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Hawley Bennett-Awad


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Smart, Healthy Cross Country Snacking with Hawley Bennett-Awad

Hitting the road is a stressful endeavor for any equestrian. Making sure everything is packed, the horses are safely loaded, and that there’s plenty of time for unforeseen traffic incidents and layovers are all factors that have to be carefully accessed. What too often gets overlooked on the road trip checklist is the most important of them all — what snacks are we eating?! We asked Hawley Bennett-Awad, cross country expert whether it’s riding or driving, to help us (and our horses) stay in tip-top shape when the truck stop McDonald’s is calling our name.

Driving from Copper Meadows in Ramona, CA, to Raeford, NC, for the Cloud 11-Gavilan North LLC Carolina International will take us several days. That means LOTS of hours in the car with only fast food and truck stops as our sources of nourishment. I always try to eat a well-rounded diet, it’s important for riders to be fit both in and out of the saddle, but it certainly gets more difficult during trips like this. My road trip crew and I decided we were going to replace the normal staples of a cross country diet with some healthy alternatives, and I’ve got to say, we really didn’t miss the gas station donuts.

Our trek began at 7 a.m. on Thursday, March 15, and right away it was time to start sampling the goodies. Jen McFall started us off with some Grass Fed Butter Coffee, which is definitely a better alternative to the normal sugary Starbucks order. This coffee is a great way for the driver of a long haul to stay awake without getting jittery or having a sugar crash a few hours in. Grass Fed is a ready-to-drink cold brew that comes in a cardboard box with a screw on top, which is much more convenient for storing in a crowded-with-suitcases truck. There’s no sugar at all, only a few net carbs, and the coffee is non-GMO, plus it actually tastes really good! Jen McFall, my co-pilot and snack taste tester, was also impressed by Grass Fed Butter Coffee, and this coffee is remarkably filling, so there was no need to find a breakfast stop, which is always ideal when hauling.

As the lunch time hunger pangs started in and we realized we wouldn’t be finding a healthy salad purveyor on the side of the highway anytime soon, we reached back into the snack bag hoping for something crispy and delicious. While a can of Pringles might have satisfied the craving, I wouldn’t have felt nearly as good as I did after sampling the GimMe Organic Seaweed Chips. These were sriracha flavored and really, really tasty. I’m a huge sushi fan, and I love spicy foods, so these chips were absolutely perfect!

If you follow me on social media you know how obsessed I am with the newest HBE sponsor, Detoxwater. I could drink this stuff all day, it is so delicious. And all the vitamins and nutrients helped me to feel great, even after a lot of hours behind the wheel. Plus, Detoxwater is Bento approved!

I highly recommend drinking Detoxwater to stay hydrated during long trips. It can be tempting not to drink much water on these trips to avoid the dreaded bathroom stops, but your body doesn’t perform very well when it’s thirsty. Staying hydrated is easier when the water is flavored and delicious, and just like we do with the horses, adding electrolytes is always a good way to fend off dehydration.

Speaking of the horses, you might be wondering how we keep them in competition shape on days when they’re not able to move their legs at all. We stop and offer water to the horses every time we stop for gas, about every four hours. A while ago I learned the trick of adding carrots to their water buckets. After a few times the horses learn that once they drink their full bucket they get a treat, it’s a great way to make sure they’re getting plenty of water which keeps them feeling their best. They get as much hay as they want on the trip. More on keeping them healthy and happy on the road in just a moment. Back to snacking!

As the afternoon began to drag on it was time for another energy boost. We were quickly approaching our layover in El Paso, and I knew when we arrived would be lots of work to do. While normally I would reach for a Redbull or other energy drink, this time I grabbed an UPTIME drink. This energy drink is definitely different, and much healthier than the go-to energy drink brands. The sugar-free variety that I tried is only five calories, has no added sugar, and didn’t give me the jittery feeling or crash that normally accompanies energy drinks. It also comes in a really cool looking bottle, which is an added benefit for taking great road trip selfies!

