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Madelyn Floyd


About Madelyn Floyd

Just a 16 year old eventer trying to juggle horses and school while learning about journalism. Here to share my experiences while gaining experience 🙂

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area 7
Highest Level Competed CCI3*S
Farm Name Hawkwind Farm
Trainer FGE

Latest Articles Written

Perspective: Is the New Qualification Rule Sending Eventing Down the Wrong Path?

A number of riders have shared with us their opinions about a recently proposed rule change by the USEA concerning the increased number of MERs to move up to Preliminary, Intermediate and Advanced. Madelyn Floyd shares her perspective.

Madelyn Floyd and Clementine. Photo by Alison Green for Shannon Brinkman.

We need to talk about the most recently proposed rule change by the USEA. The increased number of MERs to move up to Preliminary, Intermediate and Advanced.

This change, albeit made in the interest of safety, is dangerous for eventing. It is dangerous for riders and dangerous for horses.

Mandating 10 MERs at Preliminary and Intermediate, as a combination, will phase West Coast non-pros and those on a budget out of the sport. For example, Area VII only has eight intermediate events in a season, and that’s if you run every single event in a season. I don’t know how many horses would be sound at the end of a year like that. Beyond that, I’m not sure how many riders can financially afford to compete in that many events in one year, or would want to. There are amateurs in my own barn who can only afford to do a handful of events annually. They aren’t any less ready to go Preliminary because of this, so why should they be forced to pay more than twice as many entry fees just to do a Prelim?

I know trainers who save their horse’s legs, only running a few times at a level but still taking the time to prepare before moving up. Why should they be forced to pay more entry fees and put more miles on their horses legs?

Personally, all this scares me. I turned 18 last year and am looking at my future wondering: how am I going to afford to keep doing this? Are my dreams worth risking my horse’s health? Is my financial stability worth the sport I love? Right now, show jumping looks pretty appealing. That hurts me.

I doubt I am the only young eventer thinking this way. I hate to say it, but Phillip and Boyd will eventually age out of eventing. Who will replace them? Who will replace their replacements? The next Olympic gold medalist might be out there reading this rule proposal and deciding eventing just isn’t worth it anymore. The future Team USA will have ended before it began.

I don’t hear enough young riders getting upset about this. I don’t think many understand how this will affect us as a community. You should be panicked, upset, and offended that this is how the USEA is trying to keep us safe. This is a lazy solution to a combined problem of poor riding and accident. I can count on my hand the riders I know who this rule seems to be targeted to.

Maybe a better solution is introducing rider evaluations. What if, when an official sees someone else looking like they might rotate or fall, they stop them and address it. Prevent the fatal accident before it happens, instead of continuing to blame the course designer, horse, or venue.

I know that this solution would be effective, because it was for me. I was at Rebecca Farms, running my first long format 2*. My horse didn’t have a huge gallop, but moved her little legs really fast. I came in under the time and had a good round. BUT I was too fast coming into a combination, where my smart little mare rocked herself back and bounced off the ground. I had been trying to slow her down, but she was significantly stronger than she looked. After second jogs, the ground jury pulled me aside to talk. I was not yellow carded or given dangerous riding, but was explained that I needed to be slower in that one place.

Peter Gray, specifically, was very kind in explaining that I hadn’t done anything “wrong” per-se, but if I wanted to go Intermediate, I should work out how to get better brakes. He helped me understand how balance and speed play together, and why a slip-up at Preliminary might become a disaster at Intermediate. The next time they saw me at Rebecca Farms I was riding the same horse Intermediate, but in a curb gag with two reins. I was not too fast anywhere that day.

That talk changed the way I thought about cross country and prompted a lot more conversations with trainers. It educated me in a way that doing more Preliminaries wouldn’t have. I hadn’t considered my mare might be too strong, or that allowing her to fix things wouldn’t be okay at intermediate. That decision, by that ground jury, changed my riding for the better. They might have stopped me from falling down. All I know is that decisions like that should happen more often.

Asking riders to pay for more events, or wait years to achieve their MERs is only successful in making eventing more inaccessible and disheartening those who are not professionals. It will not educate riders or teach them what causes fatal accidents. I’m begging USEA, don’t break my heart again. I love this sport; don’t make me quit now.

We All Need to Be Nicer: An Open Letter to My Young Rider Peers

Area II Young Riders show support for a teammate at the 2018 North American Youth Championships. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Dear Young Riders,

We all need to be a lot nicer.

It seems simple doesn’t it? It seems like something we should already be. But kindness is not a practice embraced by everyone in our community.

I’m talking about the way we as young riders treat each other. While there are always murmurs of teenage drama and bullying in our sport, I haven’t seen a serious attempt to address a problem that is turning so many talented riders away from riding and competing. The recent push from SafeSport to end bullying is definitely movement in the right direction, but many of the situations we encounter don’t qualify as reportable offences. Rather, we experience them as small moments — riders engaging in mean gossip behind one another’s backs, or passive-aggressive interactions, or cruel social media comments —  that add up to a big problem that needs to be addressed.

