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Emily Hamel

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Nothing Great Ever Happens in your Comfort Zone

Emily Hamel and Corvett. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

How many of you enjoy doing things that make you uncomfortable? My guess is not too many hands are shooting up in the air. If you’re anything like me, you try to put off uncomfortable situations or tasks as long as possible. The problem with this is that if it’s inevitable and can’t be avoided forever, you cause yourself more anxiety by not doing the thing instead of just doing the damn thing.

Over the holidays, I received a daily calendar called UNF*CK YOURSELF with a motivational but blunt quote to start each day. I have received similar calendars in the past and usually remember to tear off the pages for the first few days, but then next thing I know, it’s June 1, and January 17 is staring back at me. This calendar’s direct and unfiltered approach made me excited to see what insight the next day would bring.

January 8, I awoke to this gem, “Nothing great ever happens in your comfort zone.” I knew this to some degree but felt the strong desire to explore the idea more. How many things had I been putting off because it made me feel uncomfortable, and how was that lack of action taking away from creating the life I wanted?

On the one hand, I am pretty happy with my life and feel grateful for everything I have achieved. However, on the other hand, I have much more that I want to do in this life, and my biggest fear is not living up to my full potential. So, how do I face this fear and work towards becoming the best possible version of myself? That is the million-dollar question.

I decided the best way to begin this process was by making a list of things that made me uncomfortable because everything is figure-out-able with a list, right? So, I put pen to paper and listed anything and everything that I regularly encountered, which made my body tense at its thought. There were minor things (aka first world problems) like having to get up right when my alarm goes off in the morning and not being able to hit the snooze to stay in my warm, comfy bed for five more minutes (or more because, let’s face it, I am a snooze addict!). Then, more significant things fit into the broader category of awkward situations I try to avoid at all costs because they are uncomfortable AF. For example, having a “difficult” conversation with someone or expressing my opinion when it differs from popular belief.
The thing that stuck out to me the most and affected my life in real-time was asking for help. Not for little things like bringing in horses from the field or changing blankets, but for big things that required other people’s time, effort, and/or money. I have struggled with this throughout my life for multiple reasons. For instance, I never want to inconvenience people or feel like I’m burdening them, which stems from deeper issues that we don’t need to get into right now. That coupled with my firm belief that I am a strong, capable, and independent woman makes for a lethal combo. Why should I ask for help when I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself?!

The harsh reality is that I don’t have the time, energy, or money to do all the things, all the time. No one does, and no one should. Once you accept this truth, it is less painful to relinquish some control, put ego aside, and ask for the support you need. Of course, this is easier said than done, but here’s what helped me…

  1. Make a clear ask. What do you need in this exact moment? Don’t beat around the bush…get to the point.

  2. Right now, I need support to make my dreams of competing at Badminton and Burghley this year a reality. Taking a horse overseas is a massive time, energy, and money commitment. I can’t do it alone, and I am asking Team Barry fans for anything they can contribute, and it doesn’t have to be financial. I’m all about finding creative ways to make things happen. Maybe you have a product or service that you could donate for me to auction off, which I can then use the proceeds towards the trip. Or perhaps you have a connection to an equestrian brand that would be interested in some form of sponsorship. There are endless opportunities to achieve something when people work together towards a goal.

  3. Solidify your why. What is the deeper purpose behind your ask?

  4. I’m a small-town girl from Wisconsin with an ordinary background, and as much as I knew from a young age I wanted to ride at Kentucky, I understood I would need to work extremely hard and be persistent to make my 5* goals a reality. I want to inspire other riders to pursue their dreams and show them what is possible with dedication. Also, the partnership between horse and rider has always been important to me. My horse, Corvett (aka Barry), was always talented but very quirky, so no one was able to showcase his full abilities before I bought him. I knew he was special, and it was my mission to bring that out in him. I think it’s safe to say he is a phenomenal athlete and that we have an extraordinary partnership together. I hope this can encourage others to see greatness in their horses and learn to bring it out through patience and some good old TLC.

