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Eventing Dad

Achievements

About Eventing Dad

Six years of shows nearly every weekend. Rolex on the horizon. Time to share the dad experience.

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When I Am Not There

Photo via Dan Moran. Photo via Dan Moran.

It has been a minute since my last blog post as Eventing Dad. It is basically because I have not been able to be there. I thought I would take a few minutes to put down my feelings in an open letter to Bailey. Maybe some of the other Eventing Parents out there can relate.

When I am not there…

When I am not there… I sit at the computer and hit refresh multiple times waiting to see your score dressage score pop up. It always seems all the scores above yours appear and then time slows down. Waiting for that next five minutes to pass seems like an eternity.

When I am not there… and I know you are going out on cross country, everything in my world stops. For the next 5, 6, or 7 minutes I can barely breathe in anticipation of someone (Eventing Mom, trainer, come on, anyone!) to give me a call or send a text to let me know you made it safe and that you hopefully went double clear.

When I am not there… I miss not being present for the biggest shows of your life. With the help of Tamie Smith, you and Leo have got your confidence back and have finally broken through and completed two Advanced level shows. I am so happy for you.

When I am not there… I hope someone else is there in my stead to yell “Go Bailey!” and hoot and holler as you leave the start box. I hope someone is there to see you pat Leo’s neck as you cross the finish line, the tell-tall sign that you have had a clear cross country ride. You always love on Leo, but yeah, I can tell the difference.

When I am not there… I tell everyone what you are up to. Everyone is interested, right? Yes, I am probably that dad, but hey, I am Eventing Dad. I share with everyone how proud I am of you overcoming the first major hurdle you and Leo have come across and how I look forward to the success that more hard work and experience will bring.

When I am not there… I constantly ask my friends for prayers of safety for you and Leo and all the other riders out there. We cannot deny the danger of the sport and every bit of protection is a welcomed thing.

When I am not there… I occasionally type your name into the Eventing Nation, YouTube, and Google search bars just to see if there are any mentions of you in an article or video that I might have missed. Does any other parent do this? I am sure we all do. And then we share, share, share on social media.

When I am not there… I miss more than anything the weekends we have spent as a family over the past 14 years. Either at a lesson or a show, the sport of horse has brought more riches in time spent together than all of the money that we have spent. I will never regret spending a single dime on this sport because it has allowed our family to be so close.

Time goes on and there are always seasons that end in life and new ones to be entered. It most likely will never be the same now that Bailey’s career requires that she travel around the country to get to the shows she needs to get to that “next level”.

However, there are a couple of new members to Team Bailey that have recently arrived. I can’t wait to be able to go to the Area 5 shows where Bailey introduces them to our awesome sport. I will again get to be at the start gate cheering as she goes out on course and be there for a high five as she crosses the finish line.

And who knows, maybe it’s time for Eventing Dad to become the student. Time for Eventing Dad to get back on the horse that threw him. Then the roles can be reversed and Bailey can be the last person I see when I leave the start box and the first person I see when I cross the finish line. But that is a story for another blog.

Third Time’s a Charm

Bailey Moran and Eventing Dad schooling Texas Rose Horse Park. Bailey Moran and Eventing Dad schooling Texas Rose Horse Park.

There is an old saying that the third time’s a charm. It means that the third time you do something, it is going to work out. But it begs the question, what makes that third time a charm? What kind of work goes into making a success out of that third attempt? What kind of perseverance goes into it? And what would people miss out on if they gave in after two tries?

Bailey has received the honor of being selected to represent Area V at the North American Junior Young Riders Championship for the third year in a row. Last year, Bailey and Lougnatousa Caislean’s (LOCK-NAW-TOO-SA  CASH-LAWN or Leo) had the incredible honor of standing on the podium and receiving a team silver medal.

Their three member combined area team pulled off a great feat of completing the championships while not having a score to drop. But for all of Bailey and Leo’s success at an individual level, NAJYRC has been their nemesis. The past two years they have had issues on the cross country course which have knocked them out of contention for an individual medal.

This year started out with a move up to the Advanced level in Florida, but Bailey also had qualifying for the Area V CH-Y2* NAJYRC team as an additional goal. After that first show, Bailey sat down with her coach, Joe Meyer, and they evaluated what her goals should be for the rest of the year. After discussing the pros and cons, on Joe’s advice the decision was made to make a course correction to a laser focus on the 2015 NAJYRC.

