Two competitors at Rebecca Farm this weekend got there thanks to an extra set of wings from Ocala Horse Properties: Jules Ennis Batters and Brittany Crandall competed with support from the inaugural Ocala Horse Properties Rebecca Farm Flight Grants.
Chris and Rob Desino, twin brothers who founded Ocala Horse Properties in 2007, announced the grants at the 2021 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in Albuquerque. The decision came after the Desinos made their first trip to the Kalispell, MT venue to support Liz Halliday-Sharp, for whom they own several horses. It was an event more riders should experience, the Desinos desicded — and the Flight Grant was born.
I caught up with Jules and Brittany during the weekend to find out more about the flight process and their experience in Montana this year.
Jules and her 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse, Cooley O, competed in the CCI4*-S, finishing their weekend in 12th place on a final score of 90.9, adding one stop — “We both got a little tired towards the end and I ended up pulling him to a stop at a table. Ooops!” Jules wrote after her ride — and some time, along with a rail in the show jumping, to their final score.
Jules, who has competed at the 4* level with Cooley O (Caricello – Lady Glebe, by Kildalton King) since 2019 but says she struggled with confidence after having a few falls. This then played into her decision to opt for the Short format here — a set-up event for the fall.
This was the third year that Jules and “Oaken”, along with Jules’ husband, Sam Batters, have made a trip to Montana for The Event at Rebecca Farm. Their previous two journeys, however, were by road trip from their home in Queenstown, MD. “It’s 5,000 miles round trip. Plus a bit extra. So for most people, that’s like six months’ worth of trailering,” Sam told me.
Jules had not planned on attending Rebecca Farm this year, but she was offered the Ocala Horse Properties Flight Grant at the last minute, after the withdrawal of original recipient Allie Knowles. Jules said, regarding her experience planning and prepping for the trip, “I think my experience was probably a little bit different than everyone else’s because I had six days to figure it out.” Originally, the grant was intended for one competitor in the CCI4*-L and one in the CCI3*-L to travel to Montana from the east coast. Jules said she asked if she and Oaken could enter the CCI4*-S instead since she hadn’t prepped Oaken for a Long. With that agreed-upon, she got to planning!
The chartered flight for the horses was taken care of, but Jules and Brittany had to get the horses to Charlotte, NC to catch the flight. The cost of their own travel was also covered, but they had to arrange the details because they would be flying separately from their horses. Jules also had to find accommodations in Montana. Jules’ family stepped up to take care of her and Sam’s daughter as well as their training operation, Ennisbrook Farm.
What an amazing week!!!! Cooley O finished up the weekend strong with just one rail in the show jumping, he really gave…
Jules and Sam love coming to Montana for the scenery, hospitality, and of course the absolutely top-notch venue and competition. Fortunately, they were able to find a last-minute Airbnb close to Rebecca Farm. Despite the last-minute nature of the arrangements, the trip wound up being quite smooth in the end!
Brittany Crandall and her 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood, Cooley Almighty, competed in the CCI3*-L, finishing in sixth place with a final score of 51.5. Brittany secured the first clear cross country round inside the optimum time, showing her competitors that the notoriously tough time could be caught.
Brittany attended college at the University of Wyoming, so she is familiar with the mountain west, but this was her first time competing at Rebecca Farm. When I asked her if The Event was meeting her expectations, she didn’t hesitate: “Oh, it far surpasses them! I was just excited to come out because I love the west,” she said. “Just flying in and seeing all the pine trees and the mountains — I’m already in heaven. I love it. And my sister lives down in Bozeman [Montana], so they came up with their camper.” It was a perfect opportunity to combine a once-in-a-lifetime horse show trip with some valuable family time.
Brittany conveyed her gratitude to Ocala Horse Properties and Rebecca Farm. “I feel very lucky to be here,” she said. “I’m an amateur rider. I do this as a very strong hobby. I have a full-time job outside of this. I work for a brewery in Virginia, so to have this sort of opportunity is just amazing and I don’t know if the word would be perks [the benefits received] have just kept coming. Ocala [Horse Properties] gave me the flight grant, which paid for my horse’s flight and paid for my flight, and then Rebecca Farm compensated entry fees, my stabling, and my camping. I’m so very grateful for it all.”
Brittany’s mom and a good friend also came out to support her, and Brittany said she has made a lot of great friends throughout the journey.
Having never flown my horses, I was very curious about the process, and Brittany gave me a great summary:
After trailering to Charlotte, NC and having a rest, they trailered the horses to the airport at about 1:30 a.m. It was a short wait for the shipping containers, which were brought over to the horse trailers. Then two of the grooms that flew with the horses arrived to get the pods ready and set up.
“Then we loaded the shipping container pod with all our trunks and hay and all that stuff. Then we started loading the horses on, three to a pod. Pretty easy process, you pull your trailer up right next to the pod, and then they put the ramp down and you just walk the horse straight on. They have their buddies right there and we sent them with hay bags and water buckets,” Brittany recounted.
The riders then headed off to the airport for their own flight, and the horses took a plane from Charlotte to Memphis, TN via FedEx. After a short wait in Memphis, the horses flew to Great Falls, MT, where they caught a horse trailer for the approximately 4-hour drive to Kalispell.
Brittany said “Kavan” seemed really happy when he arrived, and that he enjoyed his time at Rebecca Farm.
Flying horses is cost-prohibitive to most riders, and while trailering is an option for some, the fuel costs and time required to drive to and from Rebecca Farm can prevent many people from attending as well. The flight grants provided by Ocala Horse Properties gave Jules and Brittany invaluable competition experience and exposure.
Let’s all give a shout-out to Chris and Rob Desino for the idea and their generosity — and hey, you can return the favor by browsing the full catalog of Ocala Horse Properties (spoiler: they aren’t only in Ocala!) if you’re farm-shopping! We look forward to seeing the 2023 flight grant recipients at Rebecca Farm next year.
Take a look at the trip to Montana: