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Leslie Wylie

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Just in Time for Rolex, Madison Park Gets a New Rider

The rider’s name is … Kitty Cat?

A wave of hushed shock rippled through the Ocala eventing community yesterday when ride times were posted for the Florida Horse Park Dressage, Jumper & 3-Phase Show, to be held at the Florida Horse Park this weekend. Several Rolex-bound pairs will be using the schooling show as a dry run of FEI 4* Test B, which they’ll be performing in Kentucky next week. All the names in the division were familiar — with one notable exception.

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No “Kitty Cat Carter” appears to be registered with the USEA, suggesting that perhaps he/she is a foreign rider.

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At the time of posting, no mention of the rider change had been made on the Carters’ website, Facebook page or Twitter account, although they did recently re-tweet a quote from Grumpy Cat — could there be a connection?

Keep it locked on Eventing Nation for further developments. Best of luck to Parker and Kitty Cat!

Turning Back the Clock on Rolex

Screenshot from Screenshot from "Rolex Kentucky Four Star Winners."

People have funny ways of organizing time inside their head. I know a historian who can tell you the date of pretty much anything from memory — like, you’d be walking down the sidewalk with him and you could point at a building and say, “Hey Jack, when was that building built?” And without so much as furrowing his brow, he’d answer 1947, or whatever, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

One day I asked him how he could possibly remember so many hundreds, maybe even thousands, of miscellaneous dates. He explained that he saw different numbers in different shades of gray, so a date wasn’t just a jumble of numbers but a very specific visual pattern. It’s a variation on a neurological phenomenon called synesthesia, in which certain senses or cognitive pathways get tangled up together in the brain’s attempt to organize information.

It’s not exactly analogous, but I’d bet money that I am not the only freak out there whose life timeline memory is predicated on who won Rolex in what year. I mean, most of the time I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast, but if you were to ask me, “Hey, what were you doing in 1998?” I’d think of who won Rolex that year (Nick Larkin and Red), and then I’d remember watching them and who was there watching them with me and what horses I was riding at the time and so on and so forth until I had a fairly well-painted picture of that year of my life.

Do Rolex winners double as bookends on the cluttered shelves of your own psyche? If so, watching this video may feel like the last 15 years of your life flashing before your eyes:

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Can’t wait to see you guys at Rolex 2014 — I’ll be at the EN Tailgate Party all day Saturday so you’ve got to stop in and say hi. Go Eventing!

6 Fascinating Vintage Badminton Newsreels

Earlier this week, the moving picture archive collection British Pathé uploaded 85,000 historic newsreels to YouTube in an effort to make them more accessible to viewers. Among them were dozens of fairly high-resolution clips of horses racing, ‘chasing and competing in various equestrian competitions, including, naturally, three-day eventing. Badminton Horse Trials made the news for many years running, as evidenced by the following videos which cheerfully capture the spirit of the sport “back in the day.” Not much in the way of context is available for them so — I’m looking at you, eventing history buffs! — if you have any insight into their back stories, please share in the comments below.

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Learn more about the British Pathé project here or check out the new YouTube collection here — there’s a lot more Badminton footage where that came from, much of it bits and pieces that didn’t make it into the broadcast. And keep it locked on EN for complete coverage of Badminton 2014, which is fast approaching May 7-11.

The One-Eyed Pirate Takes on Prelim

Catie Costa and Sea Pirate. Photo by Olivia Gould. Catie Costa and Sea Pirate. Photo by Olivia Gould.

Watching Sea Pirate storm around a cross-country course, he looks every bit the part of a typical run-and-jump loving eventer. His gallop is propelled by that impenetrable Thoroughbred confidence, and his jump is pure power. He has the look of the eagles — but only in one eye.

When Catie Costa of Columbus, N.C., purchased Sea Pirate (actual Jockey Club name) almost 10 years ago, he had just come off the track. She had only been working with him for a few months when his behavior took a turn for the worse. A once confident jumper, Pirate started leering at jumps and shying away from imaginary shadows. “He went through a spooky phase — he was spooking at everything,” Catie recalls.

The diagnosis: Uveitis. He was literally going blind in his left eye and suffering a great deal of sensitivity and pain in the process. The only option was surgical removal.

Catie says that after they took the eye out, it was like Pirate breathed a sigh of relief. “All that spookiness stopped,” she says. “He was way happier, and he hardly skipped a beat. I think he had a total of two weeks off.” He had been going Novice before his eye surgery, and when Catie felt he was ready to get back out there, she cautiously entered him at Beginner Novice. “He was so mad; he just dragged me around the course — I couldn’t stop him!” Catie laughs. “So I was like, I guess we’ve got to move back up.”

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Catie and Pirate at FENCE H.T. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Since then, Catie and Pirate haven’t had a single cross-country jumping penalty. “On cross-country, he’s like, ‘Let me at it!’” Catie says. “As long as I keep my leg on and ride forward, he’s great.” There are only a few instances when his disability comes into play — drops being the biggest one as he sometimes needs an extra split-second to read the question. She also makes sure to turn a little wider if a jump is coming up on the left and to really set him up when jumping from light into dark. And dressage can be a little tricky: “That’s the hardest, I think,” Catie says. “When he gets going to the left in the little ring he’s like, ‘Where am I?’”

After logging many miles at Training, last spring Catie and her trainer Amy Barrington decided that Pirate was ready for a move-up. They’ve been careful about it, choosing soft courses the pair has had the opportunity to school beforehand and mixing in some Trainings to keep Pirate’s confidence up. “I’d never done Prelim before Pirate, so we’re both learning,” Catie says. She describes last weekend’s FENCE H.T., with its big tables and serious technical questions, as their first “real” Prelim. They collected a few time penalties cross-country but jumped clean in both jumping phases to finish 7th in their division. Their next stop will be Windridge H.T. in May.

The extraordinary amount of trust that Catie and Pirate share is obvious to anyone who watches them go, but to Catie, their partnership just seems normal. “I’ve had him for so long, I sometimes forget,” Catie says. “He’s just awesome.”

Go Catie and Pirate!

Top 20 Eventing Tweets of the Week

Each week we’ll be rummaging through the Twittersphere in pursuit of the eventing world’s most interesting utterances as expressed in 140 characters or less. Here’s our latest batch!

Click here to check out Eventing Nation (@eventingnation) on Twitter!

FENCE Horse Trials: That’s What It’s All About

Kelly Rappucchi and Absolute Ability finished second in Open Prelim B at FENCE HT. Photo by Leslie Wylie. Kelly Rappucchi and Absolute Ability finished second in Open Prelim B at FENCE HT. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Straddling the seam of Areas II and III, FENCE Horse Trials is known for its cozy ambiance, creative courses and challenging terrain. The stabling, dressage and show jumping are situated on the infield of a steeplechase track, which hosts the annual Blockhouse Steeplechase each May …

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Photo by Leslie Wylie.

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A Sunday sunrise at the show jumping ring, located in the massive infield. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

… while the cross-country course snakes its way up a nearby hillside. This weekend’s edition saw an expanded track that boasts several new jumps, including some beautiful crafted tables and a combination built out of a giant fallen tree.