Bailey is just turning 20 years old this year. She has a whole career ahead of her to get ready for Advanced and the goal of Rolex, but she only has two years left of eligibility for NAJYRC. A piece of advice that she was given a few years ago was to try to make every national team you can. The honor of representing your country cannot be underestimated. There is something about being one of a select number of young riders who get to wear that patch on their show coat.

As we start to see the other riders around the country who are being selected to be on their respective CCI2* Young Rider teams, it is exciting to see the competition. It is a veritable whose-who from the Eventing 18 and Eventing 25 Developing Rider’s list, which makes it all the more exciting!  What would a championship be if you were not going to be going up against the country’s best? And the NAJYRC is a testament to this. Every one of these young people has worked hard and earned the right to be here.

The 2015 NAJYRC is going to be exciting. Bailey and Leo have had another year to grow their partnership and fine tune their dressage, stadium, and cross country. But as we all know, anything can happen in eventing. It is truly a sport of inches. It is a sport of seconds. It is a sport that you can never give up. When a clear cross country round will launch you up the rankings, there is always hope.

So, this is the third time. Will 2015 be the charm year? Truth be told, it already has been. The perseverance and work after the first two years has paid off. The fire is still burning to get better. The goal was to get qualified and selected for the 2015 NAJYRC Area V team and that goal has been accomplished. It is time to sit back and enjoy that success.

Whatever happens, the hard work has paid off. We will celebrate Bailey being a part of the select few young riders who get to wear that red, white, and blue patch with two stars and the initials YR on it. Those who worked hard and now get to show off what they have learned. In the words of Bailey’s boyfriend Nicholas Hansen, it is going to be a good time.

Now excuse us, we have a horse to bubble wrap.

 

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The Big Day is Coming

Bailey and me at AECs last year. Photo by Storey Crenshaw. Bailey and me at AECs last year. Photo by Storey Crenshaw.

There has been a lot happening since the last Eventing Dad blog, and it’s all been good. Bailey won the 2014 USEA Intermediate Young Rider of the Year. She took home a lot of awards in USEA Area V and her home association here in San Antonio, the Central Texas Eventing Association.

Probably the biggest thrill was being talent spotted onto the USEF Eventing 25 Developing Rider list and getting to spend valuable time with new coach Leslie Law at the first training session. She has even started off the 2015 season in fine form with a couple of great finishes. All of this has been leading up to the Big Day. Or maybe I should say, the next Big Day.

This coming week Bailey and Leo will be making the big move up to the Advanced division at the Rocking Horse Winter II Horse Trials. This is the next Big Day. At this point in her career, nothing will be bigger. But as I inferred above, life is just a series of Big Days. The really important days are in-between those Big Days.

Bailey Moran and Young Rider groom extraordinaire, Elizabeth Baker.

Bailey Moran and Young Rider groom extraordinaire, Elizabeth Baker.

The time spent practicing your dressage as you try to get those few extra points. The hours spent building that relationship between horse and rider so that when that skinny to a ditch to a skinny on an angle coffin complex comes up, you and your partner can navigate it without thinking. Those are not the days that you are noticed. Those are not the days that people see you at your best. But those are the days when the foundation is laid. They are when the cornerstone is set into place that makes the Big Day possible.

To use a favorite passage of mine, if you don’t have a firm foundation, it is like building on sinking sand. If your foundation is not solid and you get to the Big Day it could result in failure. Those trakehners suddenly look impossibly big when your base is wobbly. That Weldon’s Wall is deeper, wider, and taller than you remember from the course walk when the ground is shifting under your feet. And your partner, who must be able to put their trust in you, may decide that this relationship is not as secure as you thought when that foundation starts to crack.

Yes, those in-between days are not the days to be seen at your best. In fact, those are the days that sometimes you need to be at your worst as you push, stretch, and reach towards that next goal. But without a doubt, those are the days that put you into the conversation. Those are the days that you lay the bricks so that when the Big Day does come you are ready to be seen. That Big Day might just be your first Beginner Novice schooling show. It might be the first time you make it to that recognized Training Three Day event. It might just be the first time you take on an Advanced cross country course.

I have watched and shared in the excitement of Bailey having many Big Days. I have mentioned before that I remember the first Green as Grass show at Pine Hill in Bellville, Texas where she and her pony trotted the entire course over jumps that were not much more than branches on the ground.

