Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekend Weirdness

My sister will really appreciate this blog entry.

Huh.....Barbie is looking pretty rough. I'm not sure what is going on with the 
mixed-race Fisher Price couple there in the bottom, either. I'm pretty sure they 
were from my Fisher Price Merry-Go-Round, way back in the day.

The other night, I went up into my attic and pulled out some old books from storage to take to the used bookstore and I went through a few other boxes to get rid of some junk I just have piled up there (old silk flowers, empty cardboard boxes, old plastic kitchen bowls and utensils, etc.). While I was poking around in some luggage that is stored in the corner, I found an ancient, white Lady Baltimore train case that used to belong to my grandmother. I brought it back downstairs and decided to clean it up and set it in my bedroom on top of an old hatbox I have on my dresser. When I opened it up, I unexpectedly found my secret Barbie stash from about a million years ago. So, THAT is what happened to Dallas's saddle!!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Someday, maybe?

The sun is shining in Aiken!
EVERYONE is arriving in Aiken for the winter/spring kick-off to the 2011 eventing season. Everyone, including Eddie!!!! Just kidding, that is a picture of Boyd Martin's wonderful world-class event horse, Neville Bardos, in his paddock after arriving in South Carolina earlier this week. I doubt Neville would appreciate being compared to my stubborn little cow horse, but I'm sure Eddie would love to be in all four of Neville's shoes right now! It is supposed to be in the 50's in Knoxville for the next few days (and no snow forecast anytime soon), so maybe Eddie and I can stage our own version of the Aiken winter training sessions here at home before too long. I'm sure he'll be psyched about that!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Helmet Inspections, Part II

I must say that after the excitement of last week's new helmet rule initiative in the U.S., looking at my inspection post from yesterday makes me ponder why the U.S. events don't do the same thing (and, I'm talking about the helmet requirements that have ALREADY been in place all these years for cross-country and show jumping). They inspect bits at check-in for dressage (which, is good), but with all the fever and enthusiasm for mandating certain protective headgear be in place at all times when mounted at an event, shouldn't we also be inspecting those helmets to make sure they are the ASTM/SEI-approved helmets that are required? I bet I could pull out one of my old Dover skull caps from 1988, put a brand new black satin helmet cover on it, strap on a new rubber band, fasten the harness, and gallop onto any cross-country course out there today. The thing is, although that crash helmet was ASTM/SEI-approved 20 years ago, I bet it would crack like a walnut if my head smashed into something pretty a stone wall. 

If we're going to have the new rules, then I would hope (and assume!) they will be strictly enforced. And, not just with a passing glance. There are 2 big spring events this coming weekend -- Pine Top Winter I and Galway -- so I'll be interested to hear how organizers and officials undertake the implementation of the new rule.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

British Eventing Helmet Inspections

William Fox-Pitt on cross-country with
an inspection sticker on his helmet harness.
Last week, when I was looking at some of the safety details on the BE web site, I noticed that they state every competitor at every horse trial has his/her helmet inspected before cross-country and show jumping to insure the rider is wearing an up-to-date, regulation/approved helmet before starting that phase of the competition. The inspector will tag acceptable helmets with a piece of yellow tape to show that the rider has had the helmet checked and that it is acceptable for competition. 

This actually answers a question I had about why -- when viewing photos of competitors like WFP, Pippa Funnell, Zara Phillips, Andrew Nicholson, Mary King, etc., riding at British events -- I would notice these helmets with a yellow strip on the harness. I always wondered what kind of helmets they wore (since I know that several of them wear Charles Owen) with the colors on the black harness straps. It isn't an earth-shattering revelation, I know, but it's one of those little thoughts I had where I made a mental note in the back of my mind, and then all this time later, I find information that fills-in that blank for me. Mystery solved.....