Of course, the crowd favorite was course designer Greg Schlappi’s signature “beer cooler” table, which quickly became a happy hour hotspot on Friday afternoon. Local trainer Amy Barrington paused from walking courses with students to do a little bartending. It was great to see Amy out and about — she was clearly in her element and determined not to let her accident last fall slow her down … quite literally! I tagged along on one of her course walks and had to jog to keep up!

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Photo by Leslie Wylie.

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Holly Breaux, DVM, and Flecken Awesome jumping the Prelim version of the jump. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

The courses looked good and rode even better. “I really liked the new jumps,” Open Prelim A winner Caroline Andrews said of this year’s beefed-up course. “It was nice to have some bigger tables and it was really well designed.”

Caroline and Will You Be Mine, of Charleston, S.C., led their division from start to finish. Despite it only being their second outing at the level, they earned the lowest scoring dressage test of the event (27) followed by two double-clear jumping rounds.

The pair has several wins and top finishes to their name, and each one is well-deserved. Caroline rescued Will You Be Mine, now nearly 8, from an auction when he was 8 months old. She isn’t sure of his breeding — he didn’t even have a coggins when she bought him. “He’s like a dog,” Caroline says of his personality. “He always wants to like you; he’s always in your face. He’d much rather follow you around the whole show than be in his stall.”

Caroline Andrews and Will You Be Mine, winners of Open Prelim A.

Caroline Andrews and Will You Be Mine, winners of Open Prelim A. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

The winners of Open Prelim B, Hillary Irwin and Bit of Irish of Elkin, N.C., also have a long history together. Bit of Irish is a homebred Thoroughbred who didn’t make it to the track, taking up with Hillary as a 3-year-old. The pair has been steadily making their way up the ranks, most recently finishing 8th at the Carolina International CIC*. Next on their agenda is the IP at Poplar Place followed by a move-up to Intermediate at Virginia in May.

“She’s sort of been that horse that comes out and does anything you ask every day and just tries super-hard,” Hillary says of the coming 7-year-old mare. “She loves cross-country — she knows it now and she’ll just do anything for you. She’s wonderful on the flat in the sense that she always tries; she never says no. She’s just a trier and to me that’s the best.”

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Hillary Irwin and Bit of Irish, winners of Open Prelim B. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Once again this year FENCE hosted a Collegiate Team Challenge, attracting participants from universities throughout the Southeast. One of Clemson’s four teams, the Clemson Stripes, won this round by a landslide, followed by USC Aiken in second and a composite team from the University of Virginia/University of Transylvania in third. The University of Kentucky and the University of Georgia also sent teams.

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Photo by Leslie Wylie.

FENCE is the kind of lower-level event that I always walk away from thinking, That’s what it’s supposed to be about, and this year’s incarnation was no exception. Check out the final results here.

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Photo by Leslie Wylie.

For more photos from FENCE H.T. and other events around the country, check out EN on Instagram. The handle is “goeventing” — run a search or click here!

How NOT to Jump a Drop into Water

Julie Pate and Catch Me If You Can at Chattahoochee Hills H.T., April 2014. Photo by Eileen Dimond of Liz Crawley Photography. Julie Pate and Catch Me If You Can at Chattahoochee Hills H.T., April 2014. Photo by Eileen Dimond of Liz Crawley Photography.

Julie Pate and her OTTB, Catch Me If You Can, made a splash at Chattahoochee Hills last weekend when they took a by-all-accounts spectacular flier into the Training water. Photographer Eileen Dimond of Liz Crawley Photography captured the moment on film and kindly shared it with Eventing Nation.

Julie, of Knoxvillle, Tenn., explains that “Bosco” has quite the personality. Around the barn he’s known as the Red Dragon or the Red Terrorist for his propensity for getting into trouble. “We always say that he makes bad choices,” Julie says. “Every day he has four shoes and no blood is a gift from God.”

Under saddle, she says, Bosco is a people-pleaser who always gives 120 percent but he tends to be a little melodramatic. “He is such a big goofball. He spooks at the dumbest things. He hates lines in the sand in a newly drug arena. He hates changes of colors of grass — ah, scary! And he leaps in the air when he steps in a squishy spot. He is the scared-iest brave event horse ever!”

Julie and Bosco dominated the USEA Novice Adult Amateur Leaderboard for much of 2013 with three wins, a second and another second at their move-up Training level event. On the cross-country course, Julie says, “Bosco is a cocky punk. Super brave, scopey and powerful, but he always thinks he knows best.”

The pair has a difference of opinion when it comes to drop jumps, however. “I have always hated drops. They feel unnatural! But Bosco could care less,” Julie explains. His bold leaps into space haven’t helped Julie’s confidence: She lost a stirrup when he took a big one at their first Training at Jump Start H.T., then they had their first cross-country stop ever at Poplar Place in February when they came to the drop (“probably a little too fast,” says Julie) and it caught him off guard. He popped off it nicely on the second go, but when Julie saw the water on the Chatt Hills course she knew she needed to give it a smart ride.

The rest of the story, in her own words: “Walking the course I was thinking, ‘If we can just get into the water, we will be golden.’ I knew it was hard to see the water until we were right up close, and since we were way ahead on time, I planned on trotting a few steps to give him a few extra seconds to see what was in front of him. Over Bosco’s dead body! He refused to trot (it’s like pulling on a concrete wall). At the moment of truth, I forgot all of my training and closed my leg and instead of slipping my reins and leaning back, I went fetal.

“In hindsight, it probably helped me stay on because I ended up using his neck to push my body back up! Of course, he didn’t even hesitate at the drop. But he did take a flying leap. I think he tried to superman his way across the water complex. You can tell by the pics he never lost his focus. His balance stays up (even with me on his neck) and his ears pricked on his next jump. It all happened so fast, I didn’t really have time to think about it. I just sat up and pointed him at our next jump. It wasn’t until after the finish flags did I think, Wow, I almost came off at the water!”

The photo series confirmed her suspicion, but Julie says the moment just made her heart grow fonder: “I love that horse so much! He has the heart of a lion with the brain of a marble! A shiny marble! With glitter in it.”

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Many thanks to Julie and Liz Crawley Photography for sharing. Go Eventing!

EN Publisher Announces Launch of Equestrian Media Empire

Even as a child, EN publisher John Thier refused to settle for just one piece of the pie.

“One piece of pie?” laughs John’s mother, who recently sat down with us for an exclusive interview. “For John, it was always the whole pie or nothing. He couldn’t stop; he didn’t know when to say when. He’d eat his pie, and then he’d steal a piece from the kid sitting next to him. If you had a pie in the house, it would just disappear. And then he moved on to cake. All the cake for John, no cake for anyone else — that was his motto. By age 10, he weighed almost 200 pounds.”

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John, age 10

In time, John shed the weight but he never did lose his pathological appetite for power. His mother continues: “When John launched Eventing Nation in 2009, I could already see what was coming down the pike. I knew he would never settle for just one horse website. Eventually, he would want ALL the horse websites. It’s just the way he is.”

For a while, the young publisher seemed content with his pet project Eventing Nation. But eventually he grew restless, launching sister sites Sport Horse Nation and Horse Nation under the Nation Media banner. Once an annoyingly constant presence on EN, when John’s byline vanished a couple years ago, even his staff began to wonder what was going on. “John who?” deadpanned one longtime EN writer, Visionaire, shrugging. “I don’t know where that guy is or what he’s been doing. Frankly, I don’t even want to know.” Editor Jenni Autry agreed, describing him as a “loose cannon.”

