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We Are Flying Solo

May 17, 2015

Winners Don't Always Carry Ribbons

Partner love from Dr. Kim Keeton
Our sport is, above all, about partnership & horsemanship.  Winning comes in many forms & it’s not always about a number.  Every time I work an event, I see the people who display the best of those values, who achieve the quietest form of greatness.

And they are not always the ones holding a ribbon on Day 3.

Greatness I saw included young T3DE rider Laura Duhamel, who walked into the secretary's office at the end of endurance day & withdrew.  Although she & Fate's Patriot had only a single refusal on XC, she felt her horse just wasn't quite right & chose to take him home, putting her partner first so they could try again another day.

Lost with a map like this? Surely not!
Or Rebecca Barber, another Training 3DE entry. She found herself halfway through phase D…lost & desperately circling for the next jump.  Just as she reached her maximum time on course, she decided to retire.  All of our hearts fell with her as she walked back to stabling.

But after hanging up her bridle, she stayed to help others with a big smile for the remainder of the competition. It earned her the award that is my favorite to give: the Sportsmanship Award.

Which included an autographed copy of Training of the Three-day Event Horse and Rider, with a handwritten note from author God Jim Wofford himself, a prize I’d guess many of us would cage fight for (or you can buy new on Amazon...for $500?!!).  Not to mention the rest of the loot in her packed bag.

It’s Never Just A Dressage Show

Just getting there is an accomplishment on its own.  Completion of a long format event is yet another.  So each & every entry gets my resounding applause.

BN3DE Bonnie Coulter's grin says it all when she & 21-yr-old QH Otto Be Lucky finish Phase D (& place 5th!); thanks, Erica, for the WIN selfie!
Winning one of our special awards takes yet another level of heart & dedication, so a HUGE TFS shout-out to:

Donkey gets Becky's happy face!
Best Conditioned Horse, primary sponsor So8ths Farm:
Donkey Hote (I get to say his name again, yessss!), owned & ridden by Sue Goepfert; they were also a close 2nd both in the N3DE division & for the N3DE TIP award by a mere 2.9 points.

Lowest Scoring Adult Amateur, sponsored by BlackWatch Stables (must be a member of your Area Adult Rider program): Dr. Kim Keeton & Evita-Veron, T3DE division winners.

Effenzauber effen-gallops!
Best Turned Out in Jog-Ups, sponsored by Higher Standards Leather Care, Cowboy Magic, Brant Gamma Photos, Dover Saddlery, & Grand Meadows:
  • Training – Louisa Flaig & Effenzauber
  • Novice – Ann Bower & Prosecco
  • Beginner Novice – Patricia Thompson & The Dark Knight
Red Fury even pauses winningly
Highest Scoring TB, sponsored by The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP; some divisions did not have any riders who gave me numbers, hence the gaps):
  • Novice 3DE – Paychecker, with Minge Wiseman, who also won the N3DE division on their stunning 28.1 dressage score.
  • Beginner Novice 3DE – Red Fury, with our friend Nobie Cannon; they were 2nd in their division as well,  behind winner Emma Boswell & Sprite by only 0.3 points!!
  • Training HT – Laurelin, with Lisa Borgia, who also won the Open Training HT.
  • Novice HT – Action Jackson, with Erin Kimmer, 4th in Open Novice on a lovely 27.3.
And of course, CONGRATULATIONS to Kim, Minge, & Emma for winning the T/N/BN 3DE division, respectively!!!  In all three, the top three were separated by less than a single stadium rail (well, Novice had a whopping 5.2 pt spread, close enough), so well done under intense pressure.

Brad's mule is easy to spot
Moar Thank You

From the first day I met him, during a long format clinic with Becky Holder, where I tortured took Solo, farm owner Brad Turley has been beyond generous & supportive of both the long format & the adult amateur.  You can read his message in the gorgeous (not that I’m biased...) event program (apologies to those who got hard copies, subjected to printer error, but the linked .pdf has correct format).    

Thank you to Horse Junkies United, The Cheraw Chronicle, & Leslie Threlkeld with Eventing Nation for your articles (including a new one just yesterday), social media sharing, & Leslie's onsite help not only with media, but as Assistant Organizer!

BN3DE Don Warren & Sunny One adorably on their way to 6th
Thank you to the ever-wonderful Becky Holder for bringing her students down the road to participate; your support & presence throughout the event helps show our sport how much it matters!

Sorry, you just got photobombed by a Holder AND a TARDIS portajohn
To Dr. Debbie Williamson, owner of Williamson Equine Veterinary Associates, & Dr. Marsha Severt, of Brown Creek Equine Hospital (along with asst. Stephanie Graham, as Dr. Skip, Marsha’s husband & co-owner of their practice, couldn’t make it this year), who take time away from their own practices to help keep the horses safe & healthy.  To JJ Johnson, Radio Control Queen from here to Rolex & beyond, for enabling vital communication & sharing her vast experience with me!