This is where I want to say something. Because there are individuals that need to hear this. Honestly, I needed to hear this. 

Firstly, we are blessed to participate in the sport that we do. We are incredibly lucky to sit on the animals that we do and compete in the shows that we can. We are lucky to have dedicated trainers, supportive friends and families. Many young riders are aware of exactly how fortunate we are; however, so many of us don’t behave consistently with this acknowledgment.

We are so fortunate, so why do we complain and compete with one another? Why are constantly judging and critiquing? The number of times I have heard other young riders make comments such as “that’s what SHE’S wearing?” “she picked THAT horse?” “what IS that ugly saddle pad?” is appalling. Even more frightening is the number of times I’ve found myself making the same judgmental comments. It’s unhealthy, mean behavior. It benefits no one and hurts everyone. It degrades the character of those making the comments and hurts the esteem of those commented on.

The reality is that our sport is on shaky footing: we’ve narrowly held our spot in the Olympic Games and events are closing from lack of entries. How can we expect it to survive into our future if we are forcing more and more riders out with our lack of support and acceptance? We need more people to compete because they love it and want to be advocates for eventing. Driving riders to avoid competitions simply from fear of their peers is a tragedy, and detrimental to the future of our sport. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what horse you’re sitting on, what show coat you’re wearing or what level you’re riding. We are all riding because we love our sport, our horses and our community. I think it is of the utmost importance that we make sure to return to these values when interacting with each other. 

Secondly, I propose that we should strive to ride for the love of the sport, not the popularity or attention is grants us. We, as the upcoming generation, owe it to the industry to prioritize our sport, not our social lives. We should be focusing less on our Instagram followers, and more on our genuine love of riding horses.

Our generational obsession with social acceptance and gratification has drawn us away from our “reason to ride” and towards a social game much resembling the plot of a bad high school movie. The neglect of the sport gets even worse when two riders “stop being friends.” I have seen riders intentionally try to sabotage each other over arguments, as well as saying or posting petty things via social media just to “get back at” their peer. This behavior is both unsportsmanlike and unprofessional.

Despite being kids, we have a responsibility as riders to behave graciously and professionally. This means respecting our individual rights to a good ride and leaving drama at home. For so many of us, our barns are an escape from other social settings; it is not fair to turn barns into mini “high school cliques” as well. But the blame does not fall solely on young riders — it is also trainers’ responsibility to call out students who are forgetting the impact their behavior has. I implore adults to stick up for the future of our sport by culling nasty comments and petty behavior when it presents itself. The events and barn environments should be places of comradery, safety, and ultimately, happiness. 

Finally, we all just need to be more accepting. More accepting of each other’s ambitions, aspirations and commitments. Not all of us want to compete at every show and ride every day, but that doesn’t mean we can’t participate as a hobby. Some of us want to ride professionally and compete as a career: we can still be friends with those who prefer to stay amateurs. It really doesn’t matter why any of us ride, what matters is that we all do. We love our horses and we should love being around each other.

I would also like to add this for any young rider that needs to hear it: going to NAYC won’t make or break you. It isn’t the end-all-be-all, and you’ll be OK if you pursue other opportunities instead. I see so many kids treating each other badly out of competitiveness to make an NAYC team. It might not seem like it, but the friendships you are ruining will mean more to you in the long-term than the theoretical medal you’re fighting so hard for. 

We all can be friends; we all should be friends. If we don’t make changes now, we’ll grow up to be adults that are just as divided as we are as teenagers. It pains me to see even trainers — the mentors we look up to — competing with one another, outside of a business or competitive aspect. It hurts to see adults mimicking the same behaviors of my less mature peers, and negative attitudes are contagious. We as young riders have a chance to change this — all we must do is be kinder.

Young riders, we are the future. If we can be nicer to each other now, we will be nicer to each other as adults. If we can be kinder adults, we will make the greater industry a more cooperative and positive place. We owe it to the riders younger than us now and to the young riders we will influence as adults, to be better people. We can change the way we behave to generate real comradery and genuine friendships. There is no need for us to be focusing on anything other than improving ourselves as riders and doing right by our horses. I really believe that if we can get back to riding for the pure love of the sport, we will influence a more positive and empowered community. 


A Concerned Friend

Chasing the Places I Haven’t Seen

Photo courtesy of MGO Photography.

As the new year begins, I often find myself in reflection of not only the previous show season, but the year as a whole. Being I live my life by a series of corny John Green quotes, I like to find a quote to summarize the year:

“I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met” – John Green

For me, 2018 was a year to remember. There were more ups, downs and everything in between than I have ever experienced, and I don’t regret a single minute of it. Alongside following my passions in riding/competing/training, I spent a lot of time thinking. After my blog about not making the NAYC team was published, I received several texts, Facebook messages and Instagram direct messages regarding the article. I had no idea my words could have such an impact and I wanted to make sure the next post was as empowering as its predecessor. Therefore, this summer I spent many hours thinking about what to say next. I drafted a couple blogs that I never posted because the timing or intention wasn’t right. I wanted to wait until I had something that I truly believed in before sending it out into the world.

When I look back on everything that happened in 2018, good and bad, I can’t help but feel lucky. Lucky that I have a family that believes and backs me. Lucky that my horse trusts me, almost to a fault. Lucky that I have friends who are loyal to me, and even lucky to experience rough patches to show me all this.

There is so much that I attribute my success this 2018 season to, many people, circumstances and actions. However, I truly believe that my success thus far is largely a result of my relentless belief in a day I still haven’t seen. I used to call this day a goal, but really it is a belief in a dream. Throughout my entire riding career I have striven to reach a specific day, actually a moment, in my life. I used to have dreams when I was younger about this moment — one example is: I’m walking into an arena on a bay horse, the sand is white and the sun is shining, people are laughing and smiling and the general feeling is happiness. The circumstances of this moment altered as I got older and reached certain moments: my first Novice, first double clear Training, first Preliminary, first CCI1*, first interview, first Intermediate and, most recently, first CIC2*(Note: I am referring to the FEI levels as they were in 2018, not per the 2019 changes to level name).

The moments also have gotten more specific as I have grown up, the bay horse turned into Tini, my mare. The white sand was Rebecca Farms, the laughing people became my friends. While the specifics of the moments were never consistent, the idea of them was. I needed to reach the moment, it was a personal mission. I had never seen this moment or heard of someone else experiencing it, it was a self-incurred prophecy that I felt a need to complete.

Photo courtesy of MGO Photo.

This year had many moments I had never seen. A few include: going through the show jump finish flags at my first CCI*, leaving the startbox in my first CIC2*, standing in the ribbon ceremony during my first Intermediate, sitting in the press room at the AECs, riding in a lesson alongside a top rider in Florida, sitting in the barns next to Tini at Rebecca waiting for fluids to finish.

I didn’t even know I wanted some of the moments until they happened, but the sense of accomplishment and progress was the same. The moments I knew I was chasing were even more amazing to experience, some of them had been years in the making. The ambition to live out these moments provided motivation when there sometimes was none, that motivation brought hard work that rewarded in the moments I didn’t know I wanted to see. That was how I gathered my nerves before the two-star cross country in October, the same way I gathered my nerves before my first Novice show jump. I closed my eyes, saw the moment, and knew that no matter how nervous I was then, I had a place to see. I was in love with places I hadn’t seen, which brought me the power to overcome whatever obstacle felt impossible.

At the same time that this year brought endless success and happiness, there were times where I knew a moment had been lost. Times where I lost a friend or an opportunity that made a moment impossible. These times were so important to my perseverance going forward; they challenged me to decide whether the loss of a wish is worth the possibility of it coming true.

Although there were times that I questioned myself, I knew I never wanted to stop chasing the moments. By nature, I think idealistically, another reason why I love referring to moments as dreams. How wonderful is it to think a dream can be a reality? Thinking this way made the ribbon less important and the experience the top priority.

As I reflect, I want to encourage young riders everywhere to chase their dreams. Find the place you’ve never been to, seek it out and enjoy every minute you spend there. Focus on the places in time that you experience, make them the goal. By putting the experience first, before the scoreboard or point total, things start to feel more meaningful. There is nothing wrong with knowing you are after something, even if that something is unclear. Nobody would go anywhere if they didn’t have a vision. Dare to believe in yourself, it has gotten me farther this than I would have imagined.

This being said, I still stand by the logic of not obsessing over a goal, like I was obsessed with NAYC. Chasing moments, having a vision for yourself, is not the same as pining after a goal. Goals can become irrelevant, but feelings never do. Set a picture of success that is not defined by the color of the ribbon or the name of the team, believe in a dream that can shift and grow as you do. Fall in love with places, feelings and people you haven’t met yet, allow yourself to believe that one day you might see them.

Photo courtesy of MGO Photo.

Concluding, this past year I did not go to NAYC, I did not make the Emerging Athletes 18 list, I did not win my first one-star or score below a 25 in dressage. These were all “goals” I set for myself in 2017. However, the successes I did have far outweigh those goals. Although I was initially disappointed to have not completed these goals, I was reminded that my not attending NAYC led me to paths that I am so glad I took. The “failures” of this year helped me gain greater success for the future. For all the young riders that also did not make the esteemed lists or join the YR team to Montana, you did not fail. Your path may be different, but that doesn’t make it any less right. Continue to chase the dreams you have, taking the risk of doing so is what will bring the greatest successes.