Zara Phillips with an approved helmet sticker
in the show jumping phase of a 3-day event.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Back on January 1st, my friend Lorie Fleenor held an ACTHA-recognized competitive trail challenge at her family's farm in Bristol, TN. Lorie had asked me to be an obstacle judge, which I enthusiastically agreed to. I had heard Lorie and her mother-in-law, Kay Fleenor, talk about the ACTHA rides before, yet I really didn't know much about this and wanted to learn more. Basically, these trail challenges are trail rides over a pre-marked trail that are furnished with anywhere from 5-10 "obstacles" that a horse/rider pair will negotiate for a score (0-10). Some of these obstacles include a water crossing, jumping a log, dismount/mount, back, banks, crossing a tarp, passing through "vines" (a shredded shower curtain), and other similar tests that gauge a horse and rider's skill at various questions that they might be asked out on the trail. Lorie had set up and ridden the course the previous day and she estimated it was about 7 miles and would take about 2-2.5 hours to ride.

Riders leave the start for the January 1st ACTHA CTC
at Magna Vista Farm

(Photo courtesy of Kay Fleenor)

As a regular jump judge for cross-country at various USEA horse trials, I felt I was fairly experienced enough to be an ACTHA obstacle judge, and I really enjoyed learning about the obstacle I was assigned to, as well as the requirements and judging criteria of this question. I judged an "injured animal rescue" obstacle, which consisted of a stuffed sheep, a mounting block, and a barrel. The riders had to stop at me, I explained the exercise and what they were allowed/not allowed to do, and then the rider would proceed to cross through the start cones, halt at the mounting block, dismount on the ground (there were certain criteria that deemed the dismount acceptable from 0-10 points), pick up the "injured" sheep, mount from the mounting block (there were grading criteria for the mount, as well), walk to the barrel, then set the "injured" animal on the barrel and pass through the finish under 60 seconds. It sounds fairly easy, but as the stillness and obedience of the horse is gauged, as well as the technique of the mounting/dismounting rider, it gets kind of picky. I was pretty generous, though, as this ride was the first that Lorie and Kay have hosted and the riders were out having fun (not competing for a championship or anything). It also made me wonder how well Eddie and I would do, since the horse is not allowed to move at all during the mount, and Eddie is typically squirrelly when I mount, which would seriously affect our score for something like this!

I was later explaining this ACTHA ride to one of my eventer friends (who had never heard of this before, either) and we were talking about how much fun this would be for eventers in the off season. For those of us who can't train/clinic, fox hunt, or do hunter paces a lot over the winter months, this sounds like a great way to have fun and also get in some hacking/conditioning as well. Riders and horses go out in pairs, so it's also a great opportunity to grab a friend and go for an enjoyable ride.

Even though the January ride in Bristol was cold and rainy, there were 10 entries and everyone had a really good time. It was good experience for some local riders, it was great for Lorie and Kay to get started as venue hosts, and they got the chance to see what worked/didn't work in preparation for another ride they will hold in April. I enjoyed judging an obstacle, as I got to see all the riders and how they negotiated my question, but I would like to ride next time and see how Eddie and I do. Maybe Kelly Wallace and Stryder would like to come along with us and we could have a "chat-and-hack" and get a little conditioning in, as well. Sounds like a good time, to me!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"...When people stop being polite, and....."

I started the 5th, most recent of Jen Lancaster's books this past weekend. I have to say that her dedication of this book to Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray has probably made me laugh harder than anything I've actually read in the text of the book thus far. If you don't know who those two people are (without Googling them), then you don't get to - nor deserve to - laugh at that reference. Those two names were synonymous with the classic reality television that created the monster that is here today. I never watch reality t.v. (ok, I do watch Ghost Adventures and Cooking Channel....does that count?), and maybe my disdain for what is out there now stems from the fact that it doesn't get any better than the original Real World: New York. I'm a purist in many ways. I much prefer This Side of Paradise to any of Fitzgerald's other works; Bottle Rocket is BY FAR Wes Anderson's best film (with Fantastic Mr. Fox running a close second); and, who could argue with me that anything of Quentin Tarantino's is better than his epic debut, Reservoir Dogs? When you get it right the first time, it's just really hard to up-the-ante in any/all later attempts (unless you are Coldplay). 
Gouda!!! And, is that a cellphone that Eric is holding?
My, how time flies...
The Real World: New York set the bar, and everything thereafter fell short. But, you know, even though it got worse with each new passing season, I would still find myself watching. Just a little bit here and there, now-and-again. I think I was waiting to finally see a season that matched the wonder of initially tracking the daily goings-on of that first fabulous cast. Kind of like how I pretty much knew what each subsequent season of Newlyweds was going to be like, based on the first show, yet I still bought all 3 full seasons on dvd anyway (after watching them all on MTV to begin with). And then.....I watched the dvds that I'd bought after I already saw them on t.v. Could. Not. Stop. Watching. 