JJ makes XC run smooth as silk; N3DE Heather King & CF Baltic Royal Tee
I Swear, This Post Has An End

If this were the Oscars, the band would have begun playing long ago; there are just too many thank you’s to clinicians, farm staff, volunteers, builders, riders & more, but hey, I did write a program for that…

It takes more than a village, really, it takes something akin to a metropolis, but the result…even I don’t have enough words to encompass it.  And while I can’t give away any secrets, 2016 is going to be even bigger, with even more features!

Have you started your trot sets yet?

N3DE Samantha Messamer & Finn McCool contemplate next year's plan

May 9, 2015

Who Makes The Magic Happen?

*Retroactive apology for heinously long post, should have split into two...
but all the awesome...& the words...so hard to fit...hang in there*

That moment which puts a tear in the corner of your eye, the exhilaration & triumph of achievement that comes with taking your horse to a whole new level of partnership:  participating in a long format event that represents the “heart” of our sport, such as Southern Eighths Farm’s Heart of the Carolinas.

It’s easy to recognize some of the elements which make it so special – just look at the Beginner Novice 3DE victory lap!



Exciting for me (after I contain my whimpering envy…ONE DAY!) is that Every. Single. Rider. who completed in both the BN & T3DE divisions got to take home not only their USEA completion ribbons & So8ths completion medals (damn straight, you earned a freaking medal), but also a much-coveted neck ribbon AND a bag of sweet prize loot!!!

This is just for the BN3DE division...
The Novice 3DE division had a few more competitors (we give prizes to 8th place), but all finishers still get the more-than-deserved USEA ribbon & So8ths medal (can I just put one in my pocket to borrow for a year & pretend?).

N3DE: Sabine Desper & her Akhal-Teke Adamek finish Endurance Day!
So who is it that makes these enormous grins possible?

YOU.

You heard me right.

Weary, but smiling judges & staff as SJ winds down
It Takes A Village…For 365 Days

Anyone who has ever been part of the core staff running even a schooling horse trial knows what a monumental task it is.  The words “herding cats” do not even begin to describe the challenge & there are more moving parts than the inside of a grandfather clock.

However, every single one of those parts, from judges to concessions, competitors to volunteers, sponsors to farm staff to secretaries to stabling to the one who put the flagging tape on the parking sign, is a person.  A person like you, a person like me.

Click to embiggen
This blog has never been about marketing or money & it never will be.  As I’ve said so many times before, I share my journey because I know there are thousands of us out there, working adult amateurs trying to make it work, trying to figure it out.

So the reason I was typing at midnight last Saturday, the reason Solo’s beloved Minion & I have Twitted you to death, is because this event, aside from being mind-blowingly awesome, is the perfect illustration of all that makes eventing unique.

A group of people, from all walks of life (even non-horsey ones) & just as many states, come together & build, through a combination of diverse skillsets & what I’m convinced is a dose of fairy dust, as one competitor so aptly put it, “the experience of a lifetime.”

Seriously, these were my Steeplechase judges - I told you they could fly - when I was radio control for Phases A/B/C on Endurance Day (hey, my butt’s even in the end of the video, woot, along with Best. Organizer. Ever. & friend/neighbour/teacher, Cindy DePorter), from the very special All Veteran Group (absolutely check out their website, even more amazing than this video; THANKS, GUYS!).


Video warning:  Viewers who have ever experienced something magical & had to say goodbye may experience simultaneous weeping/joy.  Not that I, erm...

I’m Not Special

I’m a nobody.  Yes, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t have money, I forget what spare time is, I often work 50+ hours a week at a stunningly low-paying job (who gave that great advice “do what you believe in?” LOL), & I’d have to look in my own archives to remember the last time I rode a jump course.
Although Solo won 6th with Cari Budny in N3DE (srsly, his name is Solo!)
I’ve never won championships, trophies, or stacks of horse trial ribbons.  I don’t have any special certifications (well, relevant ones; I’m pretty sure my Wildland Firefighter Red Card is not very useful at a horse trial…unless the XC course catches on fire, then I've got it covered).

I do most of my own training because I can’t afford many lessons, & I’ve never competed above Training in eventing or First Level in dressage.

Here Is What I Do Have.  And So Do You.

Despite not owning a horse until a very special person bought me Solo in 2006, I’ve spent a lifetime watching horses & reading everything that has the word “horse” in it.  I believe in good horsemanship above all else:  my partner ALWAYS comes first.

Although not a competitive person, I have run horse trials (pretty much because that’s the only way I can run a proper XC course, heh) & benefited from those who took their time to give me that privilege.  And I believe in “paying it forward.”
BN3DE winners Emma Boswell & Sprite
I know how to push buttons, count (at least to ten), I can use a pencil, send emails, & print documents.  I can even drive a golf cart without breaking it.  *pause for permitted giggle*

These things may seem ridiculously simple, but this truly is how I, how YOU make magic.  And not just on event weekend.  Planning for the 2016 event started the day after the 2015 event ended.  There are so many more ways to help, even if you can’t be present on the showgrounds.

Treating vets Dr. Marsha Severt (R) & Stephanie Graham
Who Can You Be?

It is impossible to name everyone without giving you carpal tunnel from scrolling (you can read team bios, as well as check out great educational material in the full event program, downloadable here), but I want to offer an inside-out perspective & debunk any misconceptions that YOU aren’t special enough or qualified enough to be a part of this or any other event.  As has been wisely said, “We may be small, but we can do great things.

You can be Ed Madden, a semi-retired health care consultant & grandparent, who, along with his charming wife, Annie, recently moved to the Carolinas from Seattle.  Ed is our safety coordinator each year, making sure we all know what to do in every possible contingency (that hopefully never happens).

You can be Cindy Wood (yeah, it gets confusing on the radios), an Adult Amateur who is our dedicated Stable Manager to perfection here & at Waredaca’s N/T3DE in October, holding down the fort in the stalls & making sure all the horses have what they need.

She even TFS selfie'd Becky for me; two great people!
You can be Erica, Solo’s Minion, who is working on a post-doc at UNC-Chapel Hill while simultaneously raising her two-yr-old (human) with her husband, who also works full time.  She also has full-time duties dealing with me, which is a feat unto itself!!  She was an incredible help to me this weekend, at her first ever 3DE, running TFS social media while I spread-sheeted like a fiend, ferrying & handing out prize loot, bit checking, & filling any other gaps as needed.

You can be Melissa Rundt, serving dual duty being hilarious & upbeat when staff got tired, as well as making the requisite pre-event grocery run so everyone had meals & snacks at all times (my job in 2013, only she does it better!).

Melissa always strikes a dramatic pose
You can be James Baker, another working Adult Amateur rider who has ridden at So8ths & Waredaca’s long format event with his faithful partner, Wings.  He was in attendance again this year…just showing up to volunteer wherever needed.

T3DE Bag O'Win. Value: $1,400
You Are Even A Sponsor

We often think of event sponsors as companies with products on storeshelves nationwide & thick catalogues & professionally designed websites.

We are beyond grateful the event & the USEA Classic Series has some of these, such as the partnership of:
(Full list of event sponsors & links here)
  
TIP loot includes $75 cash
And I cannot leave out The Jockey Club’s great TB Incentive Program (TIP), whose fabulous rep was so helpful & friendly & voluntarily offered awards not just for the 3DE, but for the HT we run alongside!  (If you don't have a number for your OTTB yet, getting one today is easy & instant...& free)

However, YOU are sponsors too.

As so many of our entries are young or amateur riders, I couldn’t think of a better group of partners to add to the team than small businesses started by members of the same community!
 
You are Melinda, creator of Nickerbait, handmade horse treats that I would probably eat before they made it to my horses.

Who, when I emailed in a panic, searching for tracking numbers, because the farm did not appear to contain her box of prizes, sent back a set of printable gift certificates on Saturday night.  She also makes custom labels for events, if someone wants their brand on prizes, in addition to contributing products to fundraising events. 

You are Kate, owner of BlackWatch Stables, a friend of the farm owner, & 3rd generation warmblood sporthorse breeder, who couldn’t make it out to volunteer this year.  So instead, after contacting me asking how she could help, she donated a $100 SmartPak gift card & a fly sheet as the Lowest Scoring Adult Amateur award (taken home by Dr. Kim Keeton, winner of the T3DE division, & owner/head vet of Coyote Creek Equine Veterinary Services).  Just because.

Dr. Keeton & Evita-Veron on their way to finishing T3DE on their 29.6 dressage score
You are Pat of So Southern, who hand-makes customized saddle pads, covers, & other fabric products, even creating entire collections for your school/team/organization with specially reserved patterns & logos.  She sent three beautiful baby pads including return shipping labels so winners can send them back for monogramming.

Not kidding: mad golf cart skillz
You are Beka, of The Owls Approve, who was crafting unique gifts for friends & fun until she was generous enough to say yes to my impulsive recruitment over dinner in Savannah three months ago.  And now has a sold-out inventory in her Straight Shot Metal Smashing Etsy shop because everyone who saw them had instant coveting.

Of course, there are more, as previously mentioned & listed.  And each of you, from largest to smallest, are a gear without which this clock would not keep time.

To be continued...

3rd in BN3DE, Madeline Maynard & Airborne Ranger look like Endurance Day was no biggie

May 3, 2015

Don't Expect Sentences In Satuday's So8ths 3DE Update Of Blogger-Exploding Epicness

Moar prize porn!  Thanks, of course, to all these people & more:

Mary Ellen at Logorific did a fantastic job on the long banners!!

A better picture of Beka's surprise that made me sniffle:

It's been my nametag decoration...
Meghann went overboard & sent beautiful certificates & a sample for display:


The lovely banners will frame tonight's Derby party & dinner display in the little indoor out back:



And the reason I do it, the reason you all need to do it...

N3DE XC: Jodie Stowell & Island Fever lock on to the stone wall

If Becky's picked her #1... (N3DE rider Alcy Christie & Abraxis in the Phase C Assist box)

N3DE:  Sabine Desper & Adamek pause for their super crew!


Solo's Minon Erica looks like she got the temp check job in the 10-minute box! (who else stands at the horse's butt?)

Amanda Miller-Atkins & Barley clear N3DE gorgeous XC Fence 1

N3DE Julia Burke jogs Davignio for the Ground Jury before proceeding to Phase D:  XC!

N3DE Ann Bower & Prosecco (also "Best Turned Out" for their division jogs!) clear the XC Frame

...is because this.  Donkey Hode (who won Best Conditioned over all divisions!), currently in 2nd place in the N3DE explains it all, walking back to the barn with an equine smile.
Because it's just zen, man...

May 1, 2015

Anyone Got A Cyborg I Can Borrow?

Programmed & labeled; 4 months of work!
It would come in super-handy while I try to be in three places at once!

But we have arrived (alas, not financially, but beggars can't be choosers) at the Taj Mahal of Eventing that is Southern Eighths Farm.  My fellow word-nerds have now noticed the use of the pronoun "we."  Yes, I successfully coerced invited Solo's Minion to dive into the experienced that I really can never fully capture in words, the madness & magic of being part of a long format event.

I'll apologize (although perhaps "you're welcome" might be more appropriate) for the brevity, but after a long day with the real job on the river on Wednesday & at least nine hours of driving back & forth across the state for two days, I'm afraid my actual brain signed out sometime around noon today.

Add to that the whirlwind of excitement, quickly escalating to sensory overload, of seeing so many great friends, who embody the spirit of eventing, who I only get to see once or twice at year...oh, & discovering that my beautiful program got a bit butchered at some point in the printing process *sob*...at present, I'm having a hard time remembering which letters go in which words as I type, heh.  

Instead, just a few quick photos from my prize inventory this afternoon (so many goodies to win, we give prizes through 8th place, yet another level of 3DE epic-ness); a few of fantastic prizes sponsored by members of our own online community!

Libby of Higher Standards Leather Care donated gift-wrapped packages of their heinously addicitive leather soap & conditioner -- warning, once you try it, you can't stop...

Would they notice I opened it just to sniff??
Check out  Meghann's snappy program ad for Topline Leather; lucky winner of each 3DE division (BN/N/T) will be able design & order their own gorgeous custom browband.  You can finally begin to approach TFS attempted awesomeness!


And I gave you a sneak peek at my surprise hidden in the package of swag sent by the wonderful Beka, of The Owls Approve & Straight Shot Metal Smashing, but there is WAY more (is it bad for the sponsorship coordinator to want to keep the prizes??).

Eventer jewelry!  Red on right...courage in the middle
Fab keychains & bridle charms: "I survived" - I love it!!!
I'm afraid I had some phone reception trouble (surely not in Nowhere Chesterfield County, SC!) tonight, but stay tuned to our media feed for updates on the go as dressage day begins tomorrow!!

April 22, 2015

Does Your Horse Trial Have Flying Volunteers?


Yeah, I didn't think so!

http://www.thecherawchronicle.com/news/news/153055561/Paratroopers-to-drop-in-at-equestrian-event
Click to read the full story
That's right, paratroopers.  The US Army's Golden Knights skydiving team, no less -- at Southern Eighths next weekend!  I told you there is nothing like Heart of the Carolinas 3DE & HT!

Even wore his helmet; pic thx to best-of-web.com
Thank you in advance to the team & to the All Veteran Group, whom they jump for (check out the photos!), for not just making an incredible entrance but volunteering as jump judges on endurance day!  I can't end any of these sentences without an exclamation point!

Anyone who spends any time in eventing knows not a single one of our competitions could happen without an insane amount of planning & uncountable volunteers.  I believe this now negates all excuses for not volunteering at least one day a year!!  ;)

Huge thanks as well to all of the sponsors who have chipped in (and ok, I can't resist, check out a particularly epically dorky awesome media partner),  large and small; we couldn't do it without you!  The event's official sponsor page is here, but I'd like to put in print our gratitude to:

National Classic Series & Prize Sponsors:

Heart of the Carolinas Sponsors (you might recognize some names!):

...and more to come!