  5. Create value for others. How can your ask be mutually beneficial?

  6. As I said earlier, I hope that following my dreams will inspire others to do the same. Also, I understand my responsibility to myself, my horse, and everyone who has helped get me across the pond to put in my best possible performance at these prestigious events. I want all Team Barry supporters to feel like they are a part of something bigger when I’m galloping across the English countryside and riding proudly for the U.S.A. Additionally, I will be sharing my experiences while overseas through more blog posts and social media updates so that everyone can feel like they are a part of the ride!

After all of this, I think it is important to note I have had many people help me throughout the years, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of others. However, the support I have gotten so far has been freely given, and I have not had to ask for it. Even though asking for help still makes me uncomfortable, I am pushing past it to seek greatness. So, I am asking you to be a part of Team Barry in any way that works for you because teamwork truly does make the dream work, and together, we can do great things!

Land Rover Rookie Reflections: Emily Hamel and Corvett

We’re still reliving the action at this year’s Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, and one of this year’s “rookie” five-star riders, Emily Hamel, shares her thoughts on a weekend she’d been dreaming of and planning for her entire career. Emily and her high-jumping Corvett finished in 21st place for their Kentucky debut. You can also take a look back with fellow first-timer Ema Klugman here. Many thanks to Emily for writing!

Emily Hamel and Corvette. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Reflecting on Kentucky is simultaneously wonderful and strange. Wonderful in the way that I finally achieved a goal that I have been working towards for my whole adult life. Strange in the way that I reached it, and nothing really changed. Sure, I was extremely proud of myself and Barry, but daily life continues, and planning for what’s next is inevitable.

Cross country day was a whirlwind of activities and emotions. Since I was lucky #13, I got to ride early in the morning, around 9. This suited me well because I prefer to get it done before I have too much time to second guess my plan and get nervous. I arrived at the barn early and was out walking my course as soon as it was light enough to see where I was going. On my last walk on any course, I always go alone, walk my exact lines, and visualize me and Barry going over the fences. This was the most significant and challenging course I had ever ridden, so I was 100% focused, and I apologize if I ignored anyone who may have seen me walking. I was in the zone…nothing personal.

The closer it got to the time I had to get on, the more nervous I started to become; however, as soon as I got on Barry, I breathed a sigh of relief. I knew we had done everything we could do at this point, and it was our time to put all of our hard work to the test. As soon as I got to warm up, I could feel Barry knew what was up, and he was going to bring his A-Game. All I had to do was not mess up…no pressure.

Emily Hamel and Corvette. Photo by Shelby Allen.

We were almost late getting to the start box because I was being held on the other side of the ropes since a horse was about to cross the finish. So as soon as they let me go, the starter told me I had 15 seconds, and I was still a little ways away. It worked out well because I didn’t have time to get nervous; I just trotted over, galloped out of the box, and off we went!

Once on course, all I could keep thinking was, omg, we are doing it! Barry was on it from the beginning, but I felt like he gained confidence with each fence and got better as the course went on. I was the most nervous about the hollow because I had never jumped anything quite like it. After we flew (quite literally because he massively jumped the brushes) through that, I knew that we were going to finish as long as I didn’t make any serious mistakes.

Crossing the finish line was an unbelievable feeling and then being greeted by my very excited support crew was the icing on the cake. It was all kind of a blur, but I remember lots of hugs, tears of joy, and loving on Barry. If anyone has pictures of these interactions, I would love to see them because at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about. The love of the sport, the horse, and all of the people who help make it happen!

Watch Emily and Corvett’s awesome cross country round:

Emily is currently making herself available for clinics and lessons if you’re local to the Chester County, Pa. area. To contact her for booking, visit the Emily Hamel Eventing Facebook page.

