SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 

We Are Flying Solo

October 31, 2012

A Gear In The Complex Machine, Pt. II

The anticipation was palpable as dawn crept over Waredaca's rolling course.  A light mist and a breeze made it perfect galloping weather.  All our organizing was done the night before so we only had to man our stations (with the barrrrely enough volunteers who showed up) with scoresheets and timers and pens and cameras and radios and drinks and to stalk each rider through their phases.


I took up my traditional role as the finish timer of Phase D.  I love seeing the big grins as each partnership gallop through the finish flags, having finished the greatest accomplishment in our sport:  endurance day of a true long format event.

Tools of the trade.
Bonus:  the borrowed vehicle I sat in had heated seats.  At least, it did until the battery died.

It also came with a friend.  3 minutes can be long...
From my vantage point, I could watch riders trot off on Phase A (warmup), finish Phase C (cooldown), enter and work the 10-minute box, and then, of course, the last two jumps of the cross country course.  It was up to me to hit the red button, recording everyone's timing fate on the Seiko ribbon and reporting it to Brian.  50 times.  At (mostly) 3 minute intervals. 

It went something like this (warning, terrible cell phone video resolution):

The latter was one of my favourite horses, Mr. President. a big drafty paint cross who was actually a lovely mover and jumper and had the sweetest face; I wanted to pick him up and put him in my (very large) pocket and take him home.

But it wasn't all the same thing.  Some had more trouble than others with the concept of flags (apologies again for poor video but the conversation is worth it)...

By afternoon, it was done.  I believe one horse withdrew in the vet box and the only fall was an unfortunate soul whose mount tripped and fell on his knees starting Phase A.  Trotting.  Fortunately, you don't get eliminated for that.

After that, it's a like snowball rolling downhill, already having gathered so much momentum,  your exhausted brain just rolls along with it.  Scoresheets were all turned over the the head scorer, we all ran away and passed out after a final review of which prizes go where, and the sun had set on a fantastic day.

Saturday was almost anticlimactic after the thrill of completing the day before.  After the morning jog up,  I worked as pole steward when tired or looky horses didn't quite get all four feet over and as holder of all prizes for distribution.  The three divisions (2 Training, 1 Novice) jumped around, collected their loot, and we bolted for home.

I'll keep going back.  Maybe next year I will be on a horse.  More likely, I'll be defying death by golf cart again.  A behind the scenes video would be fascinating -- you truly would not believe the flurry and hard work and acts of generousity beyond the call of duty that are constantly occuring behind that usually smooth face of each event.

Even greater though, is the knowledge and experience I gain with each trip.  Not only do I meet new judges, officials, clincians, product reps, and adult riders, but I learn tidbits from the seemingly bottomless well of how to successfully complete a long format event.  Things you never get from a clinic or a lesson.  When I finally DO make it to competitor status, I will be the one sitting there feeling (relatively) confident about exactly what is going to happen every day, as well as how to be not only successful but EFFICIENT with my competition plan.  Because I've seen what worked and I've seen what didn't and I've seen the difference between how you ride and manage a true 3-day horse and how you ride a regular horse trial horse.

And all I remember thinking, the whole time this year, was, Encore could totally own this...


  1. I would love to have a chance to volunteer for a long format. I know that I did some volunteering before I ever rode a horse trial and it really did make a difference in my confidence.

  2. Check the USEA website and see if there is one within driving distance -- ABSOLUTELY worth it! This one is a 5 hour drive for me, but I don't begrudge one second of it. I'll also be helping run the Southern Eights 3-Day in the spring, right on the NC/SC border -- I'll be recruiting!