In 2018 the bravest thing I did was believe in my own dream. It took me to events I didn’t plan on entering and introduced me to people I didn’t imagine meeting, for that I am eternally grateful. I chased my dream this year, doing so gave me the capacity to reach it. I can’t wait to see the moments the future will bring.

When Failure is More Important than Success

Photo by Alison Green for Shannon Brinkman Photo. 

“When you stopped wishing things wouldn’t fall apart, you’d stop suffering when they did.” — John Green

I wish I had known how true this was 2.5 months ago, and I wanted to share that story with you.

On February 7th, I left my home for the east coast, with a spunky mare, a trailer full of clothes, and a heart full of dreams. I was going to attempt to qualify for the NAJYRC CCI1* this coming year, and I needed one more preliminary run plus a clear CCI1* run. I rode in the backseat of my friend’s Ram, quietly looking out the dark window at the life I was about to put on hold for the next 2.5 months.

I was so excited, but I was also scared. I told myself I was scared because I had never been away from home for so long, or because I wasn’t sure how I would handle living alone with only my coach and another groom. I told myself my nerves were because I was worried I wouldn’t be a good groom, or I wouldn’t be able to handle the work on top of schoolwork. I told myself these things, and some of them were true, but what I was really afraid of wasn’t any of them.

I was afraid I would fail. I was terrified I would go on this trip, and at the very last moment have the mistake that would be a little too expensive, or the forgetful moment that would cost me the last year of work. I didn’t want to return to school and say it didn’t work out; I wanted to come back a champion, successful and living my childhood dream. I wanted all of these things so badly that it scared me. I should have known then that my thinking was all wrong. But I didn’t, I was high on the hope that this was my big break, and I was ready to kick myself into high gear.

The first three shows gave me more success than I have had in my entire riding career. I finished 2nd/12, 4th/32 and 12th/88 (3rd YR) at the preliminary and CIC1* level, around some of the biggest tracks myself and my horse had ever seen. I hardly recognized these accomplishments, because everything for me was about the 1* at the end of the trip. All these shows were just the lead up to Ocala, just preparation for when it was going to really count. I had everything planned to the T and it went all the way down to the drive home, where I hoped I would be sleeping with the excitement of qualifying; I hoped I hoped I hoped.

I had been chasing NAJYRC for the past five years, across different horses and ponies. I held the Junior Olympics of Eventing on a pedestal that was untouchable. To me, this was more than a goal. Making the YR team would be the door a new chapter in my life. Even more specifically, it was important to me to run the 1*, and the link to that article is here. Tini felt exceptional leading up to the Fork, but from there things didn’t go as planned.

After show jumping at the Fork, Tini suffered some mild health complications that rolled over to Ocala the following week, despite all prayers and actions on behalf of myself and a team of vets. Nothing occurred that was detrimental to her wellbeing, but she needed some time to rest before competing at a high level again. Nevertheless, I was devastated when the vets broke the news to me. I was assured my horse was OK and would be okay, but needed more time to recuperate before running a big track. Never did I consider going against this advice, not in a million years. But it still shattered me. I wanted that 1* completion so bad it hurt. I had wanted it for so long it felt like the world was crashing down.

I can still vividly remember my head spinning. I didn’t believe it, I had done everything right and more, what went wrong? I knew it wasn’t my fault, but it felt like it was. Surely this was a nightmare? I would wake up in a few minutes, sweating and anxious. I had put so much pressure on myself for this weekend, and I knew I shouldn’t have. My reaction was a consequence of immense and unnecessary pressure I inflicted on myself. I wanted to convince myself it wasn’t real. But it was real, and it hurt.

I won’t try to glorify this, I was an absolute wreck. I sobbed for at least an hour, wallowing in the deep regret I had about the whole ordeal. I regretted rushing through the first three shows. I regretted putting one show on the line for five years. I regretted rushing past everything, because I had wasted all celebration on focusing on the next thing. I never rejoiced or was consumed in happiness. I was always proud of Tini, but never of myself. Then when everything fell down, it didn’t seem like enough. It felt like I wasted all my energy on something that turned out to not be the ultimate.

I cried because I was exhausted in every way possible, I cried because I felt stupid, and I cried because I was crying. I didn’t want to be upset. I wanted to gracefully accept this and go on with my weekend duties, high on the success I had had thus far. But I wasn’t, and that stung even more. I had literally spent a third of my life on this idea of going to Young Riders, representing Area VII, and posing for a beaming photo with my comrades. That was all I wanted. I wanted so so so badly for it to work out. I wished it wouldn’t fall apart, and when it did I was crushed. It feels petty, but at same time it isn’t. It’s real.

