Hunter class where the riders picked their own music to ride to. It was so cool to see all the young riders have such unique tastes in music and it made the class really fun for the audience as well.

Little pony, big city.

As soon as I found out about the Musical Hunter Freestyle, I immediately began hoping that someone would ride to Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York.” Mimi Gochman came through and was my personal hero for riding to this song! 

El Nino in the city!

After the pony class, there was a Junior/Amateur Hunter Classic.

This picture barely captures just how awesome these jumps were.

Gia Rinaldi gets ready to head into the ring.

Taken checking me out on the way out of the ring.

Gia and Taken took home the blue ribbon in the second class of the day!

Meanwhile, the professional hunters began to make their way up to the ring.

Saturday was a gorgeous day and you could see plenty of New Yorkers and tourists enjoying time in the sun on the lawn just beyond where we were having the show.

The main event for the afternoon was the $50,000 Duchossios Cup, a hunter competition featuring 10 of the top hunter riders in the country.

Everyone outside the ring was captivated by these top-class hunter nuggets.

You know you have a great hunter when… (And this probably made these people’s day!)

What does it feel like to enter the ring at the Central Park Horse Show? Click ‘play’ above to get a little taste!

Later in the evening, there was another beautiful set up at the VIP tent in preparation for a night of dressage.

My kind of Saturday night in NYC. 🙂

 

One of my favorite moments from the evening.

Even mini George Morris had to get his picture taken in front of the VIP step and repeat. Thanks, George!!

Sunday morning… the LAST day of the Central Park Horse Show. What a week. I had to take the obligatory credentials + ring photo for memory’s-sake.

The final morning matinee on Sunday featured a master class from Charlotte Dujardin. It was so amazing to see someone at the highest level break down every detail of her riding.

Candice King also did a jumper demonstration for the crowd, which I LOVED.

There were lots of oohs and aahs from the crowd every single time she went over the jump. It reminded me that, being at horse shows all the time, we can so easily take for granted just how special and amazing it is to get to be around horses and do things like take them over even a small jump – the crowd was absolutely mesmerized by Candice.

She also took time to answer questions from the crowd.

Candice’s famous dog, Thumper, was also in attendance, of course.

In addition to the demonstrations, there was also a fierce Pony Club competition on Sunday morning between the teams “No Brakes No Problem” and “Camo Queens.”

I had never seen a Pony Club competition before–It was amazing. The degree of difficulty and speed that the activities take made them so much fun to watch. Both the riders and audience alike seemed to have a great time, and I couldn’t stop smiling either.

DSC_3842

Here’s Charlotte getting ready for her master class, the final activity of the day and of the entire show.

My favorite part of what I learned from Charlotte was the importance of a proper warm-up for your horse. Charlotte said, “You wouldn’t expect a gymnastics person to just go and start their workout. They do a nice stretch in the warm-up first. We get the horses as loose as possible before we ask them to do more work in their bodies. If they’re not loose in the beginning, they’re not going to be loose and supple in their proper work.”

My other favorite quote from Charlotte came toward the end of the session, “It’s so important that these horses enjoy every day of their work. Our routine is that we train in the school four days a week. On Monday and Tuesday they work, and then on Wednesday they go hacking on the road, and that means every horse—every horse in the yard hacks. Then Thursday and Friday they do schooling sessions, probably not longer than 45 minutes. Saturday they hack again, and Sunday is a complete day off. They all go in the field, even Valegro. They all have a normal life. We don’t wrap them up in cotton wool.”

Aaaand that’s a wrap on the 2015 Central Park Horse Show! After dreaming about it pretty much every single day since I first found out I would be attending, I couldn’t believe it came and went so quickly (although the pain felt in my feet said otherwise.) This was definitely an experience I’ll remember for my entire life, no matter where my adventure in the equestrian industry takes me.

And with that… Mini George also says goodbye to NYC. We had such a great time seeing the sights and sounds together.

 

I was really quite anxious about making sure Mini George had good eq while helping him get ready for this photo. The internet can be harsh when it comes to equitation, so I didn’t want anyone to be able to criticize George. Unfortunately there is not a photo of me crouching for a good 5 minutes straight in the middle of Wollman Rink on my hands and knees positioning Mini George for this photo op. His boots were brand new so it was hard for me to get his heels down.

A few extra scenes from my travels back home:

On the cab ride to the airport, I was watching my friend Mary Elizabeth Cordia compete in Taylor Harris finals on a livestream. There are very few minutes of any of my days not occupied by something horse related. I just love it. Technology is crazy and awesome.

Thanks to some of the “swag” received during my time in New Albany and NYC, my suitcase came in at a half a pound away from an overweight charge. Mini George almost had to leave his horse in NYC.

And then, on my flight back to Florida I got to actually watch the Central Park competition on NBC Sports on the screen on the flight!! SO cool.

 

I hope you guys enjoyed my adventures this past September in New Albany, OH and NYC! September was by far one of the best months I’ve had all year, and it’s crazy to me how much can happen in just nine months of being back in the equestrian industry after a hiatus since my junior years. I’m so excited for what’s ahead. The fun has already begun now that I’m back in Florida and preparing for WEF, so keep checking back here and on Facebook and Instagram for the latest leading up to winter circuit. Hope to see so many of you soon!

 

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