But, that is where I draw the line. No A
merican Idol for me, thank you very much. Who gives a crap about Kendra, I have no idea who Snooki is, and who is really keeping up with the Kardashian's anyway? Not me. But, were they to replay every episode of that first RW (or the 10-year's-after season, Back to New York), you bet I'd be watching. In fact, it has now been 20 years since that first season was aired in 1991. Shouldn't there be a reunion show in the works somewhere (with Julie and Eric present, this time)? A girl can dream, I guess. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Learn to ride cross-country!

After posting about the Badminton XC safety measures last week, I went to look at a few additional links on the British Eventing web site and I scanned through several of the elements they provide for informing riders, owners, event organizers, trainers/coaches, venue owners, spectators, etc. I clicked on a section devoted to their "Safety Manifesto" and I found a video there that is designed to show how to effectively and more safely ride cross-country. Now, as we all know, you can't learn how to ride cross-country from a video, but they do an excellent job of providing visual evidence in a very short amount of time/space of what we *should* look like when riding XC. If anything, it is interesting and instructive, although I have to think that surely I have had my fair share of moments on course that represented the "unstable in the saddle" demonstrations as opposed to the "stable and secure in the saddle" examples. But, that's why we practice, folks!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Battlefield Ride

This lovely entry was posted a week or so ago on Eventing Nation by another eventer here in Tennessee. I was surprised by the fact that I was unaware you could horseback ride at a Civil War battlefield. Chickamauga is in Chattanooga, which is so close to me here in Knoxville. I might plan a few "historic hacks" for me and Eddie this year. What a peaceful and respectful way to spend a day, blending the past with the present.

Monday, January 17, 2011

This is what happens......

YSL "Palais Mohawk" (or "pony mane") purple suede pumps
(I wonder if these also come in chestnut and white?)

......when you Google "pony shoes." So then, naturally, I Googled: "gorgeous purple designer shoes." It just all went downhill from there. It got particularly out-of-control when the images started including "gorgeous purple" designer HANDBAGS sprinkled amongst the images of the shoes, as well. Thanks for wasting 2 hours of my life, Google elves.

Christian Louboutin purple suede pumps
(I'm not a huge fan of plain, purple suede, but there is
something about the color combination of the purple and
the signature Louboutin red that is quite striking)

YSL tribute stilleto (I'm speechless!)

Christian Louboutin pump with purple flower
(Out of all these selections, this is definitely "me." I could 
think of a 1,000 places to wear these and I can envision just what 
exactly I would wear them with. The possibilities are endless!)

Friday, January 14, 2011

SPOTTED: adorable pony at the beach

"Spotty" arriving with the other horses. 

Or, I could have also titled this: "Spotted, adorable pony at the beach." Either way, he's as cute as can be!

Well, it's been a cold and snowy week here in Tennessee. So, I'm naturally daydreaming about warmer climates and riding my horse somewhere pleasant and, the beach. After stumbling upon the quirky photo I posted the other day of Michael Dagostino (
Redneck Eventing), I scanned over more photo albums on the Oakford Equestrian Centre site and I came across these of Spotty and his friends.

"Spotty" takes a swim.