After sampling our salty and spicy snacks, I was craving something chewy and chocolatey. A Snickers bar would have definitely hit the spot, but candy is not really conducive to a healthy road trip, so instead I went for a FODY Dark Chocolate snack bar. FODY Foods is a line of low FODMAP friendly foods, taking the stress and guesswork out of eating for those who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and similar symptoms. A FODMAP is a type of carbohydrate that is hard to digest causing issues that you really don’t want to run into in the middle of a four day cross country trek! 

When we made it to El Paso it was time to make sure the horses got all the same great nutritional care that we’d be so focused on during the trip. We always try to keep the horses as healthy as possible on the road, as it can be really stressful and lead to a lot of issues for horses to haul this far. Making sure they have plenty of hay and water throughout the day definitely helps their tummies stay comfortable. We also always make sure they have Platinum Performance BioSponge, and Platinum Performance Electrolytes as well as their normal Platinum supplements. To encourage them to eat we always wet down their grain as well as feed them bran mash. The horses are athletes just like us, so keeping them eating healthy, nourishing feed and supplements keeps them able to perform at the top of the sport, even after a four-day road trip. Planning your trek so you can layover at wonderful farms is also important. We were able to stay at the Jumping Bean Farm in El Paso, TX; Double Rainbow Equestrian Center in Shreveport, LA; and Spring Creek Farm in Atlanta, GA. Having a nice, relaxing place for the night makes all the difference, and these farms all were wonderful, hospitable, rest stops for the crew.

Day one of our four-day trip was long, but we’re well on our way, and replacing our snacks with healthy alternatives was also a great success! The key is to have a lot of variety, just like with your typical snack cache. You’re going to want something chocolate-y, but swap out those M&Ms for a snack bar like the dark chocolate FODY bar. Replace your bag of potato chips with a chip like GimMe Seaweed Chips, and keep several healthy beverages on hand! Bonus points if your drinks are healthy AND can keep you wide awake while hauling. Avoid extra sugar that can make you sleepy after your initial burst of energy, and of course, bring a friend with you to keep you entertained (and grab the snacks from the backseat).

An example of a great entertainer on a road trip, but not the best snack-grabber.

Can’t wait to see everyone on the East Coast!

The snacks and beverages featured in this blog can be purchased at the following links: DetoxWaterFODY SnacksGrass Fed CoffeeUPTIME Energy DrinksGimme Snacks.

Hawley Bennett-Awad: Back in My Happy Place

Hawley Bennett-Awad has made a successful return to the Advanced level thanks to her new ride, Jollybo. In her latest Athletux Equine blog, Hawley talks about the special little mare who she has big plans for and the journey that has brought her back to the top. Many thanks to Hawley for writing and to Athletux for partnering with us on this blog series.

Hawley Bennett and Jollybo at Rebecca Farm. Photo courtesy of Hope Carlin.

Hawley Bennett and Jollybo at Rebecca Farm. Photo courtesy of Hope Carlin.

It’s been almost two years since I last set foot on an Advanced level cross country course. My last trip around a four-star was in 2014 at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, and I’ve been waiting to get my chance to return to the level ever since.

That chance finally came just a few months ago, when I received a call from my longtime coach, Buck Davidson. He told me to get on a plane to try a mare that another student (and friend of mine) had for sale: Jollybo. I laughed at him, but he persisted and before I knew it I was on a plane to Pennsylvania, where Justine Dutton, Jollybo’s former owner and rider, picked me up from the airport.

After a whirlwind trip (I think I was gone for only about 15 hours), I knew that I had to do something to try to make Jollybo mine. She was exactly the type of ride I wanted – quick with her feet and equally quick with her brain. I hadn’t jumped an Advanced size fence for a long time, but Buck put the jumps up and Jollybo made them feel easy.

I have never syndicated or acquired a horse like Jollybo, so my work was cut out for me. After several phone calls and a lot of advice from my family and my husband, Gamal, I was able to secure the support I needed to make the biggest purchase of my life. It all happened so fast, I still can’t believe it! Before I knew it, I was on my way, trailer in tow, to LAX to meet a FedEx plane that had my precious cargo on it.