Late yesterday evening, however, John re-emerged from self-imposed exile via a top-secret webcam press conference.

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The press conference was interrupted at minute 47:51 by a woman’s voice screaming, “John, your grilled cheese is getting cold!” prompting suspicions that he is in fact living in his mother’s basement.

“They say journalism is dead,” John announced to the three or four people who showed up at his virtual press conference out of sheer boredom. “I say, let them eat cake. JUST KIDDING — I ALREADY ATE ALL THE CAKE MYSELF.” John went on to unveil his plan for a massive equestrian media conglomerate the likes of which the horse world has never seen, rolling out a roster of “unique new equestrian publications,” among them …

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… as well as Horse & Dog, Eastern Horseman, Ekwess, the Horse Chronicle and a podcast called Horses in Mourning.

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The announcement immediately sparked outrage in the equestrian publishing community.

The Horse Chronicle … are you kidding me?” COTH‘s attorney exclaimed when pressed for a comment. “This is a clear and blatant copyright law violation. The website is a badly photoshopped replica, and the text is lifted straight from the Chronicle but ‘disguised’ in Pig Latin.”

Screenshot from TheHorseChronicle.com:

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“Whatever,” John responded. “I’ve never even heard of — who did the attorney say he worked for? — this so-called Chronicle of the Horse, so how could I be copying them? For all we know, they’re copying me.”

What’s the next rung on John’s ladder of success? John’s mother says, “Well first things first, he probably needs to hire a good lawyer.”

We’ll keep you posted.

Jumping Blindfolded Into the Head of the Lake

Photo by Gretchen Pelham. Photo by Gretchen Pelham.
This is exactly what you DON’T want to happen when you’re jumping down a 6’6″ drop.

The year was 2006, and the Head of the Lake was particularly fearsome. The water complex-turned-swimming hole claimed several victims including defending Rolex champion Kim Severson, who had been sitting in 2nd after dressage on Royal Venture, and William Fox-Pitt, whose Coup de Coeur took a tumble on the way in.

Among the small handful of riders who successfully navigated the direct route was Stephen Bradley on Brandenburg’s Joshua, an OTTB who was making his four-star debut. But Bradley didn’t just make short work of the question — he did it blindfolded.

Gretchen Pelham captured this spectacular photo sequence and was kind enough to share:

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Despite Bradley’s wardrobe malfunction, neither horse nor rider ever took their eye off the ball–metaphorically speaking, at least. So how did they fare on the rest of the course? After coming home clear with only 2.8 time penalties, the pair jumped a foot-perfect show jumping round to finish in 3rd place overall.

Many thanks to Gretchen for sharing. Go Eventing, and don’t forget to double-knot those pinnies!

Kiss Me, I’m an Irish Sport Horse!

Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM, an Irish Sport Horse, at Rolex 2013. Photo by Kasey Mueller. Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM, an Irish Sport Horse, at Rolex 2013. Photo by Kasey Mueller.

As athletic as they are tough, it’s no wonder Irish Sport Horses have topped the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH) 2013 Eventing Studbook rankings for 7 out of the last 10 years. The 2013 rankings, released in October, showed 4 of the top 6 Irish horses competing under the U.S. flag:

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Screenshot from WBFSH.org

Who are some other Irish Sport Horses at the top of American sport? In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, here’s a not-even-exhaustive list:

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot (ISH). Photo by Jenni Autry.

Boyd Martin and Trading Aces win the Red Hills CIC3*! Photo by Jenni Autry.

Boyd Martin and Trading Aces. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda. (photo by Jenni Autry)

Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda (ISH). Photo by Jenni Autry.

Kristin Schmolze and Ballylaffin Bracken. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Kristin Schmolze and Ballylaffin Bracken. Photo by Jenni Autry.

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Allison Springer and Arthur (ISH). Photo by Samantha Clark.

Buck Davidson and Ballynoecastle RM

Buck Davidson and Ballynoecastle RM (ISH). Photo by Jenni Autry.

We're glad to see some things don't change. Michael still rides with his tongue out today! Photo by Jenni Autry.

Michael Pollard and Ballingowan Pizzazz! Photo by Jenni Autry.

Phillip Dutton and Mr. Medicott. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Phillip Dutton and Mr. Medicott (ISH). Photo by Jenni Autry.

James Alliston and Jumbo's Jake. Photo by Jenni Autry.

James Alliston and Jumbo’s Jake. Photo by Jenni Autry.

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Karen O’Connor and Mandiba (ISH). Photo by Samantha Clark.

Buck Davidson and Petite Flower. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Buck Davidson and Petite Flower. Photo by Jenni Autry.

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Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice (ISH). Photo by Samantha Clark.

 Go Irish Sport Horses!

How the Underwater Treadmill Could Revolutionize Event Horse Conditioning

My horse Esprit on the Aquatred at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center. My horse Esprit on the Aquatred at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center.

Event horses log hundreds of hours of conditioning work over the course of their careers. We set our watches and go pounding around the field, cranking out a carefully programmed agenda of trot and gallop sets. But the high level of fitness that is required for eventing also comes at the cost of extra wear and tear on our horses’ limbs.

Some years ago, I was campaigning an aging upper-level eventer who, after a decade in the sport, had developed some garden variety arthritis. My vet, Dr. Steve Adair of the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center, had an compelling idea: Why not do some of his fitness work in the hospital’s underwater treadmill? “There is a certain amount of weight reduction so you’re not having the concussive forces on the limbs,” Dr. Adair explains. “You get a longevity of the joint because you don’t have to work them as hard on dry land. Also, working in the water you can really get an exaggerated flexion so if you have stiff joints it helps with joint mobility.”

UT’s first treadmill, an above-ground AquaPacer … 

… which was replaced in spring 2013 by an in-ground Aquatred.

We put him on a twice-a-week winter program and the results were astonishing. Not only did he breeze effortlessly around his spring events, he literally looked and felt like a different horse. My lanky, catlike OTTB now had a bulked-up topline and strong, powerful glutes — it was like he had started lifting weights. But what really surprised me was the difference it made in our dressage. He felt freer through his shoulder and better able to “sit” in collected work.

“I think that the underwater treadmill targets a different set of muscles than what you get with your flatwork,” Dr. Adair explains. “It has been shown to improve the core muscles, and when you improve the core muscles you improve the overall stability of the horse. When you have core stability and muscle fitness and cardiovascular fitness, you’re going to have a better athlete overall.”

The concept of using water resistance for conditioning is nothing new. Swimming racehorses is a common practice, either in specially designed pools or in open water.

Racehorses swimming off Reen Pier in West Cork, Ireland:

According to Dr. Adair, swimming is great cardiovascular exercise but can be problematic, as horses aren’t natural swimmers. They use their back end for propulsion via a violent kicking-out motion that can exacerbate stifle issues, and they travel inverted, which encourages an upside-down muscle development that is undesirable for sport horses. They also lose their proprioceptive input, which is based on their ability to feel the ground, so if you were to condition horses exclusively in the swimming pool, they could become clumsier under saddle.

The underwater treadmill has long been a staple of injury rehabilitation therapy, but in recent years it has edged its way into the sport horse community for a different purpose. Veteran four-star eventer Beth Perkins of Rutherfordton, N.C., is one top rider who has embraced the technology not just for fitness but for improved general performance. This is the third year in a row she has incorporated the HydroHorse Treadmill at nearby Still Creek Farm into Sal Dali’s preparations for Rolex.