It appears the riders from Oakford take frequent trips with their horses to the beach and in these pictures, "Spotty" got to go along too. I have several friends who ride and event ponies, and I have several friends who ride and event Appaloosas (or Appy crosses). These pictures should make EVERYBODY happy, then! 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Badminton Grassroots Championship

In the past few years, British Eventing has started a series of "grassroots" level competitions in the UK that has given a wider range of eventers the chance to compete. This proves to acknowledge in Britain what the U.S. has come to realize very well: that the majority of the competing eventers that comprise our sport are at the "grassroots" of eventing....the lower, amateur levels. Previously, BE-sanctioned competitions started around the pre-novice level (roughly the equivalent of the American training level). Now, BE offers lower levels BE80 (about the same as the American beginner novice level), BE90 (somewhere between American BN and novice), and BE100 (in between American N and training levels).

These levels have various competitions around the UK and riders can qualify for the Badminton Grassroots Championship by winning or performing well at regional championships (probably about the same as the USEA area championships). I guess the BGC, which is held either concurrently with the Badminton Horse Trials (how cool is that?), or it's held on the weekend before/after the 4-star, is basically the same as our American Eventing Championships (at least for the BN, N, and T levels). Sort of like if the lower levels of AECs were also at the Kentucky Horse Park the same time as Rolex. Wow, that would be something. Not that we don't all compete at KHP in events throughout the year, but what a huge undertaking that would be for every qualified eventer to be riding at Rolex (albeit over very different courses). That would be craziness, I'd imagine. It would be good public exposure for the sport at all levels (not just the 4-star level), but I can't fathom what kind of logistical ordeal that would be. 

Ultimately, I think I like our 4-star and AECs to be separate (as they are). But, how much of a thrill would it be to gallop past Badminton House on your horse over YOUR championship course? For some of us, that would be the stuff dreams are made of!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


One of the constant topics in eventing, as we all know, is how to make cross-country safer (for both horses and riders). Our sport has evolved so much in the past 30 years -- changing radically even within just the past 10 years or so -- yet those who are trying to ensure its future are some of the very same people who factor heavily into the great history of three-day eventing.

Hugh Thomas (yes, he of the esteemed Badminton horse trials...the very pinnacle of eventing) talks in this video about how the course at Badminton is continually being altered, outfitted, and updated to allow for "safer" cross-country fences, while still maintaining the integrity of an ideal 4-star track. I like his consideration of this as a scientific development (they don't expect an easy answer over night) and I also like his viewpoint on the proposed penalty system for a horse/rider combination who does err badly enough at a frangible fence to break the pin or "deform" the obstacle. I, personally, would gladly see them impose a 20 or 40 penalty rule for breaking a frangible opposed to the current penalty, which often times these days over primarily non-frangible fences seems to be either a serious fall, a tragic injury (to horse or rider or both), or the highest price possible: their very lives. I also thought it was interesting that he mentions David O'Connor's aversion to using the styro-logs at drops into water because he feels they would break too easily (thus being costly and time-consuming to keep repairing/replacing throughout a typical cross-country day). Of course, this very approach was employed this past spring at Rolex, to great success (thankfully).

As we all know, the dangers of cross-country are foremost on many people's minds, but it is a grave oversight to assume that nothing is really being done about it, just because courses haven't been magically transformed by utilizing Nerf sticks, Jell-O, and whipped cream to build the fences. I am much more for the frangible, deformable construction options everywhere, but I also don't want courses to begin resembling a "beefed up" show jump track or a hodge-podge of a gingerbread house in order to make all the jumps collapsible upon heavy impact. There is sophisticated engineering out there and creative mechanics testing is going on everyday. As with all innovations, it will take time, but the right answer(s) will come eventually. I do believe in that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Redneck Eventing

Photo of Australian eventer Michael Dagostino on the 
cross-country course at Brigadoon Horse Trials
This picture cracks me up! It's actually in Australia....not Alabama....but I think it might be an inspiration for a creative new use for all these old junker cars we see piled up everywhere. It's no Mitsubishi jump, but it does the job just the same! 

