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Erin Murphy

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Have You Hugged an Event Secretary Today?

First show of the 2016 season! Photo by Erin Murphy. First show of the 2016 season! Photo by Erin Murphy.

My journey to becoming a show secretary started with a push, and is growing into getting offers beyond my dreams.

Firstly, I give the upmost credit to all event show teams. The people BEHIND the scenes, the people who make horse trials, mini trials and even schooling shows … it takes a literal village to run these shows.

These groups of mainly volunteers put in countless hours before, during and after shows to make sure each rider who attends has the opportunity to have the time of their life. Because ultimately, that is the entire reason we all put the hard work into it, right?

When I first started thinking about getting more involved in the organization side of events, I thought to myself, “How hard can it be?” Wow, was I wrong.

Entries on entries. Photo by Erin Murphy. Photo by Erin Murphy.

Entries on entries. Photo by Erin Murphy.

Being around the eventing circuit for a few years as a groom, owner, shoulder to cry on and cheerleader, I thought it would be fun to get more involved on the backside of the events. Little did I know that I would get pushed (literally) into becoming a show secretary.

Volunteering at a local mini trial, I was talking to my friend about how fun it would be to get more hands-on in horse show management. I am fairly smart, with an Equine Business Degree and a Masters Degree behind me, so I felt pretty confident when I was approached about doing my first Mini Trial. I had successfully brought my first four-star clinician in early in April to our farm, and that went well. So, my first thought literally was, “It’s 85 riders. I’ve got this, right?”

Was I ever caught off guard. I had no idea what the heck I was doing and quickly realized how much work goes into a show.

Logistics, ride times and entries. Photo by Erin Murphy.

Logistics, ride times and entries. Photo by Erin Murphy.

I’ll be the first to admit that that show was a bit of a disaster. The pinny numbers were not in order, my labels on the dressage tests didn’t print out as I wanted (so I had to print and re-label them the morning of the show), and it was sheer trial by fire — teaching myself to score, learning the system, and making sure that results were being sent out in a reasonable time. But somehow we got through it and lived to see another day.

I thought for sure that my organizer was going to pull out her offer to be the secretary for her horse trial only three months later. But thanks to a lot of meetings with a seasoned secretary (my fairy godmother), the event went off swimmingly, and then the next mini trial was easy as pie. Hallelujah, it’s getting easier.

Starbucks and scoring. Photo by Erin Murphy.

Starbucks and scoring. Photo by Erin Murphy.

After my first year of being a secretary, I received a dream offer to become a secretary at a Kentucky Horse Park horse trial, and I am just blown away. I figured that those “dream” events would be so far out of my realm that I would have to work a lifetime to be able to get the opportunity to work at the KHP. I can’t thank those organizers who entrust me with their shows enough, and all of the competitors who show up with smiles on their faces ready to play the game with their horses.

So when you are picking up your packet at your next event, make sure to take time to say “thank you” to the stressed-out secretary behind the scenes. I promise you, it will make their day.

The life of a horse show dog is exhausting, too.  Photo by Erin Murphy.

The life of a horse show dog is exhausting, too. Photo by Erin Murphy.

Hawley Bennett-Awad Shines at Kentucky Clinic

Photo courtesy of Leah Vasquez Photography. Photo courtesy of Leah Vasquez Photography.

For many upper level upper level riders, the weekend before Rolex is filled with last minute preparations, for horse and rider alike. But at Tuscany Hollow Stables, located just north of Louisville, Kentucky, the weekend before Rolex means that Hawley Bennett Eventing is coming to town for another amazing clinic.

For the past 2 years Hawley has flown across country (well, almost) the weekend before Rolex to teach all levels of riders. From riders and horses who have never jumped before, all the way up to riders who are currently competing at the FEI 1 and 2* levels. Amanda Conti and I, (Erin Murphy) met Hawley last year when she was kind enough to say yes to a Kentucky clinic. She said that she’d never taught in Kentucky before, and it was a perfect excuse to get to Kentucky a few days before everyone else.

We had the worst weather that Kentucky could throw at us in April: rain, sleet, and almost freezing temperatures. When I got the call in September that Hawley was booking clinics, and if I still wanted Rolex weekend, I was a little shocked that she would even think about putting up with that risk again, but I quickly booked it.

This year the demand was huge, Hawley taught over 3 days, and totaled 57 rides! We tried to break her spirit, but at the end of the three grueling days, she got on the plane and was still smiling. We had absolutely amazing weather this go around, we’ve paid our dues for bad weather, and the weekend went off without a hitch.

Photo courtesy of Lexy Galanos Photography.

Photo courtesy of Lexy Galanos Photography.

On day one, Hawley taught private flat lessons to 10 riders. The positive but stern teaching style had everyone in great spirits when they left the dressage ring. Something that struck me as super interesting, is the music that she played while she was coaching.

She had an awesome mix of music while she was coaching, and it really lightened the nerves. At one point, I was singing along to the music in my head, and I just left my nerves just dissipate. Horses and riders got a good workout, and Hawley asked each rider to let her know what their next dressage score was. I have a feeling that she’s going to follow up on that fairly closely. It’s like having a guardian looking over our scores.

Day two was grid day — talk about intense! Bending lines, gymnastics, bounces, tight jumper roll backs, and barrels were all part of her courses. Small groups of riders of 3 and 4 were put to the test in each of their sessions.

Each group, even though the Preliminary level, started out with ground poles to work on rhythm and suppleness of the horse. After a few minutes, and each horse was gliding through the
canter poles at ease, riders were put into “marathon jumping.”

Jumping lines continuously until they started getting better and better, and it was amazing to see how right she was. By the end of the lesson, each horse was jumping rounder and more through, and the riders gained so much confidence, I was excited to see everyone out on cross country the next morning.

Photo courtesy of Leah Vasquez Photography.

Photo courtesy of Leah Vasquez Photography.

On day three, everyone took a field trip to Flying Cross Farm to school a few fields of their cross country course. Hawley told me that she had to come back so she can teach in the other fields too, because we didn’t even make a dent in what Flying Cross has to offer!

Horses and riders geared up a games and took on her courses. Again, she started everyone over a log on the ground to get rhythm established, and then moved on and up from there. We are so blessed to have such an amazing facility in literally our backyard to play around in. Hawley said many times that we were so lucky to have rolling hills and to teach our horses how to rate themselves up and down them.

Every group had elements like skinnies, mounds, banks, water, water drops, logs, houses, and coops. No one left without a huge smile, and left saying that they felt more confident. Hawley said, that her favorite thing about teaching clinics is the second day improvement, and she couldn’t have been more right. It was astounding the improvement of the riders.

There was definitely so much that everyone took away from this weekend, and we are so excited to have Hawley as part of the Tuscany Hollow Stables family. We are looking forward to her return in August, and of course next year Rolex!