High Cost of Performance – What Does It Take To Compete in Florida at the FEI Level for One Season?

2103 Nations Cup Kim Herslow won the Pr. St George, Lars Petersen second and Christilot Boylen Third Photo: Betsy LaBelle
2103 Nations Cup Kim Herslow won the Pr. St George, Lars Petersen second and Christilot Boylen Third Photo: Betsy LaBelle

Ever wonder what it would take to compete one horse for one seaon at the FEI level? We asked two riders to give us a glimpse into their journey during the 2013 winter season in Wellington, Florida. We talked with Kim Herslow who traveled from Stockton, New Jersey with her small tour horse, Rosmarin and to Susan Jaccoma from Wellington with her Grand Prix horse Wadamur. Being Kim Herlow’s first year with Rosmarinan 8 yr old Hanoverian gelding by (Rosentanz x Weltmeyer) at the Small Tour level (Pr. St George/Intermediarre I) she said, “My passion came from actually having a horse that I knew could get there and believing in myself. It takes both to be successful.” She continued, “I prepared myself and my horse with confidence by working with Lars Petersen, a person and trainer who I respect and trust with our training program. It really is focusing on knowing you can go and ride your horse in the ring and only focus on bringing out the best. I know if I can prepare my horse correctly, he will be there for me just like at home.” And finally, “I wasn't sure at the first show and that is why we had the mistakes we had. You have to make mistakes to learn what you need to do to be better. That is part of the process. Then you know how to better prepare for the next time for a more solid plan. It's mentally tough, and you have to believe you and your horse are ready to really be a harmonious team.”

Susan Jaccoma and 13 year old Wadamur (Weltmeyer x Silvio I)  Photo: Betsy LaBelle
Susan Jaccoma and 13 year old Wadamur (Weltmeyer x Silvio I) Photo: Betsy LaBelle

Susan Jaccoma who rides her 13 year old Wadamur (Weltmeyer x Silvio I) at the Grand Prix level and has 5 years’ experience doing CDIs; she said, “I love to show how I train. I have the passion. I’m a type A personality. I decided week by week this past winter season what to do in showing because last year in May, Mo was playing in the paddock and pulled a suspensory. I didn’t know if we would be ready to do CDIs, but we kept going to national shows and he felt better and better. Goals unraveled throughout the season and we competed in four CDIs so far this year. The winter season turned out pretty well.”    

The Preparation
Kim Herslow said, “It took a lot of organization and preparation to manage the farm back home, then research and phone calls to find the right living situation for myself, then a convoy of trucks and trailers with drivers to bring your life with you. It is a process that takes a tremendous amount of time and team work from people who support you.”  She continued, “I chose three CDIs so I could have scores to qualify for the Nationals, The Nation's Cup was unexpected!” 
 
Susan Jaccoma who stays in Wellington year round said, “We sort of rolled with the punches. Starting mid-season, we did three nationals shows where I made sure my horse was well enough to continue each day. By the third national show, I knew I was ready to get back into the CDI ring. I chose three CDIs, one at the Global Dressage Festival, one at Equestrian Estates and one at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center.” She continued, “The good thing about living in Wellington is that there are plenty of CDIs throughout the whole long season. We were very fortunate this year.”
 
The Coach
Kim Herslow spoke of her trainer, “Lars is a genuine person, first and foremost. I also respect his training techniques as I have watched many of his horses go at shows and they have all looked happy and willing to work. That speaks to me in his overall training. It is a positive, effective way which is also how I like to train. I knew we would get along well.”  She continued, “He is always there to talk to about any questions or concerns. Also he is a great coach at the shows, very positive yet effective.”
Susan Jaccoma said of her trainer, “The piece of any CDI rider is you have to have a coach or a ground person. I’ve ridden with Jane Savoie, Robert Dover, Lars Petersen but because I was so tentative in thinking about that suspensory, I chose Dottie Morkis to help me this year. She has been one of my best friends for years. We’ve been from Maine to Spain. We’ve been on PanAm Teams together and a Nations Cup Team in Europe. She has a fabulous eye and was so concerned about his leg, asking me every morning how his leg looked. She stood there and held my hand. It was like having your sister standing there helping. She’s tough but clear. Exactly what I needed.”

The Experience 
Kim Herslow and 8 yr old Rosmarin (Rosentanz x Weltmeyer)  Photo: Betsy LaBelle
Kim Herslow and 8 yr old Rosmarin (Rosentanz x Weltmeyer) Photo: Betsy LaBelle

Kim Heslow talked about the season, “It was a tremendous amount of work! Believe in yourself and your horse and you can do anything!”  

Susan Jaccoma talked about her season, “During our freestyle at the Equestrian Estates CDI, we had a tent fly through the arena. The wind that day was something, and I thought everything was okay. I couldn’t understand why Stephen Clark was ringing the bell because in a freestyle I knew they didn’t know my pattern. Then, I saw the tent and understood. When we started again and finished the freestyle our score was 70% and we finished third. It was quite an experience. 
The other thing I worked on this year are the CDI jogs. At Devon one year, Mo shied into me and knocked me down. Somebody put up an umbrella just at the moment I was running full tilt. I did a complete face plant. Nobody would let me jog at a CDI, with understanding. But this year I wanted to do all the jogs and prove to myself I could do it. I am proud that was completely successful.  
There are so many experiences I have learned over the years which gets me to the success I have now. The saying goes, ‘You have to break a lot of eggs to make a great omelet.” I remember listening to everyone else at the last World Equestrian Games qualifier and overriding my horse in the test. I never want to do that again. I would rather have a mistake free Grand Prix with harmony and beauty than listen to that little voice that pops out in your head. I no longer ride on what I think will please a judge or anyone else. It’s important to ride for myself and what is good for my horse. Let any opportunities seek me. I am proud to have learned all those things because it’s made me the rider and even the coach I am today.  

The Reward 
Kim Herslow said, “For me personally, it was an amazing season. To be a newcomer to the CDI ring and then chosen to ride on the A Nations Cup team after three shows was really rewarding. I have worked so hard to get here, 23 years of building my own facility at home in NJ and developing a system for myself. I am so glad to have had the opportunity to come represent USA and have such an amazing horse! We complement each other so well, it is amazing to have the connection and bond with him. I am blessed!” 
Susan Jaccoma in piaffe  Photo: Betsy LaBelle
Susan Jaccoma in piaffe Photo: Betsy LaBelle

Susan Jaccoma said, “There have been so many rewards, you have no idea.  A few years ago Robert Dover, Susan Wildman, and several others sent me to California to really have a chance, and I could never say thank you enough. For all the things I learned and miles I have traveled, I feel really good about the trainer, the rider I am, the horsewoman I am. I have met so many wonderful people and had so many wonderful riding lessons. I love to impart that knowledge. The reward this year is that I have a sound and happy horse. I smile each time I put my foot in the stirrup, just to continue to maintain that partnership.  

Let’s hope we get to see these two in Kentucky this year.  

What is a CDI?  
CDIs are three and a half day shows overseen by the FEI federation. They require a passport for the horse to be shown at a turnout inspection or jog on the first day, usually a Thursday afternoon, then the Prix St George class comes the second day, usually on a Friday.  The Intermediate I class comes on that third day, usually a Saturday and the Intermediate Freestyle class is the final class on the final day, typically a Sunday. Depending on the stars of the CDI, there are three to five judges, with two scribes for each judge, one for the real-time computer system, called an e-Scribe, and the writing scribe. The written test is scored in the Horse Show Office to double check the e-Scribe and make a permanent score. There are a host of rules one must know. For instance, the riders must have their horses ready for the awards ceremony, or they forfeit their entire placing. And they must be available for a press conference after the award ceremony, or their placing can be taken away. Other things to learn and know, the stabling is surrounded by a gate or fence to make sure all the horses are secure for the Veterinarians who look after the health records, and if the Vet sees an issue, he or she has the right to eliminate the horse right then and there on the spot. There a slew of rules, one can only learn by doing, and getting into the correct rhythm of a CDI.  
 



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