After accepting defeat, I continued the weekend at Ocala grooming my coach’s horses and supporting my friend. I had little time to contemplate between shining, icing, wrapping and walking, but I did allow my thoughts to wander to these conclusions.

Each year, thousands of hearts are broken like mine was. Sometimes a partner is lost, a dream is whisked away, a career is rerouted, or an accident happens. Each year these people are unspoken for. The ones that go home and sob into their pillow, wondering where it went wrong, how it happened and why them. People ask why they built it up to be so much. They wonder if it was worth it. They evaluate the risks and decide if they have regrets.

I know I do. If I were to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing, except where I spent my time. I would have laughed a little harder, smiled a little wider, stayed a little longer, gushed more passionately and celebrated more enthusiastically. I really believe Ocala wouldn’t have been so disappointing if I had allowed myself to see the success in the previous events.

Life cannot be all about the next milestone, stop, step, or goal. It can’t consist solely of goals and their coming to fruition. Life is about ups and downs and how we deal with them. The biggest thing I learned on my trip, is that life isn’t worth living by a calendar. Life is meant to be loved, appreciated, experienced, acknowledged, celebrated and enjoyed. We are not meant to rush through one thing to the next, checking life events off like a grocery list.

I had to come to terms with myself while I was gone. I am only 15 years old. I have experienced so much, and yet so little. I am learning more about myself and my life every day, and that’s OK. I am not perfect, I have always known that. But what I did have to learn was eventually everything falls down. Everything will come to an end, and its only worth enduring if you enjoyed the process. Eventing is known as the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but I think it is better described as the sport of journeys over destinations. In the same way climbing Everest is about the descent rather than the peak, eventing is the process over the result.

It was brutal to learn this after pining after a dream for so long. But in a way, I believe I wasn’t meant to compete at Young Riders this year. I needed to understand that one show can’t be the end all be all, and I am so glad I learned that now. John Green got it totally right — you don’t stop suffering when things fall down until you stop wishing they won’t.

On April 15th, I sat quietly in the passenger seat of the same Ram I drove down in. I looked out the window, processing the version of myself I was leaving behind. I drove home with a spunky mare, a trailer full of clothes, a heart full of the same dreams, and a new outlook on life. I have realized I love Tini more than words can describe, and no matter what happens she will always be the most important thing in the scheme of my dreams. I am very thankful and blessed to have an amazing coach, supportive and understanding parents, and friends that are always by my side as I grow as a person and a rider. It takes a village to help realize a dream, and I’ve got the best one around.

We both survived to fight another day, and will be back out soon. I have only been riding Tini a year, and I am so proud of where we are today. Life is truly about the journey, and I thought John Green said it perfectly when he said: “We need never be hopeless because we can never be irreparably broken.”

Hug your horses young riders, adult amateurs and pros alike. We need never to be hopeless in the face of defeat because none of us can be irreparably broken as long as our eyes meet our horse’s, our hearts burst with dreams and our heads live in the moment. Sometimes defeat is the greater success in the learning process of life.

My Meaning Behind NAJYRC

As you might have read in my previous articles or followed on my Instagram (@tinitinyeventing !), I have been wanting to go to the Young Rider Championships for a long time. Like five years. It’s been a while. But I realized that I have never really explained why this is so important to me. This seemed like an appropriate time to elaborate on my driving dream, especially since I’ve been talking about it for a third of my life.

Before I can go into NAJYRC, it is important to gain some background on the barn I have grown up in. I started riding with Jordan Linstedt when I was 11. I had read about Young Riders one year prior, and had my heart set.

So from 11-12 I battled with a naughty bucking pony, and watched awestruck at the Novice/Training riders in my barn, who would soon become Training/Preliminary riders. I was completely amazed. I used to sit and watch their jump lessons, videotaping just so I could rewatch them at home. While I couldn’t get my pony to calmly jump a Novice oxer, they flew over jumps I could only dream of piloting a horse to. In short, I idolized these girls (you guys probably know who you are!)

Midway through my first summer with Jordan I got to jump this rolltop we have. It’s just over 3 feet tall, probably the width of a general ascending oxer, and is painted to look like an American flag. But to 11-year-old me, it might as well have been the size of the world. Jumping that rolltop was a big deal, because it was what the OLDER GIRLS jumped. That might have been one of the best days of my summer.

Fast forward to September and I go to watch my first three day at Aspen Farms. Jordan was running RevitaVet Capato in his first Advanced, so we came out to cheer her on. I was once again awestruck watching them fly over cross country, as well as watching the older girls in my barn compete their respective horses, and I made a little mental note that one day I would do the same thing.

A year passes and I sell my mean pony and purchase a Beginner Novice packer to finally compete on. This meant that I watched the same girls on a regular basis. One show that really stuck out to me was Whidbey Island H.T., watching the Preliminary go. Two girls were competing from my barn, and I was completely entranced. I vividly remember watching them jump a log on the top of a hill, and at the time it was the biggest hill I’d ever seen a horse go up. I desperately wanted to do what they were doing. So badly I wanted to fly as they did; I was assured it would come in time.

