Tallahassee, FL -- March 6, 2012 --
Rebecca Willner has ridden at Red Hills before. After a four year break, she's back with a new partner.
"He's an eight year old American Thoroughbred and it's just really great to be able to be back here and at such a great venue," said Willner.
To break it down, Red Hills has three different areas in which riders compete over a three day period. The first day is dressage.;
Willner, who has been riding since the age of four, said both rider and horse must be in strong physical shape.
"It's basically the precision and the beauty and the communication between horse and rider. It's really kind of like a ballet between horse and rider," said Willner.
The second day is the cross country course. Two and a half miles of galloping and jumping over 35 fixed jumps. The rider with the least penalties on this day will sit at the top of the leader board.
"Anytime you would have a run-out at a jump, if you were approaching a jump from over here and the horse didn't navigate it the first time, you get twenty, twenty penalties marked against you. You go around, you attempt it again, you get over it, you go on to the next jump." explains competitor Rick Wallace.
For riders making it through the cross country course, the third day is back in the ring for show jumping. This can be challenging after two grueling days of competition.
"The horse has to come back, wake up the next morning, and be able to leave all of the rails and their cups and jump clean, precise, and still listen to the rider," said Willner.
All riders at all levels have to meet standards to participate in Red Hills.
"There are various qualifications. There are upwards of one hundred fifty events across the country and they use those as stepping stones to get to Red Hills, and then they'll use Red Hills as a stepping stone to get to the Olympic Games or something even bigger than this," said course designer Hugh Lochore.
For Rebecca, the main goal isn't to win.
"We'd love to be, you know, galloping behind some of the ribbons but, um, I just would love to go out and have a great time. Put in a good dressage test, attack the cross country, and then leave the rails up in show jumping," said Willner.