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Beth Perkins and Sal Dali at Rolex 2013. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Owned by Cynthia Barclay, the 16-year-old OTTB is a big-boned, rangy horse with high withers and a tendency toward a hollow topline. The underwater treadmill, Perkins says, has refashioned his musculature in a way that has made a tangible difference under saddle. She notes that straightness has been a recurring struggle for Sal due to an old racing injury. While there’s no way to force a horse to work equally off both sides while riding — they can always find a way to compensate for weaknesses — it’s impossible to cheat in the water. “It has helped him learn to use himself more evenly,” Perkins says.

Increased strength and mobility through the shoulder is another benefit. Not only has the treadmill helped Sal develop a more expressive trot, Perkins believes it has improved his jumping ability as well. “It strengthens the connective tissue they need to get their front end up and out of the way,” she says.

Sal’s pre-Rolex treadmill program began at the end of last year with several sessions of half-hour walks. Trot sets were gradually incorporated, with jets turned on to decrease drag, and at the season’s peak, he’ll be doing three sets of 7- or 8-minute trots. The 3-day-a-week program supplements a traditional conditioning schedule, and oftentimes he’ll do the treadmill as a warmup for jumping or in addition to a regular gallop with an abridged long trot set beforehand.

Of course, your horse doesn’t have to be on the road to Rolex to benefit from a underwater treadmill conditioning program. Look for a facility in your area that has one, as they’re becoming increasingly commonplace in rehab centers, high-performance barns and vet clinics. It may take a few sessions to acclimate, but most horses, once they understand what is being asked of them, take the new exercise in stride. My horse Esprit strides happily into water with ears pricked and seems to genuinely enjoy the work.

Beth recommends building up your horse’s underwater treadmill program gradually. I’ve had great experiences working with the technicians at both Still Creek and UT to develop a custom conditioning schedule for my horses — they’re very much interested in under-saddle feedback and working to address specific problems and goals. For Esprit, a typical workout includes 45 minutes in the water once a week, with 9-, 7- and 5-minute trot sets spread out over a distance of about 3-and-a-half miles. Even with a significantly reduced dry-land conditioning program due to the inclement weather we’ve experienced this winter, Esprit skipped around his first prelim event of the season and recovered virtually immediately.

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Esprit conditioning last winter at the Aqua Rehab Center at Still Creek Farm (Columbus, N.C.).

One underwater treadmill critique I’ve heard circulated is that it can soften a horse’s hooves, although that hasn’t been my experience. Some horses certainly have more high-maintenance feet than others, but Dr. Adair insists that with proper care and dressing, the treadmill shouldn’t do them any harm: “The amount of moisture absorbed during a 30-minute session in the Aquatred is minuscule compared to what they get standing in the dew in the morning. We have rehab horses here going in the treadmill five days a week, and they don’t have any problems.”

Another myth is that the deep water might spook event horses and make them less reluctant to jump into water complexes because of unsureness about depth. In my opinion, that theory doesn’t hold any water either, so to speak; if anything, I think it makes them more comfortable with water’s drag and splash.

Have you used an underwater treadmill for fitness and conditioning? Share your experience in the comments section below.

Go Eventing!

‘Never Look Down in the Port-a-Potty’ and Other Eventing Rules to Live By

The official rulebook is important, but there are a few aspects of eventing you’ve just got to learn on your own. Here are a few unwritten, unspoken lessons I’ve learned, a few of them the hard way:

• Before you put your horse on the trailer, especially if you’re heading to a faraway event, take a moment to jog him and check his shoes.

• Know how to change a flat.

• Make copies of important paperwork and keep them in a binder in your truck.

• Get to know the people stabled next to you. It’s a great way of making connections and friends.

• Make checklists — ESPECIALLY if you’re not a checklist-type person.

• If you think you need an hour to get ready, give yourself an hour and a half.

• A smile at the judge might not help, but it can’t hurt!

• Be nice to the show secretary and officials. They don’t get paid enough.

• Thank every volunteer you see. Without them, there would be no eventing. If you have a few spare hours between rides, volunteer yourself.

• Expect the best but ALWAYS have a backup plan.

• Try not to get eliminated for something dumb, like forgetting your spurs in the Intermediate test or cruising past a jump.

• Dump your manure at the back of the manure heap. Don’t be “that person.”

• Never use new products or equipment for the first time at an event. It can be tempting, I know. DON’T.

• If the course looks big, walk it again. Defying all laws of physics, jumps grow smaller with each successive course walk.

• If after several course walks the course still looks big, grab a go-cup of wine from the competitor’s party and give it one more try.

• Have a start box ritual, whether it’s visualization, a prayer, a mantra or just a deep breath.

• When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with sitting up and closing your leg.

• Unhook your vest before dismounting!

• Call your mom/significant other/etc. after cross country. They worry.

• When you have a bad day, don’t act like it’s the end of the world. Because it’s not.

• When you have a good day, remember that you didn’t get there alone.

• If you feel like dancing at the competitors’ party, you ought to.

• SERIOUSLY, THANK EVERY VOLUNTEER YOU SEE.

• And whatever you do, never ever look down in the Port-a-Potty!

What would you add to the list? Leave your “rules” in the comments section below.

Go Eventing!

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Is Eventing Due For a New ‘Sylvester’?

Screenshot from the 1985 eventing movie Screenshot from the 1985 eventing movie "Sylvester" via IMDB.

Is eventing due for a new “Sylvester”? Rick Hansberry thinks so. A screenwriter/producer from Lancaster, Pa., Rick isn’t a rider himself, but his wife and daughter compete in hunter/jumpers. Last year for his wife’s 50th birthday, he planned a trip to Rolex, as she had never been and it was on her “bucket list.” The weekend was everything they had hoped for and more — a colorful pastiche of grace, athleticism and grit.

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Rick’s wife (and avid EN reader!) Christin and her horse Oscar, after whom Rick named his production company Oscar’s Trailer, LLC.

Rick, always thinking through the lens of a camera, explains, “I was absolutely blown away by the Rolex experience, and I was astounded that there aren’t any eventing movies at all to promote the sport and its competitors.” While at Rolex, he had the opportunity to meet and talk with Will Faudree, who went on to finish sixth on Pawlow. Rick says, “Will had mentioned watching a film called “Sylvester” when he was 8 and living in Texas and that it got him hooked. I checked out the film but was disappointed that not only did it not capture the essence of the sport, it was the only representative of eventing in film.”

While many eventers have a soft spot in their heart for “Sylvester,” the 1985 film about a scrappy cowgirl-turned-Rolex competitor …

.. .we can also all agree that it’s about as representative of modern-day eventing as “Chariots of Fire” is of modern-day track and field. So Rick went home and wrote a new script: a present-day underdog triumph story about eventing culminating — not unlike “Sylvester” — at the Kentucky Horse Park. Throughout the process, he sought out input from Will and Caitlin Silliman, with whom he’d also connected at Rolex, who were helpful in creating the narrative and providing insight into the world of upper-level eventing. The first draft of the script earned favorable marks on The Black List, a professional screenplay feedback tool. An excerpt from the professional coverage of the script:

“The strongest element of the piece is the world, which is unique and specific, and peppered with authentic detail that both clearly demonstrates the author’s knowledge of the subject matter, and creates a compelling setting that is rarely explored in film — the competitive world of equestrian sports, along with rival teams and the multitude of characters from all walks of life it draws, is full of rich potential for drama and conflict that is centered around an iconic American pastime.”