Hawley had a big smile on her face over the last. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Hawley had a big smile on her face over the last. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Jollybo stepped off the plane looking fresh and fit, thanks to the excellent care and training she received under Justine, and settled right in to her new stall at my home base in Temecula. I was itching to get a saddle on her, so a few days later I took her for an easy ride and couldn’t wipe the grin off of my face.

I’ve always tried hard to listen to what Buck tells me to do – he is always right! So when he told me to aim for Rebecca Farm in Montana, I immediately assumed he wanted me to take Jollybo Intermediate. When I said as much, he said “No, the three-star.” Once again, I laughed but knew he was serious, so I set to work planning out my prep runs with a horse I would only have had for a couple of months by the time Rebecca rolled around.

I took Jollybo Prelim her first trip out, at Copper Meadows in June, which she handily won and gave me the greatest feeling on cross country. Buck told me to kick for the time when he found out we were placed well after dressage, and she flew around easily with me to take home the blue ribbon. We then went on to Arizona, where we won our first Intermediate together and finished second in the Advanced CT at Coconino Horse Trials.

There was no turning back from there, as Rebecca Farm came next. My good friend Robyn Fisher made the trip with me to help me (and convince me that I wasn’t crazy!), and Buck was also in Montana to compete several horses.

I can’t say I was exactly nervous for my first three-star in several years, but it felt strange to be back at the level much sooner than I had ever anticipated. Jollybo settled in great in Montana, definitely appreciating the vast amounts of grass she had to enjoy!

On cross country in Montana! Photo courtesy of Hope Carlin.

On cross country in Montana! Photo courtesy of Hope Carlin.

Our dressage left me with a big smile. For this being such a new partnership, I was thrilled with our score, and I know that we will only continue to improve over time. Overall she really worked hard for me. Our score of 53.9 put us in fourth going into cross country.

Heading out of the start box, I felt a few nerves, but as soon as I jumped the first few fences, I knew I was back. This is what we all live for, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be out on that course with any other horse. Jollybo is such a pro at her job – she has been beautifully produced by Justine and I am lucky to get to enjoy her now. She locked on to every question and never put a foot wrong, coming home well under the time and cooling out perfectly. I couldn’t have been any happier, and the icing on the cake was that we moved up to third after cross country!

I felt great about show jumping after our warm-up. I was honored to be able to put on my red coat for Canada once again, and I wanted to do my country proud. Jollybo had jogged up perfectly (Buck was kind enough to trot her up for the Ground Jury as I was show jumping my Prelim horse at the same time) and was feeling no ill effects from her effort the day before. We had just one rail down in our round, but I was so thrilled with her. Her effort earned us third place in our very first FEI event together, which makes me so excited to see what the future holds.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

I plan to take Jollybo to Fair Hill to compete in the CCI3* and am also aiming to return to Rolex in the spring. I still have to pinch myself that this wonderful horse is mine. I have to say a big thank you to Justine Dutton for all of her support and for the hard work she put into this talented horse.

I also want to thank Buck Davidson, Robyn Fisher, and Susie Hutchinson for all of their help. Buck has been in my corner through the good and the bad, and I owe him a lot for his mentorship. And as always, I could not do any of this without the love and support of my family, friends, sponsors and my husband. It really does take a village, and I am very lucky to have such a good one!

I am still looking for a few people to join Jollybo and I on our new journey together so please feel free to visit my website to follow along on our adventures and also learn more about how to join on with Jolly. 

Thank you to everyone who believed in me even when I did not believe in what could be possible! And if you are an upper level rider who is for whatever reason not jumping blue at this moment, remember that the community of fellow riders and friends around you is an incredible one and that you can and will be back at the top!

Hawley still has some opportunities available to join her journey with Jollybo. For more information on joining this syndicate, please email Hawley.