Monday, January 10, 2011


Holly Breaux and Flecken Awesome at Rocking Horse
Horse Trials in Florida (2010).

I've been thinking about (and analyzing) my typical jumping position and noting places and times where/when I should be adjusting that position and not just always riding the same way, in every situation. For an eventer, having a natural and quickly changeable riding style is such an asset, since no step, effort, or movement is ever the same or even predictable. Having come from a mostly hunter, dressage, and pony club eventing background, I have a mix of instruction that has influenced the style of riding that is mine alone. I have a fairly good seat, decent sense of balance, and relatively soft hands (hunter/equitation); a --usually-- good eyeline (chin up, eyes forward) and occasionally correct elbow-hand-bit connection from my dressage instruction; and, I have a scrappy way of managing to stay in the saddle when I'm not particularly tight, strong, or centered (learned through pony club eventing and growing up riding a scopey pony). However, I would like to work towards training myself to ride more like an eventer on a regular basis (and, I mean a talented eventer; a good eventer; a capable eventer) who has established a style and position that is light and balanced in dressage, strong and forward for cross-country, and accurate and controlled during show jumping. Basically, what I want to do is learn how to ride EXACTLY like my friend, Holly Breaux. But, then again (judging by this fabulous photograph), who wouldn't want to ride like Holly?
I don't endeavor to look like Holly (I haven't been that small since I was in the 4th grade!), but as a rider she is always centered, always secure, her upper body is not falling forward (since she doesn't collapse over Fleck's neck like other people I know do to Eddie their horse), and -- most of all -- her release is soft and very giving, yet she always maintains solid contact and she is balanced and in control under all circumstances. In this particular picture, Fleck has twisted slightly over what is a very big and solid table, yet Holly has hardly moved in the saddle and her body is not in the way of her horse as he adjusts to this effort. Her hand is forward, freeing Fleck to move as necessary to land well and continue on to the next fence at a gallop, and not have to regroup for 3 or 4 seconds after an awkward landing. Although I can't see the take-off in this picture, I would imagine they didn't trickle down to the fence, prop, leap heavily off the forehand, arc over it with little to no momentum, and then land in a heap on the other side. This is how I would characterize not just a few of my and Eddie's jumping efforts. Rarely do we come down to a fence when Eddie is moving out, in front of my leg, allowing him to jump up to me....instead of me collapsing down onto his neck. 
I want to work on riding Eddie's canter and gallop so that he doesn't have to prance over courses like a hunter (loopy, trickling, flat, and sucking back) just so I can sit his jump. I want to ride like Holly so that I can let Eddie jump 4 feet over a 3-foot-fence, because I need to be able to ride my horse......not force him to jump my ride (if that makes sense). Otherwise, I'm not rising to the level of my talented horse, but rather asking Eddie to "dumb down" to my comfort level. I know this is a lot to take on in one schooling alone and it will take some time this spring, but I will start with sitting tall down to the fences and giving forward with an automatic release, and not leaning into the fences and releasing way up his crest, thereby throwing away my contact (sometimes even before we take-off, effectively "dropping" my horse at the fence.....which I have not paid for nearly as much as I'm sure I should have in the past). This will be a good start, at least. Then, maybe one day, we'll have even one fence that rides as successfully as Holly and Fleck!
Me and Eddie show jumping at a combined test. Notice
how my leg has slipped back slightly, my toe is pointed out,
I'm too far forward on his neck, and my release is broken over
at the wrist (making the contact too loose and ineffective).
But, hey, I'm not exactly falling off, either!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Think Sunny Thoughts

Well, I'm ending one more week by NOT riding. January is part of the "off season" for a reason, I guess. But, I read this fabulous article on EN today that has me very excited about my next jump school.....whenever that might be. Here are a few highlights I gleaned, so I am looking forward to a day when the sun shines and the mud dries. 