Next week I will get to see her go around her first Advanced cross country course. I have to say that Eventing Dad was just as proud of her on that very first day a long time ago as I will be next week. I will be cheering her as she leaves the start box and, God willing, I will be waiting at the finish line to give her a high five as she comes across.

You see, I am not just proud of her for what she does on this one Big Day. I am proud of the hard work she put in laying the foundation that got her to this Big Day. One Big Day of many more to come.

Riding the Rollercoaster

I have heard it said that things become cliché because they are true. The fact that eventing is like a roller coaster ride is undeniable. For every great, successful ride there is an unsuccessful ride and sometimes a fall.

Today I want to talk about the past few weeks since my last blog and what a ride it has been. The past few shows have been exciting. Team Bailey has seen a little bit of everything and has been on quite the emotional ride.

Our family has had the chance to put into practice those things I mentioned in the Winning is Fun blog. You see, I am not a real believer in karma, but I am sure there are people out there who follow Bailey who might say I got a healthy dose of it.

I prefer to see it as an opportunity to put myself to a test. For those who don’t follow Bailey, let me explain. The prep show leading into the AECs and the AECs were not quite the all around “fun” shows we would hope for her Preliminary horse.

Bailey and Catcher had a run of bad luck. Whether it be Bailey’s foot getting caught by a “break away” flag (those are supposed to break away, right?) and spinning her off of her mount or an unfortunate situation where Catcher’s back foot stepped on his front foot at the down bank, Bailey had a couple of chances to test out her new air vest.

This is the fast, wind in your face, losing your breath, downhill ride on the roller coaster. It is the part of the ride when it seems to just keep going down. But, this is the time that you see what you are made of.

Yes, we all needed a few minutes to collect ourselves. We like to say give us 20 minutes. Give us 20 minutes to deal with the disappointment. Give us 20 minutes to be mad. Sometimes you are just upset by the situation and need time to get over it.

I like to come in and give Bailey a big hug and then go off to lick my own wounds. But once that is over, it is over. It is time to get ready for the next ride. And sometimes that next ride is just a few minutes away.

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Then there is the uphill part of the ride. The feeling of anticipation in the pit of your stomach as the ride moves closer to the highest point of the ride. The feeling is very much the same as when you watch one rider after another riding the stadium course that was designed to challenge the best riders.

As you count down towards your child taking their turn in that test of agility, speed, and endurance. You feel the excitement as you crest the rise and cheer for your child. Your mind races as you think of the time spent preparing for this moment.

You look around at grandparents and see the tears welling up in their eyes as they get to share in the success of this moment. You get the pleasure of seeing your daughter and her horse standing next to Buck Davidson and Tamie Smith, collecting her third place recognition.

The 2014 season is drawing to a close. I am happy to say that Bailey and Leo, her goofy chestnut as she likes to call him, are healthy and still climbing towards the pinnacle on this year’s roller coaster.

We hope that it will end with a trip to Fort Worth, TX for the USEA Annual Conference and the national awards. It has been a season that will bring Bailey another step closer to her goal of riding at Rolex in 2016.

We know there are still more down slopes in the future. If you cannot accept the fact that there will be low points in this sport then this might not be the sport for you. We all hope that, and the odds are, there will be a lot more uphill experiences then down.

But when the declines seem to be going on for a long time, take heart. You will get to the bottom and start to ascend again. That pit in your stomach will change to butterflies and the crest of that hill will be too high for you to see so enjoy the ride.

Like any good roller coaster, the ride can be scary. But we don’t ride them to relax. It is the rush of adrenaline that keeps us all coming back. Riders, trainers, and parents, we all have a seat on this ride.

Winning Is Fun

This might be a little controversial, but in our family winning is fun. I once had a baseball coach tell me that on his team he wanted to make sure all the kids were having fun and winning is fun.

I am not talking about the anything goes; win at all cost, Tonya Harding, type of winning. I am talking about winning because you have worked hard. You and your horse have performed well and accomplished your overall goal; winning a ribbon.

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I know I have said, and most would agree, that completing an event with a happy, healthy rider and horse is winning. But can we be real here? We are all friends, right? When I have my Eventing Dad hat on I like Bailey to win a ribbon.

Blue is nice, sure. But really, our mantra for a long time is that we will take seconds all the way to Rolex. When she was 14 this was a running joke, but now that she is almost 19 and Rolex in the next few years is a reality, it is has proven to be a truism.