Rick has a history of success with his filmmaking projects, including “Chemistry” (2008), a romantic comedy about speed-dating; “Chasing Forever” (2009), a drama starring Brody Hutzler (“Days of Our Lives”); “Branches” (2010), narrated by Daniel Stern (“Wonder Years” and “Home Alone”); and his latest film “Alienate,” which is set for a 2014 release. Bringing an eventing movie to life is his next goal, and he’s now looking to our community for help.

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Screenshot from a news interview about Rick’s award-winning film “Branches.”

“As you can see from the script’s coverage, I will be approaching not only upper-level riders, syndicates and owners but also actual two- and three-star venues to gain their support,” Rick says. “The script references Jersey Fresh and Plantation as well as Rolex, but finalizing those venues are a big part of pre-production when actual filming locations are budgeted and scouted for availability.”

We wish Rick the best and he promises to keep us updated on the project’s progress in coming months.

Interested in getting involved? Contact Rick at djrickhansberry@me.com.

Tiffani Loudon-Meetze and Hap Are Full Speed Ahead At Full Gallop

Tiffani Loudon-Meetze and Hap clearing the second-to-last jump at the February 26 Full Gallop H.T. (Aiken, SC). Photo by Wylie. Tiffani Loudon-Meetze and Hap clearing the second-to-last jump at the February 26 Full Gallop H.T. (Aiken, SC). Photo by Wylie.

In their first outing of the season, Tiffani Loudon-Meetze and her OTTB Hap continued a winning streak they started in the fall by finishing first on a score of 30.9 in Open Prelim at Full Gallop. Their last competition was the Virginia CCI* in November, where they topped a field of 35 starters for the win. Prior to that, the pair finished first at both Tryon Riding & Hunt Club Horse Trials in October and Pine Top Horse Trials in September.

Tiffani purchased the 16-hand chestnut, who’ll be 7 in April, off the track as a 3-year-old and has been since been sculpting him into what she hopes will be her next upper-level partner. After a successful year at Prelim, she plans to move him up to Intermediate at his next event, especially since he handled yesterday’s competition with such aplomb.

A one-to-one triple in show jumping set on a slight downhill slope caught out several combinations, causing rails, run-outs and a couple falls. Tiffani had a hairy moment there as well when Hap, struggling to get a read on the line, squeezed a stride-and-a-half between each jump. He kept the jumps up, though, to finish clear with 2 time penalties. “He’s got some springs,” Tiffani laughed.

The rain-slicked cross-country course further thinned the Prelim field and, by the time they headed toward the start box, Tiffani was a bit concerned. “I had it in my mind that I wasn’t going to look at my watch — just go out, set his pace and let him coast. And he was great,” she said. Despite their cautious approach, they finished with just 1.6 time penalties.

Video: Hallie Bean and Caroline Teich, who finished 3rd and 6th respectively, tackle the second Prelim water complex.

Tiffani says Hap is well-rounded in all three phases, although his tendency toward spookiness is something they’re trying to work through in the cross country. “He wants to size up and look at the jump a little too much,” she said. “I’m wanting to gallop on down, and he’s kind of is checking himself a bit, so we’re slower across the jumps.” Luckily, she explains, he’s also very obedient: “The focus is not quite always there, but I can just kick him a little and shake him up, and he’ll be like, yes ma’am.”

So, a move-up next month and then … “We’ll take it one show at a time and see how it goes,” Tiffani said. “If he wants to go Advanced, he’ll go Advanced. But I’m hoping he’ll turn out to be a Rolex horse because I’m itching to get back there.

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The cold rain that soaked Full Gallop’s morning divisions let up by the afternoon. Around 120 riders turned out for the Wednesday horse trials, one of eight the farm hosts throughout the year. When Full Gallop first emerged as an event venue in 2002, the only dates available were Wednesdays because the weekends were all taken. Owner Lara Anderson said, “People thought I was crazy because ‘Who’s going to come to a Wednesday event?’ Well, our first Wednesday event we had over 200 entries.”

Despite the damp chill, the mood at this week’s event was relaxed — although some of the horses, happy to be back out “on the playground,” were a touch effervescent in their performances. [Final scores here.] Lara explains that she wants Full Gallop to be a “fun, happy event” with courses suitable for knocking the rust off at the beginning of the season. “To introduce their horses to the season, to get them going — nice, flowing courses that aren’t easy-easy but something that they can come out and do and feel like they’ve done something,” Lara said.

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Andrew McConnon and CMA Special Messenger, winner of Novice B on a score of 31.8. Photo by Wylie.

The course — a destination for schooling as well as events — is a perpetual work in progress. Lara and her crew actively seek feedback from riders, trainers and designers about where to take things next. Last year’s project was a mound complex; this year’s was new banks. “We’re always asking riders, ‘What do you want to see?’ We try to put as many elements out there as we can,” Lara said.

This time of the year, Full Gallop is bustling on competition days and otherwise. Riders haul in for lessons with trainers based there, and the farm also hosts a revolving cast of 150 to 180 snowbirds over the course of the winter. Lara has her hands full — in addition to organizing competitions, coordinating boarders, riding, competing and managing a herd of rescue Thoroughbreds, she also holds down a “real job” as a realtor — but is energized by her passion for the sport. “This is my favorite time of the year,” Lara said. “I love it. I love to have people here. That’s why I built this facility in the first place; I built it to share, and I built it for people to enjoy.”

Go Eventing.

The Perils of Being ‘Extreme’

Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of "The Crash Reel."

The Sochi Winter Olympics, which kick off in just under two weeks, feature some of the most terrifying sports ever invented by mankind. Luge, skeletonaerial skiing, giant slalom, snowboard halfpipe, ski jumping … they all look like death wishes to me.

And yet when you Google “most dangerous Olympic sport,” the first link that pops up is this 2012 Time story about eventing. An ominous subhead reads: “The slightest miscalculation in the cross country can cost medals, as well as possibly lives.” I guess it all depends on your frame of reference: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Turning flips five stories up in the air on skis or careening 90-mph down an ice chute on a tiny sled — that’s insane, right? But to us, strapping a saddle on an animal with a mind of its own and galloping full-tilt toward solid obstacles makes perfect sense.

It reminds me of a quote from the 2013 HBO snowboarding documentary “The Crash Reel.” “I look at dirt bikers like they’re crazy,” says one snowboarder. “They look at us the same way.” “The Crash Reel” tells the story of Kevin Pearce, a half-pipe wunderkind who at age 22 was on the road to compete at the Vancouver Olympics when a traumatic brain injury derailed his career and nearly ended his life. It’s a fascinating (if difficult to watch) film, not only because it provides an intimate look at the complexities of TBIs, but because it illuminates some of the issues that face all extreme sports, eventing included.

Not unlike eventing, snowboarding has experienced a dramatic evolution over the past decade. And in the process of testing the boundaries of athleticism and technical ability, both sports have hit the ceiling on occasion. For snowboarding, the introduction of a 22-foot half pipe allowed athletes to fly higher in the air and perform awe-inspiring feats that were unimaginable five years ago. But the innovation came at a price. Typical of many top athletes, Pearce was compelled to push the envelope of what was possible and, on one sunny day in Park City, Utah, in 2009, he failed.

