Meghan Orr’s confidence had been badly shaken in an ego-bruising ride the day before.
Three rails came down in the Devon Horse Show’s adult amateur jumper competition, and as she and Thoroughbred Four’s a Charm re-entered the show ring for their final try, Orr’s frustration was building.
But in a good way.
“I think I channeled that frustration into riding well,” she says in a Q&A interview with Off-TrackThoroughbreds.com. “I concentrated on what I needed to do instead of getting down on myself and forgetting how to ride!”
So focused was Orr, she didn’t know how well she was doing until they galloped toward the last jump. This is when she started praying to herself.
“The whole way down to the last jump I kept thinking, “Oh my God, I’m clear! Please don’t let this (rail) fall!”
It didn’t. And in that round, no other horse-rider team did as well as Orr and Four’s a Charm, as they won first place in the Adult Amateur Classic.
Q: Please describe the course in the class you won. How high were the jumps, and how challenging was it?
Race name: Ruslan
Show name: Four’s a Charm
Barn name: Jinx, Jinxy
Sire: Private Key
Dam: Social Bee
Foal date: 4/28/98The course was set at 1.15 meters or 3’9. The first jump was probably 3’3 and the second two looked about “normal” child/adult height so 3’6 or so. After that they all started looking very big! The course was basically a series of bending lines, it started with a long bending line, then a straight line going five strides from a vertical with a spooky gate underneath to a big Liverpool, which bent in a very tight six strides to a tall vertical with a white plank on top (very tricky!). There was then a bending line from an Oxer in seven strides to a two-stride combination, then around the end of the ring to a very spooky vertical, which bent in nine strides to a triple combination. The last line was a bending from a vertical to a huge Swedish Oxer.
The Jump Off required a lot of galloping which is great for Jinx since he has awesome ground speed and a huge step. The Jump Off consisted of the first three fences, then the only tight turn to the two-stride combination, around the end of the ring to the spooky vertical, long gallop to the second element of what was the triple, and a quick turn past the in-gate to the last bending line.
Q: How did you prepare for the class?
We had another class earlier in the day where we had one rail, and I lost my confidence and we ended up with two more. I was very frustrated since unlike last year, I was actually not letting my nerves get to me this time, and I was riding well. But we were still getting way too many faults! It felt like it was 150 degrees that day! We took Jinx back to the barn to stand in front of his fan for a while, but had to go back after only a quick break since I had to go first in the classic.
Jinx was very sleepy all weekend due to the heat, and the day before had been jumping very lazily. Our plan for the day was to jump big warm- up fences and then go right into the ring without watching a few trips to keep his energy up, which we did in the first class. For this class, I got the unlucky draw to go first so I wasn’t able to watch anyone anyway. We finished warming up about halfway through the singing of the national anthem and I was in the ring within 2 minutes!
Q: How many other riders were you up against, and were you and Jinx competing against any other off-track Thoroughbreds?
There were 18 horses and riders total. I’m not sure of the other horses’ breeds, I would guess that there were probably a couple other Thoroughbreds but that most were Warmbloods.
Q: How did you mentally prepare for the class, and was there a moment when you could feel how well you were doing? Or, said differently, can you describe the “zone” that you got into with Jinx?
I was really annoyed that I had to go first, but fortunately this course contained many of the same lines I rode in the class before, so I knew what to expect. But, I was frustrated that we hadn’t done well in the earlier class or the day before, and I think I channeled that frustration into riding well.
I concentrated on what I needed to do instead of getting down on myself and forgetting how to ride! I didn’t really realize what was happening until the last line.
Jinx had rubbed the first vertical really hard—everyone said it bounced up out of the cups and came right back down— so I was very, very lucky it didn’t come down!
I was eight strides to the last Oxer and finally had time to realize what was happening. The whole way down to the last jump I was thinking, “Oh my god! I’m clear! Please don’t let this fall!
It would have been horrible if I had a rail at the last jump. I closed my eyes once I got in the air. The professional photographer got a shot of me over the jump, you can’t see my eyes because I’m wearing sunglasses but the expression on my face is pretty priceless!
The same thing happened in the Jump Off, though I wasn’t as worried because I knew even if I failed miserably I would still get 5th, which I would have been thrilled with! Kacey, my trainer, told me to “Go for it” in the Jump Off since I was guaranteed a nice ribbon and I really just went in and galloped and had a blast.
The only thing I didn’t like was that Jinx still looked funny at the spooky vertical at the far end of the ring and put in an extra step, so that may have cost us a few tenths. I literally could not believe it when I went clear in the jump off, but with 4 more riders still to come I was sure someone would beat me!
Q: What does this win mean for you personally and as a competitive equestrian?
I am so excited! I never ever expected this! My time in the jump off was 41.7 and I was watching the other people go after me.
Two had rails and my friends/family that were there kept saying, “Well, you’re at least 4th now…at least 3rd … at least 2nd.” Watching the last rider go, I was convinced she was going to be faster than me, she had almost the exact same time coming into the last line, but her time changed to 42 seconds just before she took off for the last jump.
I started crying and the starter at the gate told me to stop because they were going to take my picture. Everyone was screaming and petting Jinx, he was so sweaty that he has a handprint on his butt in all the awards photos!
It was just amazing and I will never forget it! My boyfriend, my sister and parents, and a bunch of girls from the barn were there to share it too, which made it even better! It’s definitely something huge to add to my riding resume, and I think it will help me be more confident in big classes in the future- odds were pretty against me between going first and not doing well in the previous classes, but I still managed to do it! ([intlink id=”4599″ type=”post”]For more on Orr and Jinx, please see earlier story[/intlink]).