But what does it take to win? Some luck, sure, but what I have seen is it means taking things slow. We have been very fortunate to have a trainer (another shout out to Donna Kinney in San Antonio!) who would not let Bailey move up to the next level until she had proven she and her horse were ready.

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It seems that there are a few different ways of looking at success in eventing. Some parents look at how competitive their child is. As long as they are continuing to grow and become a better rider, there is success in that.

There are also the parents who find success in the level their child is riding, and in many cases, this is a scary way to judge success. These are the kids who turn 14 and their parents push them to be riding at the Preliminary Level.

They are the parents who feel that the trainer is not doing their job if little Suzy is not ready to be on the Young Rider team as soon as she is of age.  These are the parents who get frustrated when little Joey can’t finish a cross country course. These also tend to be the riders who we cringe over and are sometimes genuinely scared for.

I hope I am not stepping on too many toes here. We all have attributes of these stereo types to some degree.  I do feel that the extreme sometimes fall into the do anything to win category. These are the children who (and this happens in most sports) get to a certain level of success and walk away from the sport, because winning suddenly is not fun. Kim and I have always liked the slow approach.

Through this approach we have seen Bailey excel and really grow to love the sport. We have also seen her be able to move up to that next level and be competitive and safe (this is a relative term in eventing) because she has already been training at that level for months before actually showing at it.

As I said at the beginning, I am sure this will be a controversial topic. However, I will say it again; winning is fun. All the hard work is ultimately put in to win. Is it the most important thing? No and it never should be.

As with all things in life being a person of character is what is most important.  We should, both parents and riders, take the same pride in our accomplishments when we don’t win that ribbon as when we do. But we are all after those ribbons. We all like to hang that ribbon on the stall door. Does it mean a show is not fun without winning? No. But does it mean it is more fun when you leave the show with a ribbon? I will leave that to you as the reader to decide.

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Kim, Bailey and I will be at the 2014 Nutrena USEA American Eventing Championships with Bailey competing in the Intermediate Championships and the Preliminary Junior/Young Rider Championships. I would love to meet you and discuss!

Good luck to everyone at the AECs! Let’s all have FUN!

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What Once Was Big Is Now Not So Small

Many things have changed over the past six years of going to horse shows and watching Bailey develop as a rider. It is interesting how someone’s perspective can seem to change reality. It makes me think of a story my cousin, Jethro, told me about his neighbor, Clarence.

You see, my cousin Jethro lived across a gully from Clarence and they never really got along. Clarence would come out every morning and shout across the gully at Jethro, “If we ever meet, I am gonna beat you!” That would of course upset Jethro and he would shout back, “No you won’t! If we ever meet I will beat you!”

This went on for years. Well, one day the Department of Motor Vehicles built a bridge over that gully. Jethro’s wife went up to him and said “Now is your chance. Go get Clarence and teach him a lesson.” Jethro agreed and headed out to find Clarence.

Not too long after he had left Jethro came running back into the house and locked the door. His wife asked if he had found his neighbor and taken care of business. Jethro replied, “I was on my way when I got the bridge. There was a sign there that read ‘Clearance – 8 feet 4 inches’, so I ran all the way back home!”

Much like my cousin Jethro, the perspective we have is affected by our experience. I remember when Bailey first started riding Beginner Novice. I would walk the cross country course with her and look at the HUGE Training level jumps and wonder if she would ever be able to jump those.

Then when she first started to run Preliminary courses, the Intermediate and Advanced courses looked impossibly big. Getting to go to Rolex and watch the top riders in the world made it look all the more imposing. And now that she has ridden at the two-star level, Rolex jumps actually look doable. Okay, maybe not all of the Rolex jumps, but some of them.

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As a parent, I see eventing through a different lens then Bailey. I think about how those jumps are going to affect my daughter. I wonder how those immovable objects are going to impact her horse. I think one of the hardest parts is the lack of control over the situation. But then I look back, and truth be told, I have had a lot of control. Being able to prepare her for the ride has been directly within my influence.

Bailey’s mother, Kim, and I have always looked for ways to set her up for success. We have never been the type of parents who could go out and buy her a ready-made, three or four-star horse, but we could find a horse that had the potential and scope to go up the levels with Bailey. We have been able to take our time and find trainers that would put Bailey’s safety first above all things, even if it meant keeping her at a certain level a little bit longer than others her age (more on that in a later blog).

