Top US-based Kiwi showjumper Uma O’Neill is ecstatic to be back out competing in her home state of California but it is not without its challenges.
Uma has just finished her second week at Sonoma Horse Park and has enjoyed some encouraging results from her team in their first outing since March. “We are starting to get back into it,” she says. “This week I feel a little more back in the game.”
Her top crew certainly were with O’Neill Show Jumping taking two of the top five spots in the Grand Prix this morning. Her trainer Mariano Maggi and Quintago VA were third, and Uma aboard Clockwise Greenhill Z fifth.
She and Mariano had eight mostly young horses between them for the opening week, returning with six of the more experienced ones this week. Usually she would rent a house or apartments while at shows but she found nothing available due to COVID so ended up at a hotel where she discovered new hotel policies thanks to COVID. There was no cleaning service, they were given a single towel and no change of sheets offered. She borrowed a vacuum from the maid service and bought sheets and towels.
When COVID broke they were competing in Wellington, Florida but quickly packed up the team and flew home to California. “Now cases here (in California) are going up significantly at the moment, I just hope we don’t get locked down again.” She’s been home training since mind-March and said the young horses had certainly benefited from the extra training.
“When we took them to the show last week they jumped around well. The time really shows that they have improved so much. We got to do a lot of gymnastics and flat work with the older horses and focus on things we wanted to do when normally we would be getting ready for the next show.”
As disappointing as the Tokyo Olympic postponement is, she says every athlete is in the same boat. “When it is a problem the entire world is having, it brings a lot of things into perspective – you just have to go with it and take on board the information that comes out every day.”
In 2019 she competed at the September 5* in New York but that won’t be happening this year. The CoC she gained so early for Tokyo will now need to be done again.
“With everything that has happened I am not able to get it with the shows we have provided. I am definitely committed to making that Tokyo team. Last year I had it (the CoC) done within the first weeks it became available. I had it multiple times last year but not this year with no opportunity to do classes that would provide it. We didn’t show Clockwise of Greenhill Z until the last week of February or March because we thought was going to have a big year.”
Uma is now planning to head to Europe in the New Year with her team. Joining her will be a new addition to the team – Watson, a five-and-a-half month old wire haired basset hound who already has all his papers in order to travel anywhere with his doting owner.
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison