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We Are Flying Solo

October 27, 2011

T Is For Training

3D is for Awesome.  Together, they make Waredaca T3D, the phenomenal long-format event run by our very own Area II Adult Rider program, which I had the distinct pleasure of volunteering at most of last week.  Exhausting, yes, but exhilarating and educational.  I first experienced this event in 2009 and had made it my goal to achieve with Solo.  We didn't make it, but the quest taught us a great deal about ourselves and I went back to work the event this year with a new perspective.

It did not disappoint.

The terrible shack I had to stay in, also known as my friend, Beth's beautiful house -- the picture doesn't show the delicious hot tub in the back...
Waredaca is in the heart of Maryland horse country, NW of Washington, DC.
A groomed area awaits the first competitor.
Wednesday was the first jog-up and I stewarded each horse to the indoor arena gate in the windy drizzle.  It rains at least one day every year at the T3D, just like Rolex!  The point of the T3D is not just to complete a long-format event, although that would be more than adequate motivation to come!  It is also built as an educational experience, with lectures, clinicians, vets, and farriers on hand to offer assistance, coaching, and years of wisdom to nervous riders.  Dinner that night included a talk from the event vet, the ever-helpful, ever-cheerful Dr. Julie, on what to expect in the ten-minute box between Phases C and D on Friday and a raffle.  I would like to note that I LOVE THE T3D RAFFLES.  Simply because it is the only place ever that I actually win stuff and I am now the proud owner of 5 free bags of feed and an awesome Cosequin bucket.

Thursday, I was in charge of the dressage warm-up ring and bit check before riders entered the ring at A.  You can see the little "C" I marked next to each rider after I felt up their horse.  Horse's mouth.  Ha.  No edges, no rollers allowed.  But I had no rule-breakers and I sent each one up to the ring with a smile and a "good luck!"

After dressage, riders switched off their tack and went off to meet Stephen Bradley and Tremaine Cooper for steeplechase practice.  I ate lunch and lounged in the stables to regain my strength for Friday!

"What happens Friday," you ask?

Only the pure awesomeness of endurance day of a true 3-day event.  Explanation here.

Thursday afternoon, I'd also participated in a coursewalk with Tremaine Cooper, who just so happens to build a lot of courses, including the Prelim and higher courses at our very own Carolina Horse Park.  I learned how to better read terrain on a course and to really think about how it will affect your horse's gallop.  He stressed multiple times, don't be yanking on your horse two strides out from the jump; do your balancing 10 strides out, then soften and go forward to your jumping effort.

It's hard to take a picture while trying to look like you are not taking a picture.
"Your horsey needs to go over, like this..."
Michele, my hard-working co-volunteer, works it for the camera.
But it was Friday now, which meant time to get geared up and send some horses out of the start box!  Michele and I were the starters and finish timers for Phase D, the cross country course and Beth kept communications going.  By the time horses and riders got to us, they had already done Phases A (Roads and Tracks I, aka lots of trotting),  B (steeplechase!), and C (Roads and Tracks II, aka more trotting).

It takes a lot of gear to run the start box.  We have to have sychronized timers and backup timers for both the start and finish line.  Then we need a radio to talk to Jim, aka Master Of The Timers, and to Brian O'Connor, announcer and XC control.  Add to that scoresheets, pencils, chairs and...

A LOT OF CLOTHES.  Hey, that wind was cold.

The view I long to have.

5..4..3..2..1...Steve Fulton and Ticket To Ride get the countdown from Michele.
Barbara Bloom and Fabulous Fiction are on course!
We were rejoicing as the morning rolled smoothly along.  Most horses went clear with only one or two runouts and the cool weather meant everyone passed the vet box with flying colours.  I think we jinxed it.  Right at the end of the day, the second to last rider, Steve's charming daughter, Savannah, on the flying chestnut, FMF Royal Guest, took a nose dive into one of the water jumps.  We held our collective breaths and bent straining ears to the radios -- icy water, a cold wind, and a hard fall are not a good combination.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when she was loaded safely into the ambulance and her mare walked back to the stable.  Although Savannah ended her day in surgery for her broken arm, we were all glad it was not a broken neck or a head injury for this gutsy young rider.  The last rider, after a long hold, was eliminated shortly thereafter for a missing a jump, but she got to complete the course and at only 13 years old, riding a horse trained by Phillip Dutton, I'm sure she'll be back to try again soon! 

After all of that, Saturday was almost uneventful.  I had walked the course the evening before with Stephen Bradley and was interested to see how it rode.  After the Saturday morning jog, I was again warmup steward and gate master of the stadium ring and was thrilled to see all the remaining riders successfully complete the event with just a few rails here and there.  Mountains of prizes were handed out, including Best Conditioned, Oldest Horse, Oldest Rider (I mean, "Rider Farthest From Junior Status" as Brian so tactfully put it), Best Groom, Good Sportsmanship, Most Cross Country Enthusiasm, and Best Turned Out.

I cannot stress enough the value of getting out and volunteering at events like these.  Not only do you get to benefit from lectures, course walks, etc, but you get to meet members of your area, check out courses, watch warm up rides (these can be very enlightening), listen to trainers, see what types of riding strategies work or don't work....the list of benefits is nearly endless.  And this doesn't even include the fact that eventing NEEDS you.  When you compete, crowds of people are there working, for free, so you can ride.  Turn the tables and give back because events can't happen without the labour of love that is volunteering.

When I pulled into my driveway Saturday evening, I was exhausted (although I still had to go ride Encore and pack for our horse trial) but excited.  With a little education and mileage, I could already envision Encore rocking that it too early to send in my entry??


  1. Sounds like loads of fun! I agree that volunteering is so benefical for all parties and is very important to me to be involved in. I say maybe a little early to send in your entry but not early at all to start the dream and get the ball rolling in that direction. I have no doubt you two will be there soon!

  2. That does it... I am definitely making competing in a long format event one of my goals. It will be a while before I get there but it does seem so much fun!

    The last event I rode in I accidentally jumped the BN coop instead of the Novice one. (Hey they looked exactly the same and were catty-corner from each other so the BN one was visible first! oops!) I got to finish the course though so it was all good. I'm sure the 13 year old will be back.

    I agree with volunteering too. I have learned so much from the few times I have had the privilege of doing so.

  3. Doooo it. The grins at the end of Phase D were universal and it makes the short format seem like cheating in comparison.

  4. Volunteering awesomeness + T3D awesomeness = Awesome Fun!! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Yeah, I say go ahead and send in that entry for, well, 2013? Encore is sooo going to rock the long format!!

  6. Oh, and that house is amazing!!!

  7. LOL, Alana, you should see the inside! It's like visiting George Washington only with central heating, so gorgeous. That will probably be 2014, but I'll have to leave that up to Encore!