Road to the Finals: Nervous Nellies UNITE!

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Lysa Hodgson and The Usual Suspect
Region 1

By Jennifer Keeler

It took a lot of courage for Lysa Hodgson of Aberdeen, NC, to share her Road to the Finals story.

“I’m a chicken about everything, and so is my horse,” she confessed. “To say I have ‘show nerves’ is like saying my fair skin turns a bit pink in the sun, when in reality I burst into flames somewhere around the 10-minute mark. So the idea of sharing my journey with your readers is about as terrifying a thought as I can conjure. At the same time, I don’t think I’m alone in my neuroses and fears. I think there are plenty of us out there who worry about every aspect of showing and traveling with our horses, yet we push forward and slowly grow our comfort zones. Nervousnelly chicken introverts UNITE! ”

All kidding aside, Hodgson may be fearful but she is also determined and persistent – this year will be her fourth attempt to qualify for the US Dressage Finals. Her initial effort was during her first year of showing in 2013, and while she easily earned her qualifying scores she admittedly couldn’t muster the confidence to travel to the Regional Championships. The next year, Hodgson did travel to Regionals and finished in the middle of the pack at Training and First Levels, but just missed the wild card cut-off score. Things looked even more promising in 2015 after she earned the last of her qualifying scores in March. “My plan was then to simply focus on training at home and clinics in preparation for Regionals,” Hodgson explained. “Unfortunately, in July I suffered a treadmill injury. Yes, a treadmill injury, which resulted in my wearing an air-cast for months due to horrible tendonitis in my foot/ankle from over-use while trying to get fit for Regionals…..go figure!”

Treadmill incidents aside, Hodgson describes her home life as “rather boring. I’m a pharmacist at the local hospital, and I work evening shift which allows me to ride and do all of the farm chores in the morning. I have an incredibly supportive horse-show husband Terry who is an Army officer and my complete opposite – nothing fazes this man. You could light his foot on fire and he would stop to make cowboy coffee over the flame before slowly smothering it with whatever happened to be nearby. We have a small farm which we share with three horses, two mini-donkeys, a dog, and seven cats. My trainer Anne DeKeyser is a wonderful soul who carefully balances my fears with my desire to progress. She’s been with me since I made the conversion to dressage six years ago after spending almost three decades in hunter/jumper land.”

Hodgson’s competition partner is The Usual Suspect or “Bogey”, a 12-year-old Percheron/Thoroughbred cross gelding who was a PMU rescue and later abandoned at a boarding barn due to the owner’s financial situation. “The barn sold him to me for back board payments, so now I’ve had him for six years which is as long as either of us has been attempting dressage. Bogey is a patient partner with a good work ethic, as long as he’s not tired or hungry…just like me. Unfortunately, we both need a hand to hold when things get too exciting. It’s a bit comical if you can get over the fact that I look like I’m about to pass out,” she laughed. “We’re currently schooling Second Level, but really trying to solidify First Level in the ring. I’m stuck in that ‘conscious incompetence’ point in the learning cycle, which is incredibly frustrating, yet offers glimmers of hope that keep enticing me to continue the journey.”

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Hodgson plans to compete at this fall’s Region 1 Championships in Training, First Level, and First Level Musical Freestyle in her quest to finally conquer her fears and qualify for the US Dressage Finals. “If you’re looking for someone who can give you guaranteed photo ops with a champion’s sash around her neck, then I’m probably not the best candidate because my expectations are a little lower,” she chuckled. “My goals are to not have a heart attack, keep my trainer from wanting to strangle me, and really try to enjoy the whole process. I also look forward to having the opportunity to empower and embolden other nervous riders with my story of making it happen even when you’re terrified. I swear, this year I’m really going to do it. I might be worried about a million things along the way, but I WILL be in Lexington for my birthday on November 10th. Just have a bottle of wine ready!”

Every year when riders and horses from across the country gather in Lexington, KY, for the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, they not only bring top performances to the Alltech Arena – they also bring amazing stories. From overcoming tough odds, facing life’s daily challenges, healing from medical and veterinary conditions, or simply being the unlikely underdog, the tales which unfold at the Finals are nothing short of inspiring.
Through the good, the bad, and the ugly that entails life with horses and competing in the sport of dressage, these three riders will allow readers behind-the-scenes access as they try to qualify at the 2016 Great American Insurance Group/USDF Regional Championship, to pursue their dreams of competing with the best of the best at the Finals.

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