Another example of risk escalation and its sometimes tragic consequences was witnessed by an international audience at the Vancouver Olympic Games. During a training run, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili suffered fatal injuries after losing control on course and being catapulted off the track. At a press conference the day before Kumaritashvili’s accident, some Team USA luge athletes expressed concern about the track being “too fast.” Ultimately, though, they laughed it off. For extreme athletes, risk-taking is just part of the culture — until it’s too late.

Bodies (both human and equine) have limits, and the laws of physics aren’t negotiable. You can only raise the bar so high. Even if by necessity, eventing has done a really laudable job of coming together in recent years to address issues of safety, course design and the trajectory of our sport in general. But it’s a job that’s never really finished. Continuing forward, it’s important to remind ourselves that our sport doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and that it’s worthwhile to observe how other sports — no matter how different they seem — manage the challenges they encounter. We “crazy” people have to stick together.

Eventing: The Whitest Sport?

Clockwise from upper-left corner: 2012 team and individual Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics Gabby Douglas, four-time Olympic gold medalist in tennis Serena Williams,  2008 and 20012 Olympic gold medalist swimmer Cullen Jones, 11-time PGA Player of the Year Tiger Woods, 2006 and 2010 Olympic gold medalist in speed-skating Shani Davis, 1988 Olympic bronze medalist in figure-skating Debi Thomas. All photos used under Creative Commons License. Clockwise from upper-left corner: 2012 team and individual Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics Gabby Douglas, four-time Olympic gold medalist in tennis Serena Williams, 2008 and 20012 Olympic gold medalist swimmer Cullen Jones, 11-time PGA Player of the Year Tiger Woods, 2006 and 2010 Olympic gold medalist in speed-skating Shani Davis, 1988 Olympic bronze medalist in figure-skating Debi Thomas. All photos used under Creative Commons License.

Here’s something that nobody wants to talk about: diversity in equestrian sport, or more specifically, the lack thereof. While black athletes have made inroads into many traditionally white-dominated sports in recent decades, a glance around any given horse show makes immediately apparent the fact that we’re woefully out of step with that trend. Perhaps more concerning is the fact that so few people seem to realize that it’s a problem.

For the sake of brevity, let’s limit our discussion to eventing. (Mostly because if you got me started talking about the social stratification of the A-circuit hunter/jumper world, I will never shut up.) So just how “white” is eventing? Since we don’t have statistics to go by — there are no “describe your race” checkboxes on USEA membership forms or event entries — we have to rely on experiential data. And speaking from experience, I think we can all agree that, with a few exceptions, the majority of American eventers are white.

Racial homogeneity isn’t unique to our sport. Despite dramatic advances in the sports world at large to provide a more equal playing field, some sports have simply lagged behind. Much of this can be traced to vestigial socioeconomic barriers: Not everyone is in a financial position to invest in the training, equipment and competition costs required to participate, much less excel, in certain sports. This speaks to a deeper structural racism of who has access to what. Eventing, being an expensive sport to participate in on even the most basic of levels, is correspondingly one of the most exclusive and least racially diverse.

How do we make our sport more accessible? That’s a question the eventing community loves to ask. But when we posit it, it’s in the self-serving context of, “How do we achieve more popular appeal, more airtime and more sponsors?” Not, “How do we share this experience with those who wouldn’t have access to it otherwise?” The two questions, however, are more intertwined that you might think.

Stephen Colbert had a heyday with equestrian elitism last year but, mercifully, his critique was sugarcoated in humor. What if it hadn’t been? If our sport continues existing in this insular white privilege bubble, someday it’s going to catch up with us. It’s worth remembering that equestrian sports aren’t a shoe-in for inclusion on the Olympic roster like, say, swimming or track. We have to make an effort to continue demonstrating global reach and appeal. As it stands, we’re just one “Nightline” exposé away from a public image nightmare.

Other traditionally white sports have made it through this dilemma intact, even flourishing through the transition to a more diverse participation. The emergence of black sporting icons like Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters put “country club sports” like golf and tennis within the grasp, physically and conceptually, of a broader demographic. Other traditionally white-dominated sports like gymnastics, swimming and figure skating have followed suit.

Let me be clear: I am not saying that eventers are racist, or that we intended eventing to become one of the the last bastions of white sport, or that non-white athletes are greeted by our community with anything less than open arms. What I’m saying is we are guilty of complacency. If eventing wants to be considered a relevant sport in the 21st century, we have to lose the tunnel vision and work harder to evolve.

I’d love to see the USEA continue this conversation and put some meaningful programs in place that emphasize inclusion. How about a diversity scholarship rewarding talented minority riders, or outreach programs providing riding lessons to underprivileged kids? Sure, it’s easier (and cheaper) to hand kids a basketball than the reins to a horse, but if winter sports outreach programs have been successful in getting under-served youth onto the side of a mountain, surely we can get them to a nearby farm.

There are things we can do as individuals as well. For instance, several years ago I got involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Once a week, I picked my “little” up from school and we went to the barn. She loved grooming my horse and learning the basics of riding, and those hours in the country offered much-needed relief from a troubled home life. As eventers, we’ve been given a gift, and it’s our responsibility to share it.

It makes me incredibly sad to know that the experience of eventing is limited to a fortunate few. And I feel deeply troubled when I see our community fold further and further in on itself. And, I promise you, as more money gets injected into the sport, it’s only going to get worse. Will we see a black event rider on the Olympic podium in our lifetime? Who knows. But we can commit to growing a healthier, more diverse sport in which anything is possible.

RRTP Survey: Eventing Tops Second Careers for OTTBs

Lynn Symansky and Donner at Richland, is one of many OTTBs now competing at the upper levels. Photo by Jenni Autry. Lynn Symansky and Donner at Richland, is one of many OTTBs now competing at the upper levels. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Yesterday the Retired Racehorse Training Project (RRTP) released the results of a study — the first of its kind — exploring the pipeline that connects Thoroughbred ex-racers with new careers. Owners of 4,200 OTTBs in 47 states and Canada responded to a survey that yielded some interesting statistics.

We eventers have long counted ourselves as some of the OTTB’s biggest cheerleaders — a big Thoroughbred heart just can’t be beat. So it was affirming to see that when the numbers got crunched, we were putting our money where our mouth is. Among survey respondents, eventing was the most reported discipline.

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Graphic from RRTP website

The study gathered a variety of data describing the typical OTTB owner (80% amateur, 78% competitive riders, 95% female, all age groups represented), as well as information about the horses they own. Among the things they looked at were the specifics of how they came into their current situation.

“The public believes that racing owners dump their retiring horses into auctions and that a lucky few get rescued and adopted,” RRTP president Steuart Pittman said in a press release. “Our survey tells a different story. Most of these horses were not rescued. They were sold or donated through networks of people both inside and outside of racing who work very hard to transition these animals.”

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Graphic from RRTP website

Even though the track-to-second-career transition process has become more streamlined in recent years, thanks in large part to the hard work of nonprofit placement organizations and support programs like RRTP, it still faces a myriad of challenges.

