Anna Honeycutt made the 17 hour trek from Texas to Virginia to compete in the Junior Young Rider CCI* at the Virginia Horse Trials. She shares her experiences of that weekend.
The Virginia Horse trials was one of the most scenic event venues that I have competed. It has also been one of my favorites. The facility was the nicest and most well-kept of any I have been to. In Texas most phases are run on the grass, so well-manicured arenas were a breath of fresh air. The facility also had so much ample warm up space. This made getting ready for each phase a lot less stressful because everyone had plenty of room to spread out. The management was impeccable and everyone was extremely helpful. The hospitality was amazing. The competitors party was one of the best I've been to. Everyone was very excited to be competing and celebrating together in Virginia. My trainer, Angela Grzywinkski, even got Boyd Martin to say a few words to everyone over the loudspeaker and posed for a selfie with us!
I was competing in the Junior Young Rider CCI* on my horse Two Out Rally, or “Ben” for short. Ben is a Thoroughbred gelding by High Bright and out of Aspirate. He felt at home and put in a good test Friday morning. We ended up scoring a 57.80, and I was extremely pleased with him. With the dressage out of the way, we focused on my favorite phase cross-country. When I first walked out to the cross country course I was in awe. The hills and fall foliage were gorgeous. I had never run a cross-country as beautiful as this one at the Virginia Horse Center. Every jump was tastefully decorated. There were many jumps with intricate wood carvings such as mushrooms, bald eagles and even a kiwi bird. I was told that the course had recently been redone and designed by John Nicholson. This was his first course design in the United States, so I was excited to see and ride it. There were many different types of questions that really tested your horse’s ‘rideability.’ Nicholson’s CCI* course was definitely daunting and difficult, but not impossible. We had a couple of unfortunate blips in the beginning, but once Ben and I got on the same page we began to jump in an incredible rhythm, and we were golden through the rest of the course. One jump that caused me some anxiety beforehand was the keyhole. This would be our first time jumping a keyhole while in competition. Admittedly I was nervous about it, but I tried to give Ben the most confident riding, and he jumped it extremely well. We had perfect cool weather through the weekend, so Ben cooled off quickly in the vet box. Virginia saw a good bit of rain in the week prior to the event, so I was worried how the ground and footing would hold up. I was pleasantly surprised, and heard afterwards that the Horse Center had installed improved footing this year.
One of my favorite parts of the weekend were the horse inspections. It is always fun to see my Tempus Eventing friends dressed up for jogs. After finishing a very difficult cross-country round, I knew the weekend wasn’t over as the show jumping course looked equally challenging. Like usual, Ben tried his guts out and did everything I asked of him. I recently purchased a young horse that I plan to take up through the levels. Because of this, the Virginia Horse Trials was my last show with Ben. I'm glad Virginia Horse Trials was the last event to finish off his career with me. I had such an amazing weekend. East Coast Eventing is a lot different than Area V Eventing, but I have been blessed enough to event both coasts and have found Virginia Horse Trials to be one of my favorites. I would definitely make the seventeen-hour haul again.