That same summer one of the girls I idolized allowed me to ride her Preliminary horse around for a bit. It was maybe 15 minutes of trot and canter but I swear I never wanted to get off that horse. It was the third time I promised that one day I would ride like them.

From my first show with a bucking pony, and Novice seeming a long way away …

Now we jump ahead two years. I am at Aspen Farms again, competing in my first Training. I’m 12, about to turn 13. I’ve upgraded to a bigger horse, and I am desperately excited to jump bigger jumps. Another one of the girls I desperately idolize is doing her first Preliminary. I remember hurrying out to watch, full of anxious excitement and wonder. The picture of her jumping through the coffin is still vivid in my memory. That was the final time I internally said a promise that one I day I would do that too.

Those girls were so nice to me. They showed me the ropes of eventing, gave me something to strive for, and were the best idols I could have had the opportunity to look up too. They were inclusive, caring, and mentors for me. Eventually, they all left for college, and that gave me some time to ride and grow without really noticing how much time was passing. It has been a while since I last saw some of them, others have kept in intermittent touch, and I myself have moved up to Preliminary.

When I look back at my journey to where I am today, I can clearly recognize the impression those teenagers left on me, and the guidance they offered. Even years after I last watched them ride, the awe of my 11-year-old self has stayed with me. I will never forget how supportive those girls were to me, and what an amazing job they did in showing me how to lead. I have always wanted to fill the shoes of the girls before me, and I am not sure I’ll ever reach that point. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to try.

So how does this connect to the Young Rider Championships? I guess for me, NAJYRC is a benchmark. A way to stop and say, “look where I am now!”, but also the fulfillment of a long goal — the end of a chapter. Going to NAJYRC would be the end of my career as a kid trying to chase after the older girls, and the beginning of attempting to BE one of the older girls I idolized when I was younger. Of course, I am always trying to emulate what I watched in their leadership, especially now that I have moved into the “upper levels.”

Young Riders has always just been a title to me. Something far away, distant, a dream that every competitive young rider has. Now it’s closer than ever before, and I’ve come to evaluate why it is so important to me. NAJYRC would be the culmination of every stiff-necked dressage test, every almost-too-fast cross country round, and every nerve-wracking-almost-puking show jump ridden until now. It would prove to myself that in some way I have gotten better, I have learned something, and I can start to be the role model I have always admired.

That isn’t meant to sound cocky or entitled, but there is something credible and viable in competing at Young Riders, there’s a certain magic to the name that I feel people give a level of appreciation for. If I am able to add that title to my list of competitions one day, I want to be doing things the right way. I don’t want to spoil that magic with sloppy riding or self-centeredness, because NAJYRC wouldn’t be about the show, or myself, or even my dreams. NAJYRC would honestly be about proving that the past five years haven’t been a waste of wishing.

Above all things, I strive for this goal and work towards it to fuel the dream and fire I know others have. People have always told me “you never know who is watching!” and I take that to heart. Maybe no one is watching, but maybe the world is. And when the world stops to look, I want to make a good impression. I ride, I compete, I train and I dream for those watching me the way I watched the girls in front of me.

My personal goal to replicate the mentorship I was given by older riders within my barn. I want to someday be the kind of leader for the younger riders (namely within my own barn) that I had the opportunity of learning from years ago. I can only hope I am giving them the same guidance I was given half a decade ago.

… to my most recent show — four years changes a lot! None of it would have been possible without the support and comradery my teammates provided. Photos courtesy of Madelyn Floyd.

So there you have it, the reason I so desperately want to qualify and hopefully someday compete at the Young Rider Championships. In many ways, the reasons why I am trying to get to NAJYRC reflect the reasons I ride, and the reasons I strive to be the best I can be. That is all riding really is though, trying to be the best you can be. Every ride I take in that direction is for the younger ones that want it, too.

I advise everyone reading this to think similarly, because whether you realize it or not, someone’s always watching you ride. You might not notice it, but the world stops to watch everyone. We can only pray it stops to watch at the right time. Cheers to everyone trying to qualify for the 2018 teams, and cheers to the riders we all grew up watching.


The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

Jordan Linstedt has always backed our team and our dreams, starting from Beginner Novice up!

“This is the stuff dreams are made of.”

I have heard this phrase so much throughout my life — in the news, books, Facebook posts and even conversation. However, I never thought about what it meant. What are dreams made of? What makes someone dream? It struck a thought, and sparked an idea.

I wonder what made Michael Jung dream of competing at Rolex? Did he dream it? Did he dream of winning it? Did a young Mark Todd ever look up in wonder at top level competitors and say, “One day I’ll be like them”? Perhaps the greats of our sport were once like the rest of us. Perhaps they all were once young riders looking up in awe at high level competitors, making a silent dream to be at some point compete there as well.