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Photo by Dan Moran.

I would like to take a moment to thank her long time trainer Donna Kinney of Donna Kinney Training Stable in San Antonio. Donna has always put Bailey’s, and just as importantly, her horse’s safety first and we will always be grateful for what she has done to help develop and encourage Bailey to get the most out of her talent.

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Photo by Dan Moran.

When we let our perspective change reality is when we can get into trouble. Bailey and I were talking this past weekend while she was schooling cross country with her young OTTB mare about how the jumps that we thought were huge a few years ago now don’t look so big.

This makes the current level of jumps maybe not look so imposing. But the fact is they are big. They are tall and wide. They still don’t move. They deserve a high level of respect from both the rider and the horse.

And as long as Bailey rides, I will constantly be doing everything I can to help her have the safest ride possible. I might not be able to affect what happens once she is on the course and the clock is ticking but up to that point I can make sure she has the best protective gear, the best training, and the best support system she can have so that she can be as successful as possible.

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Photo by Dan Moran.

Sometimes the measure of success is not found in a ribbon. We can never forget this is a dangerous sport that we have allowed our children to take part in. So, before every show we ask that all our friends pray for safe and fun rides for all the riders at the show. And in this sport, any time that you can walk away from a show with a smile on your face and healthy horse is a huge success in my book.

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Roles: They Are A-Changin’…

Hello and thank you for honoring me with your attention for a few minutes. The idea for this first blog came to me as I sat and thought back about the past 6+ years our family has spent in this sport we all love. I desire to add something to the Eventing blogosphere that is fresh and unique.

With that in mind, Eventing Dad was born. A fresh new perspective from that guy who can be seen standing silently next to the trainer, intently watching a rider warm up, usually with a camera in hand. The guy you see walking around the start box, staring at a stop watch, poised to hit start at the words, “Have a great ride”. In a sport where male riders are outnumbered by female riders 200 to 1 (probably a low estimate), the Eventing Dad is certainly a very rare commodity. With this in mind, I hope this blog will bring a new and enjoyable perspective to the conversation.

Today, I thought I would share a little bit about changing roles. As a father, it is hard to let go. I look back over the past six years and I remember the first time my daughter, Bailey, trotted around her first green as grass course and she was immediately hooked. Watching Bailey jump (okay, the pony stepped over) what was not much more than branches on the ground not only captured her heart, but the family was hooked as well.

My perceived role was to ensure that Bailey was ready for that next ride. It can be argued that it is better to let the rider take on all the responsibility much in the same way many people say let your children learn by their own mistakes. And I would agree there is a time and place for that. But for many reasons that I expect I will discuss in future blogs (costs involved and who’s paying, protection of rider, wanting your child to excel) I feel it is my place to help her out as much as possible.

The changing role that I am referring to is when do you start to shift those responsibilities? When do you start to take a step back and let the rider make the big decisions? And maybe the hardest, when do you sit down and accept that the rider has grown into an accomplished rider and knows a lot more than you do about this sport?

The best way I have determined for me to deal with these changing roles is to treat them as I have all things Eventing, they are accomplishments. And if I truly take a step back, it may be the biggest accomplishment.

As I reflect on some of Bailey’s accomplishments; being named the 2012 USEA Rising Star, winning the 2012 Junior Training division at the American Eventing Championships, most recently being on the Silver Medal winning 2* Young Rider Team at the 2014 NAJYRC, there have been some huge achievements. But, I would say that her growth is bigger than all of those wins.

Do you get a ribbon for maturing as a rider? No. Do you get an award for learning to take disappointment in stride? Not very often. But to be able to stand on the outside and look in and see the respect she is getting from trainers and advanced level riders is awesome. To see younger riders look up to her and want to be like her is a thrill.  And knowing that she wants to be a good example for those coming up the levels behind her makes me proud to be her dad.

Change is hard. Change is scary. And letting go of things can sometimes be the most difficult thing of all. So I will work at being content in her success of developing herself to positively represent this sport we all love so much.

I will be proud of my wife Kim’s and my achievement of raising a fine young woman. I will sit in my lawn chair hitting refresh on my phone trying to get the latest score update before Bailey does. I will stand ready to capture on video that next dressage test or stadium round.

My role really hasn’t changed that much. I am sure there are going to be more studs that need to be put in soon and I will continue to fulfill my role as long as she wants me around.