Without a Deadline It’s Only a Dream

With this week’s announcement that the 2021 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event will not run, several riders are reflecting on the tumult that has frequented the last two seasons. We’re honored that they’ve allowed EN to share their perspectives. Please consider making a donation to Equestrian Events, Inc. or rolling over your ticket to 2022 to help ensure the health and longevity of the U.S.’ beloved five-star event. 

Emily Hamel and Corvett. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Have you ever had something that you knew you wanted more than anything else in the world? Something that you willingly pour your blood, sweat, and tears in to make happen? That something for me presented itself at age 10 when I went on a 4-H trip to the event formerly known as Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. There I was, a small-town, horse-crazy girl from Wisconsin who didn’t really understand what eventing was, but there was no turning back after seeing it firsthand. I was hooked and knew I would ride there someday.

Fast forward to the same girl at age 33. After many years, horses, trainers, and life experiences, I was finally qualified and prepared to run a CCI5*-L. My amazing horse, Corvett, affectionately known as Barry in the barn, was fit and ready to run what is now Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event in 2020. I was on cloud nine for the most part, minus the nagging desire to cover my horse in bubble wrap until the last weekend of April. Then as you all know, because you lived through it, 2020 happened. Life was basically canceled, which included “the best weekend all year,” aka Kentucky. Que somber music and all of the sad emojis you can imagine.

Moving to the present-day me who believes that 2021 will be THE year! Barry, my partner in crime, feels better than ever, and we are set to peak for our 5* debut. Then the announcement, Kentucky is canceled … again! When I heard the news, my heart sank to a level that I didn’t know existed. The feeling was recognizable from last year, but somehow it stung more the second time around. I imagine it is similar to getting dumped by someone you are head over heels in love with, not once but twice. 10/10 would not recommend.

This feeling brings about one of my great internal struggles. Maybe some of you can relate? On the one hand, I am devastated for apparent reasons. But on the flip side, I understand that this is not the end of the world in the grand scheme of life. I am well aware it is an immense privilege to ride horses, especially in an elite sport at the highest level. I fully understand that it is a first-world problem and that while I’m disappointed that I can’t compete at my dream event, there are people in third-world countries who are literally starving to death. A little perspective is always a good reality check. However, as my sister reminded me, it’s okay to be sad, and I am entitled to my feelings. It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience is valid.

Emily Hamel and Corvett. Photo by Shelby Allen.

I know I am not the only first time 5* rider out there who feels this pang of disappointment. Even seasoned competitors are undoubtedly bummed for various reasons, a major one being that it is an Olympic year, and Kentucky was supposed to be an integral part of the process. My heart goes out to each and every one of them and their talented horses who won’t be able to gallop across the 5* course at the Kentucky Horse Park this spring. As eventers, we are resilient, and we will carry on, but for right now, this is your permission slip to embrace the suck. I’m sorry that your dreams were deferred, your plans altered, your motivation diminished. Lean into that feeling for a moment or a day or two, and then once you have given yourself enough time to honor the heartbreak, it’s time to get up and keep going because that is what we do!

One of my favorite sayings, especially when things aren’t going according to plans, is life happens for you, not to you. While it’s comforting to think that life is working in your favor, it can also be challenging to trust in the process, especially when you don’t know the grand plan. For the Type-A personality, which I will go out on a limb and say is most upper-level eventers, this can be especially difficult. Our desire to be in charge, set goals, and take the necessary steps to check them off the list is completely shaken when life reminds us that some things are out of our control.

As my favorite shark on Shark Tank, Robert Herjavec, says, “A goal without a deadline is just a dream.” Without Kentucky or a for sure 5* date on the horizon, it feels like we are in a dream that never ends. I want nothing more than to wake up and have a tangible thing to chase, but apparently, the universe wants me to keep hitting the snooze button. We can only hope that when it is time to rise and shine, there are things more wonderful than we could possibly imagine awaiting us, and we will be ready!