  • Have a plan BEFORE you get on to ride (move jumps prior to getting tacked up, if you don't have someone to set jumps for you while you ride).
  • Jump at home at least once a week, which will help keep your horse from being silly when you do jump them (yep, excellent advice.....maybe if Eddie was jumped often enough that he got bored with it, he wouldn't act like he'd never done it before and that it's just the most exciting, outrageous thing he's ever experienced. Wheee!!! ).
  • Distinguish between jump schools that focus on technique versus those that are educational exercises. Questions that hone technique allow horse/rider to both practice what works, and make it better or more effective. Educational lessons are designed to follow-up with or revisit something that has gone wrong or "needs fixin'" and should focus on that one specific area until the situation is resolved, or at least until progress is shown.
  • To tie-in with that last statement, know when to stop for the day.....being aware of when your horse has reached his limit or is on the edge of "shutting down." Know when he is mentally worn-out before he is physically worn-out. Rome wasn't built in a day!
  • Jump schools that emphasize technique should have questions that involve asking the horse to shorten his stride/lengthen his stride, jump more roundly, avoiding landing short, and move strongly off both leads. Some ways to practice these goals include using raised placement poles (I mentioned this same suggestion in my earlier post that referenced the USEA professionals panel), using angled jumps or bending lines, and jumping on a circle to get a horse quicker up front on his one lead or the other (depending on which is his weaker direction). In terms of working on rider technique, try a few different aids or approaches to asking for something in a different way (such as shifting weight/seat differently, altering your release slightly, or perhaps sitting taller in the saddle.....which I also learned when reading about Sharon White and how she rides green youngsters cross-country). 
  • Jump schools that emphasize educational opportunities are not as prescriptive and may depend entirely upon what happened (or DIDN'T happen) at the previous event. Typical competition errors might arise due to bad timing, an awkward approach, or an unbalanced horse too much on his forehand or leaning too much on one lead or the other. Ways to improve upon these errors in an educational jump school might involve bending lines, angled fences, or a line of related distances (which helps when trying to tweak the approach to a jump, since the exact distance is easier to "find" when coming from a related effort). 
  • Ultimately, if you jump often, there will be a fair amount of technique schoolings as well as educational lessons, sometimes with both purposes being combined. There is no rule that says you can't work on things you do well to make them better, while at the same time perhaps introducing something new and bringing that to the jump school on the same day. Sally's advice to know your horse and what makes him tick is a sound suggestion that will make schoolings more productive and customized.....and, will require the rider to be aware, observant, and involved in why he/she is doing what, and what the subsequent result should be. 
  • Finally, she says "If I have introduced something new, I will try to finish the school on something that the horse finds relatively easy so he goes back to the barn in a good frame of mind." Or, in other words.....end on a positive note!
I can't wait to have good weather here so I can practice some of these schooling exercises. I know that I need to be incorporating more related distances, as well as jumping Eddie on a circle to the RIGHT, since he is stiff to the right and that is his weaker lead. I am so ready to see some amazing improvements in 2011!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I will......

.....RIDE MY HORSE TODAY. I will ride my horse today. I will ride my horse today. I will ride my horse today. I will ride my horse today. I will ride my horse today. I will ride my horse today. I will ride my horse today. I will ride my horse today................................

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What the world a few more Rogers.

This entry was taken from a recent USEA Area I newsletter and it made me laugh first thing this morning. Very funny, and very true!

The First Six Months
Advice to all those dating or wed to an eventer.
by Roger Demers

When I first met Katie Murphy I had no idea what eventing was, nor had I ever been near a horse. She periodically came into Blue Seal where I worked part-time during graduate school to pick up grain and pet supplies. There was something different about Katie that motivated me to ask her out. Fortunately she agreed and two weeks later we had our first date. The only thing I knew about horses was how much a bag of grain weighed. As we spent more time together I asked about eventing—the most important thing I learned was to not call it “horse racing”. My only association with equestrian competitions was the Kentucky Derby, and I figured all horse competitions were called racing. Not true! I understood that eventing was made up of three different disciplines, often over the course of three days—a triathlon for us non-horsey folks. In an attempt to impress my new girlfriend, I studied YouTube videos of Rolex, the USEA website and various photographer sites. Then, I attended my first event.

The following are some guidelines to eventing gleaned from my first six months in the eventing world. May it be of benefit to an eventer’s boyfriend/girlfriend, who do not yet know what they’ve gotten themselves into. After dressage, we set out to walk cross-country. Those fences looked NOTHING like the ones on YouTube! They were big. They were solid. And they were everywhere. To think, this was only Preliminary and not the four-stars I had watched. At fence one, I let a profanity slip and confirmed with Katie that she would be jumping this. She told me to pipe down and walk faster, and then “Just wait until you see the slide.”

For those of us who have never ridden XC, it is important to not do the following things while walking the course with the rider:
Ask how any horse could jump that
Proclaim appreciation to God that you are not jumping that fence
Ask if you can jump the smaller one next to it instead

The weekends are very long, tiring, and you never stop working. You’d think as the boyfriend I’d garner attention at some point. But no, the horse gets it all. She warned me that no part of a competition weekend is about me: the horse comes first, then the rider and boyfriend/girlfriend are somewhere at the same level of importance as the dogs. I was not expecting it to be true, but it was—the whole weekend, it was as if she wasn’t my girlfriend! Another tip: Everyone had a dog. Get one and you’ll fit right in. Also, bring a camera. Know how to use it.

The eventing community is great, someone is always laughing and they help each other out. Like the time Katie’s horse, Fitty, spooked, knocked me into the air and took off, galloping through stabling. A complete stranger caught him while I lay on the ground in disbelief. Thankfully, I could return to Katie as though nothing had happened. (Thanks stranger!) Once you start meeting people and getting to know other riders and their teams, events turn into big social gatherings. At first I didn’t know anyone, but I now look forward to seeing many of the same friends. If I’m lucky, they bring a husband, a boyfriend—or even a dog.

Over the course of the weekend, you will experience a vast range of emotions. You’ll see riders elated as they leave the dressage ring, while others refuse to make eye contact. Cross country brings excitement, angst and an awareness of the tact and skill necessary to negotiate those horrifying fences. Katie tells me eventers compete for the rush of cross country, but given the port-o-potty traffic the morning of, I wonder if adrenaline is the only rush these competitors are feeling. The final day of show jumping offers the opportunity to move-up in the standings, clinch the win or just be done already. I’ve witnessed many reactions from the sidelines and in stabling. People scream, joke, recap every stride of their ride or cry. Lastly, if your rider ever has a problem while competing, do not say a word! Let them talk first. And never, ever offer advice. These riders train for months – MONTHS! – all to compete for 15 minutes. Those 15 minutes can make for a very long drive home.

Rising before the sun, hours in the truck across state borders, the constant smell of manure, seeing your girlfriend cleaning her horse’s sheath, these are some of the things which make dating an eventer challenging. But, as this season drew to a close, and saddles were replaced by blankets, I found myself missing the weekends away, the cool evenings in the gooseneck and the canine camaraderie.

Roger is pursuing his masters in Fluid Mechanics at UNH. When he’s not grooming, he enjoys competing in downhill mountain biking. Follow his adventures on Facebook.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New Possibilities!

Well, the big news right now in the U.S. eventing world is that Phillip Dutton and Bobby Costello have applied jointly for the positions of U.S. eventing team coach and chef d'equipe. What a fabulous pair! With experience, knowledge, connections, intelligence, communication savvy, and loads of well-earned respect, these two are already existing strengths on the American scene and have opened the door for some exciting potential with this announcement. What strikes me more than the unbelievable qualifications that make them excellent candidates for leading our team is the concept that they are clearly individuals who do not want to sit by and ask for change while not taking action themselves. What stronger message of "we need change now" could there be than for them to forfeit their own chances for international glory by standing up to lead others on to it in the future? Very commendable on both their parts, and very exciting (on my part) as a member of the U.S. eventing community!