One is the question of how to motivate trainers to retire racehorses while they’re still sound enough to be useful riding horses. The report explains, “The prices paid for sound horses coming directly from the track is far less than the lowest claiming price and less than a month of training. The first step in placing more horses into productive second careers is to offer incentives to owners to retire horses from racing when they are still sound. Higher demand, higher prices, and better access to the riding market give racing owners both a financial and a moral incentive to retire horses sound.”

The report also notes that prices and adoption fees are so low it puts those providing transition services in a difficult financial position. According to the report, “Subsidizing the transition process is an important part of the solution. Increasing demand through public education and promotion, however, has the potential to raise prices to a level that covers those costs, allowing more of the farms that have space for these horses to do this important work.”

A full copy of the report, Exploring the Bridge to Second Careers, is available through RRTP and can be read online at retiredracehorsetraining.org.

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Author’s Note: OTTBs! I’m the biggest fan. This is my former horse Rowdy, who found his calling in a second career as an event horse. Mind, heart, athleticism … he was the total package. Go OTTBs, and Go Eventing!

Ask the Expert: ‘Fly Away, Little Snowbird’ Edition

Eventing can be a confusing sport. If I had a penny for every time I’ve been confounded by a question like “Will anyone notice if I sub in a different horse for dressage?” or “Why is the TD screaming at me again?,” I could afford to just buy myself a stupid Rolex and call it a day.

Fortunately, however, I have learned from my many, many mistakes. You might even say I’ve grown wise over the years, especially if you don’t know me that well. Every now and again, I distribute that wisdom free of charge via an advice column called “Ask the Expert”–kind of like “Dear Abby” if Abby was an event rider with questionable judgment and way too much time on her hands.

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Dear EN,

I am so freaking sick of winter. I hate breaking ice in water troughs, I hate trotting around and around the indoor, I hate frozen poop balls… I hate it all. And more than anything, I hate seeing cheery little Facebook posts from fellow eventers who are preparing to head south for the winter. Why do I have to stay up here in blistering cold for three more months while they get to go start their seasons in paradise? Oh yeah, it’s because I have a husband, kids and a real-world job. Any advice?

Miserable in Minnesota

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Dear Miserable in Minnesota,

Man, do I understand your pain. Frozen poop balls are the worst! But I have some good news for you: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

First, let’s talk about your job. It sounds like a real drag. My advice: quit and find another one that better suits your snowbird lifestyle, a.k.a. enables you to make mad bank working from home (or an extended-stay hotel room at the winter eventing destination of your choice). There are loads of opportunities out there. In fact, here’s an offer that popped up on my computer screen just a few minutes ago:

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$750 a day! Do you make $750 a day at your current job? Um, probably not. Considering the fact that you participate in the world’s most expensive sport, maybe it’s time to raise the bar on your earning potential. Check your inbox and/or spam folder to see what sorts of exciting and lucrative work-from-home job offers await!

Next, the family “problem.” I put “problem” in quotation marks because it’s not that you don’t love your family–it’s just that they’re holding you back from realizing your true winter eventing potential. It’s a delicate situation, but there IS a solution that doesn’t involve divorce court and a lifetime of abandonment issues for your kids.

You know that metaphor about boiled frogs? How if you put a frog in a pot of hot water it will jump out, but if you heat the water slowly the frog will cook to death without even realizing it? Well, that’s how you’re going to need to go about this.

First, pick an event–Rocking Horse, Sporting Days, etc.–and tell everyone you’re going down for the weekend to get a jump start on your season. Yeah, it’s a long drive, but it’s just a few days, no big deal! But on Sunday when you should be heading home, your truck “breaks down.” This is a totally believable story, as breaking down is pretty much what all trucks do. Then, on Monday, the “mechanic” tells you he can’t get the part until “later in the week.” Still believable. After a few days he calls you back to profusely apologize that “it’s a very rare part” and “he’s going to have to special order it from the factory.” Then, “the delivery truck gets snowed in by a ‘blizzard,’” and so on and so forth. You think I’m kidding, but a variation on this theme bought me almost two months in Ocala one year.

Good luck, and Go Eventing!

Have a question for the “expert”? We’ve got a not necessarily legal, credible or factually correct answer! Email it to wylie@horsenation.com.

Santa Baby: The Equestrian Version

Not quite sure how to break the news of your hefty Christmas list to Santa this year? We rewrote the lyrics to “Santa Baby” for your convenience.

Tip: Most effective when sung while in your best Marilyn Monroe voice — or if you’re into duets, you can sing along with me here: WylieSingsSantaBaby. Here goes!

Santa Baby, slip a stallion under the tree, for me.
Been an awful good girl, Santa baby,
So hurry down the hayloft tonight.

Santa baby, an ’13 F350 too,
In blue.
With a tow package dear,
Santa baby, so hurry down the hayloft tonight.

Think of all the trainers’ butts I’ve kissed,
Think of all the distances I haven’t missed,
Next year I’m sure this could be me,
If you’ll check off my Christmas list.

Santa baby, I wanna rig and really that’s not
so big,
Been an angel all year,
Santa baby, so hurry down the hayloft tonight.

Santa honey, there’s one thing I really do need,
The deed
To a Wellington farm,
Santa honey, so hurry down the hayloft tonight.

Santa cutie, I need a hot stablehand named Tex,
And checks.
Sign your ‘X’ on the line,
Santa cutie, and hurry down the hayloft tonight.

Come and leave my horse a snack,
A lifetime supply of supplements from SmartPak,
I really do believe in you,
Let’s see if you believe in me.

Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing,
A ring.
I don’t mean on the phone.
Santa baby, so hurry down the hayloft tonight.


Hurry down the hayloft tonight.
Hurry, tonight.

Happy Holidays, and Go Eventing!

Evention TV’s ‘Dressage Skillz’ Music Video, Deconstructed

There is so much going on in this new video released last night on EventionTV, I thought it deserved a play-by-play.

[EventionTv]

0:35 – Just another ordinary day in the life of an eventer, right?

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1:12 – Wrong. Dom’s putting on his Yeezy shades. It’s about to get real up in here.

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1:38 – As the beat drops, let’s take a moment to appreciate Dom’s oversize yellow timepiece neck-bling, clearly inspired by the great Flavor Flav.

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1:40 -Dom’s flow here is impeccable:

We hit the warmup, trot is pumpin’ / horse is rarin’ canter’s jumpin / step aside cause I am comin’…

1:51 – If I saw this guy coming at me in the warmup, I’d probably just scratch.

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2:02 – Lookin’ flossy, Dom. That saddle pad is hella tight.

I got them dressage skillz / I give them judges chills / Born to shine on the centerline / Just keepin’ it real

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2:11 – Makin’ it rain.

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2:32 – Still makin’ it rain.

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2:54 -OH HELLO, DOM.

When I’m done dropping bombs in the 60 x 20 / I go online and check to see if I just scored in the 20s

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3:02 – UH-OH.

But dominating I am not, she gave me a score of 60-WHAT?!? / Above the bit, that’s a load of $h!t / you’re making me illz

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3:14 – Now he’s making it rain score sheets. Never, ever let a dressage judge steal your shine.

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3:48 – This next segment is important for two reasons:

(1) Its powerful, inspirational message:

So the next time all that flatwork got you down in the dumps / don’t forget that after all that we all just here for the jumps / so hold your head up to the sky and just sit up there looking fly / you never have to wonder why if you remember that you always say / I got them dressage skillz

and (2) I’m pretty sure Dom is wearing a grill.