Have you ever finished a ride, and seen a younger competitor smiling your way? Did you notice the Beginner Novice rider watching the 3* in amazement? Did your eye catch the twinkle in theirs? That is the stuff dreams are made of. Dreams are made of the fist pumps after a clean round, the grinning smile after a great test and the squealing “Good boy/girl!!” while landing off an impressive jump. When one person’s dream comes true, another is born.

When I watched young riders in my area medal at NAJYRC, a dream was born to one day be like them. When Michael Jung won the Grand Slam, countless young riders watched and told their coach, “That’s what I want to do.” If this is true, could it be possible that when you jumped through the water on cross country, someone silently told themselves, “One day, that’s going to be me”? I say yes.

Really, we are all just dreamers. Dreamers with work ethic and determination. Everyone starts somewhere. At some point Phillip Dutton was going around his first horse trials. At some point Lauren Kieffer wasn’t 100% how to get her horse on the bit. Everyone starts out not knowing, but dreaming. So who’s to say you aren’t going to make it?

This, again, intrigued me. What decides whose dreams come true, and whose are put to rest? Is it all about natural talent? Is it politics? Does the horse make a big difference? I would say each of these are factors, but there’s something bigger going on. Before Phillip Dutton could start his journey to the Olympics, he needed someone to believe he could get there. Everyone needs someone to believe in their dreams. Someone that sees the light in their eyes and says, “Let’s make this dream come true.”

This is what dreams are made of. Dreams are made of dreamers and believers and hard work and never giving up and trusting undoubtedly. I have seen the light in fellow competitors younger than myself. That twinkle of, “Please me a chance, I want it, too” makes me want to cheer them on more than ever.

This being said, don’t be afraid to help and guide on the younger ones. Help mentor, guide and support so that one day they can be a part of someone else’s dreams. When I first started training with my coach five years ago, I had a dream of competing at NAJYRC. In less than two weeks I’ll head to my first Preliminary, the first leg of my long-time dream. I have had so many coaches, family members and friends believe in my dreams. Without believers, there can be no dreamers.

Investment and encouragement are the supporting legs of success. There are younger riders in my own barn that I adore cheering on. I believe in their dreams of competing, and while I am no coach, I can offer encouragement; we all can. We are all part of the stuff dreams are made of. We all inspire, notice and cultivate it. The more we notice it, the more our sport will grow, and the more young riders will say, “I want to do it like they do.” I personally believe that when a dreamer has a believer backing them, they can do anything.

Keep dreaming, keep believing, and go eventing.

A Young Rider’s Reasons I Ride

At Rebecca Farm

Everybody rides for different reasons, but for many young riders those reasons are very similar. One main thing I have noticed is that many young riders, like myself, strive to be the next big thing. Everyone wants to be the next Phillip Dutton or Lauren Kieffer. This gives you a relatively large group of young riders all wanting to be the same thing: the best. As you probably guessed, this means you now have a big group of highly competitive teenagers, which definitely sounds like it won’t end well.

Well, this is what makes young eventers, in my opinion, special. Our competitiveness drives us together, not apart. I cannot count the number of times I have heard “Good luck!” “You looked awesome!” “Congrats!” “Have a good ride!” or even “I got a couple photos of you. I’ll be sure to text them to you!” As a whole, I believe young riders support each other, putting aside the natural competitiveness of the sport.

I think it is pretty cool to look at the scoreboard and know so many names, to be able to silently fist pump for a friend leading their division or somebody’s double clear round. Which brings me to my main point: Aside from riding to compete, I ride to have fun.

Some of the best moments at shows are off the horse. The last minute cross country course walks with early 2000’s music playing, the early morning braiding sessions, the post-ride food truck stop or even the impromptu bareback ride are moments I wouldn’t trade for the world. For me shows are a place of security, happiness and overall fun. For me personally, watching my friends cross the finish flags is just as fun as crossing them myself. All of these are reasons for me to ride.

However, there are people that for one reason or another, cannot get past the competitiveness. They get too hung up on the score, the ribbon, the number next to their name on the leaderboard. Because of this, they start to envy the people above them on the scoreboard. They let the competition take hold and suddenly they don’t see shows the way others do.

Jealousy doesn’t look good on anybody. Jealous people will stand by when you ride with a prying eye, judging you, inspecting and dissecting your ride. Jealous people will make snide comments and shut down compliments. But most of all jealous people only want to see you trip up. I don’t think anything stung worse than the time I heard someone cheer after they heard I had a stop on cross country.

Jealous people ride for a different reason than other people. Jealous people ride to beat the person ahead of them. It doesn’t matter to them if they are second to last, as long as you are in last. They ride to prove a negative point and put others down.

