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Emily Hamel

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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!