Concord Girl Comes up a Winner
Caroline Kielar competed in Dressage at Pony Club Championships and aced it.
We are well and truly into the dog days of August – not that I’d ever complain, given that the cold weather always seems to go on and on and on. The heat suits me just fine, thank you, and I’ve been loving watching the little family of robins living just outside my window. Apparently, robins can have as many as three broods over the course of a summer, each one in a completely different nest. Imagine that! A week ago they were naked little babies, and now they’re fully feathered and spreading their wings. Yes, just two to three weeks from birth to leaving the nest – pretty impressive.
Last week, while my little birds were growing feathers and planning their escape, Concord gal Caroline Kielar, a CCHS senior, was strutting her stuff in a dressage ring in Virginia. She was competing in the US Pony Club East Championships, in the very dignified dressage division, on her horse Bailey. Caroline has competed at Championships in the past: two years ago she went on a Games team, and last year she competed on a Quiz team.
Dressage is a whole different animal, so to speak. Although they compete as a team, each competitor is judged on their own, and the scores added together to get to the team score. Each horse and rider pair has to work seamlessly together, performing a series of precise movements, all by memory. In fact, it’s often referred to as “horse ballet.” It requires a lot of patience and a lot of practice.
There are four different dressage tests, but only one of them allows the rider to be judged and awarded individually, and that’s musical freestyle. In musical freestyle, the rider gets to pick music and choreograph her own routine. The kicker is, the beat of the music must match the beat of the horse’s movements, so choosing the right music is key.
Musical freestyle is Caroline’s favorite element to watch because each one is so different, and the music can really enhance the horse’s movements. For her own routine, Caroline found a piece of music that matched Bailey’s beat perfectly, then listened to it over and over and over so she would know it really well. Since the judges don’t know her routine, as a rider it’s up to her to know the music well enough to follow and make adjustments as needed.
Riders are judged both on execution and artistry: how well each element is executed, as well as how challenging the choreography was, and whether the music matched the movements of the horse. In the end, Caroline did both exceedingly well: she won second place. Seeing as the first-place horse was Olympic-rated, I’d say she did amazing.
And although the riders all perform separately, they support each other as a team, working together on horse management – where they came in third overall – and helping each other to do their best job. At one point, Blue, one of the other horses on Caroline’s team was whinnying during her test, anxious to be in a strange ring away from the horses she knows. So for the next test, Caroline brought Bailey to the doorway where Blue could see him, resulting in a much quieter Blue.
Caroline told me that all of this, the preparation and the events, is a ton of work -- and really tiring. But overall, it was a boatload of fun, and a really good way to learn how to be a well-rounded horseperson.
Judging from how well she did, I’d say she’s well on her way there.