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4:02 – This is, like, the zenith of Dom’s dressage riding career, and he’s letting us be a part of it. Pretty special.

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4:09 – Gettin’ jiggy with the final salute.

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4:33 – Listen up kids, it’s time for the take-away:

All you sand-dancers out there

Pause, rewind: “SAND-DANCERS”

just keep it real / keep your head up high / kick on

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4:38: I am so on board with this guy right now. Lead the way, Dom. Take us to the light.

4:40 – Cut, fade back to reality, where it appears that Dom has either bonked his head in the tack room or has a raging syzzurp hangover.

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5:01 – I guess we’ll never know.

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Evention is produced by Jimmie and Dom Shramm of Schramm Equestrian and filmed by Right Start Photography. Be sure to visit EventionTV.com, where you can view, comment, share and explore videos as well as check out new features and other happenings on Evention. All-new episodes are posted every other Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. EST. Like Evention on Facebook here.

Go Evention, and Go Eventing!

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Holiday Gift Ideas: Smarter Gift-Giving from SmartPak

‘Tis the season to have absolutely no idea what to get any of your friends or family, for the umpteenth year in a row. Every once in a while you find the perfect present, but especially for horsey friends, the pressure is on. Obviously you’ll be purchasing something horse-related, but does it have to be pink and have a fat pony on it? We here at Eventing Nation say NAY! That’s why this holiday season each one of our impressive staff writers is picking one unique, amazing, thoughtful and clever horsey gift to help you along during this time of stress. Happy holidays!

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We are supposed to be sharing gift ideas that are “unique, amazing, thoughtful and clever,” but let’s be real here: Ain’t nobody got time for that. Between work and the barn, I have approximately seven minutes of me time at the end of day, and I’m not going to use it trying to decide between a horse shoe wine rack and a horse shoe toilet paper holder for the farrier. (That IS a real toss-up.) And then you have to wrap it, and remember to bring it to the barn, and play it cool while wondering if he secretly thinks it’s dumb, etc.

Here’s the better way to roll: SmartPak gift cards. Not only are they quick and easy (click here, fill out a few details and … voila!), but you can choose between having the card mailed to you in a sweet-looking custom box or emailed straight to the recipient’s inbox. Emailed gift cards arrive the same day, which is handy in the event that it’s Dec. 25 at 10 p.m. and you suddenly realize you forgot someone on your horsey gift-giving list. You can even add a thoughtful message, like, “Of course I didn’t forget your Christmas present! You’re the best farrier in the world! (p.s. Esprit lost a shoe if you wouldn’t mind tacking that back on tomorrow.)”

Also, you know this is what horse people really want anyway. Nine out of 10 EN readers agree that they’d rather have a SmartPak gift card than some crappy horse ornament you found on Etsy.

Need some ideas beyond my one-trick pony gift card scheme? Sign up for SmartPak’s 12 Deals of Christmas. Every day for 12 days, beginning Dec. 4, SmartPak will send you an email with an exclusive one-day offer on a product.

Here’s one more hot tip from EN, the eventing website that cares: Worried that family and friends will gift you something lame again this year?

I own 54 scarves and I'm pretty sure they were all Christmas presents.

Take out the guesswork by dropping them a link to your SmartPak Wishlist. It’s so easy! First, create an account if you don’t already have one. Then, simply peruse the site and click “Add to Wishlist” on items you’d like to find under the tree. Here, I’ll show you my wishlist, in case there are any filthy rich secret Santas out there:

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When you’re ready to drop a subtle hint, copy and paste your code into an email.

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Boom! SmartPak, you really get it. Go SmartPak, and Go Eventing.

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EN’s GIF Guide to the Training Lists: National List

Earlier this week, we gave the Global and World Class Lists the GIF treatment. Today, we bring you an infinitely looping parade of the National List combinations. Check out the complete roster here, and keep it locked on Eventing Nation in coming months for full training session coverage.

Jan Byyny & Inmidair

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Will Coleman & Conair

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Will Coleman & OBOS O’Reilly

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Buck Davidson & Petite Flower

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Ellen Doughty & Sir Oberon

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Will Faudree & Pawlow

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Elizabeth Halliday-Sharp & Fernhill By Night

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Elizabeth Halliday-Sharp & HHS Cooley

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Lillian Heard & Share Option

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Doug Payne & Crown Talisman

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Kim Severson & Fernhill Fearless

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Sharon White & Wundermaske

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Go Eventing.

Finding Your Place in the Sport

Esprit boing-ing through the coffin at River Glen. Image courtesy of WNC Photo.

It’s a running joke at events that at some point during the weekend, usually after a competitor’s party beverage or two, I will inevitably descend into an “I love you, man” style monologue about our sport. Sometimes I just blubber on enthusiastically to anyone who will listen; sometimes I get deep and serious, even a little teary eyed if I’m really on a roll.

This past weekend at River Glen H.T., the moment arrived unexpectedly while I was tearing open bags of shavings. I hadn’t been to an event in a month and a half, so I guess I was feeling emotional. There’s something therapeutic about the ritual of arriving at a show and readying your stall: banking the shavings, hanging water buckets, organizing all your stuff. Everything in its right place. Life is weird and hard and confusing, but at least I know where my spurs are. “I love eventing!” I enthused loudly to no one in particular. A friend’s voice from the next stall down: “A little early for that, isn’t it?”

Eventing has been the one constant in my life for as long as I can remember. My best childhood memories are of going to events with my sisters. As it goes with any long-term relationship, things gradually got more serious. Jumps grew bigger and goals loftier. I did the horse thing full-time for a while in my 20s, but to be honest, it sort of killed my buzz. If eventing was my job, it couldn’t also be my escape. These days, I feel like I’ve finally hit my stride, writing about horses for a living and racing to the barn every day after work.

Unfortunately, when you look around at an event, you’re almost always going to spot someone who doesn’t look happy to be there. Maybe it’s a burnt-out professional who has seven horses to compete but would rather be curled up in the truck, reading a book. Maybe it’s someone who keeps eventing because that’s what they’ve done their entire life, and they don’t know who they would be without it. Maybe it’s someone who has so much pressure on them it’s not fun anymore, or someone who’s in just a little over their head. I see these people and I recognize them, because I’ve cuddled up to those demons myself.

What’s your place in the sport? It’s a question you have to keep asking yourself over and over again, and it’s OK if the answer changes over time or isn’t what you think it’s supposed to be. For me, my relationship with eventing is constantly shape-shifting, but at its core, it always has been and always will be the same. Eventing is my home, a safe space in which to steady myself amidst the chaos of daily existence. In the grand scheme of things, eventing is easy: You jump one jump, and then you jump the next jump, and then you jump the jump after that. There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

I think we make eventing too complicated sometimes, piling all of this drama on top of it, allowing our egos to get in the way. We fuss about ribbons and rankings and reputations. We fret about getting to the next level or qualifying for X event. Those things may be important, but losing sleep over them isn’t going to make us more successful. Focusing our energy on becoming better riders makes us more successful. My advice: Keep it simple. Go back to the place where you first fell in love with the sport. Rekindle that romance. Remember that you’re already exactly where you’re supposed to be. The rest is just details.