Please, don’t be the jealous person. Don’t spoil another person’s show. Refrain from pouring more competitiveness into the pot. Don’t let jealousy change the reasons you ride.

I ride to compete, to learn, to experience and to just have fun! Everyone has different specific reasons they ride, but it all comes down to two big things: fun and competition. I strive to keep shows fun and competitive, and I love seeing fellow riders do the same. If we continue to ride for genuine reasons, shows will remain positive, as well as competitive!

It Takes a Friend to Know

Partners in crime (with Novice horses).

Eventing is, to put it briefly, a really intense sport. It is super competitive, very draining and requires maximum focus. It is so easy to get lost in the competitive side of it. Sometimes this competitiveness can strain relationships. That is why this post is for the friends that stay friends.

Here’s to the friends that stay to watch each other ride. The friends that can be neck and neck on the leaderboard and nobody would know it. The friends that can give each other space but still warm up side by side. The friends that love nothing more than to see each other have a good ride.

My best friend is somebody I could not live without. I need her giggly, happy attitude to balance my serious, hyper-focused ways at shows. And as much as I complain, I wouldn’t give the world for our course walks fueled by early 2000’s Rihanna and Justin Timberlake. She is the first person to meet me at the finish flags and the last person to leave my side after we feed. She is my best friend, and nothing can change that.

We’ve had shows where one of us wins because the other dropped a rail, but it never seems to matter at the end of the weekend. People have asked how we do it, and I have no answer other than we really are just super close friends. A lasting friendship is more important than a ribbon.

Everyone deserves to have a friend that just knows. Someone that can tell you’ve had a bad ride and is there to offer encouragement. A person that you can commiserate, laugh, complain, talk, and even just silently walk next to. After cross country, you can always find my friend and I side by side, watching videos, laughing and desperately trying to keep our horses in ice boots.

One of my favorite moments at Rebecca Farm was warming up for cross country perfectly in sync with her, laughing the entire time because we really do just find ourselves hilarious. Having a friend makes everything so much better.

Shows are stressful! For young riders like myself, having a friend by your side makes everything much easier. It’s way easier to forget a bad dressage score when you are hacking bareback together! Stops on cross country can get put aside while watching the upper levels, and bad show jump rounds don’t seem all that bad after wandering around with strawberry smoothies.

This one is for those friends and the atmosphere of eventing they help create!

When Your Trainer Goes Away

We announced the finalists in the 7th Annual EN Blogger Contest, and now we are bringing you their first round submissions. Leave your feedback in the comments, and please offer your encouragement and support to the finalists! We hope you enjoy their creativity, insight and love of the sport.

Madelyn Floyd and Jordan Linstedt.

Training with top coaches is an experience no rider should take for granted, but it can be tough when they leave to pursue their own competition goals.

This spring Jordan Linstedt took to the East Coast to train leading up to Kentucky, which didn’t go as originally planned. This led to rerouting to Jersey Fresh and Bromont later in the spring. Jordan went on to have a fantastic run at Jersey Fresh and win the Bromont CCI3* with Revitavet Capato. That win was the climax of three months away from home.

I credit everything I have ever achieved to Jordan, and to be honest, it was hard to have my trainer away for so long. We kept in contact, and I took lessons with other great trainers in the area, but I missed my longtime coach.

Now that Jordan has returned, I reflected on my experience over the spring. I starting thinking about what it would be like if Jordan didn’t compete. How would that affect me? Well, I realized something, and it’s the catch when riding with high caliber trainers.

They are not just trainers. These people are also riders. They have dreams and goals, and Badminton is to Jordan what NAJYRC is to me. If Jordan didn’t compete, she wouldn’t be the trainer she is today. Trainers compete and learn and then extend what they learn to their students. It is tough when Jordan leaves in the spring for Kentucky, but I sure am lucky to have her here the rest of the year.

So when your trainer goes away, what do you do? You buckle down for the months they will be absent and get to work. Can’t jump as frequently? Poles are your best friend. Struggling on the flat? Surprisingly, YouTube and Facebook do help sometimes. Wanting lessons? Take the opportunity to learn from other coaches in the area and haul out! But most important, support your trainer. Be as excited for them as they would be for you.

Eventing is a tough sport, and I have found that having a consistent and supportive coach is key. Supporting your trainer in return will build a strong relationship that will last for many years to come. Everyone has dreams, and everyone should have the right to follow them!

This is the catch with riding with a high-caliber coach. They will take time to chase their own goals. For me, those three months spent away are a sacrifice worth making for the other nine months.

About the author: My name is Madelyn Floyd, and I’m a 14-year- old eventer in Area VII. I have two horses, an uber-talented, spunky mare named Clementine, as well as a cribbing goofball OTTB named Seahawk Defence. Clementine (Tini) is competing at Training and Hawk is doing his first season at Beginner Novice.