I had an unconventional start to eventing. It didn’t happen by joining an eventing barn or meeting a trainer or through friends. It all started at the Kentucky Horse Park. My entire Hunterland dreams would come to an abrupt halt at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in 2012. It would remain a goal for seven years to get to ride at the incredible venue that taught me this sport existed.
Finally, it happened. This 29-year-old adult amateur from Northwest Arkansas hauled 11 hours to run around the facility that changed the entire trajectory of my equine career.
While I may not have been bounding around the 5* cross country course, coming off of that double clear Beginner Novice was a high unlike any other. It’s an accomplishment I cannot take all the credit for – I would never have been attending May-Daze at the Park if it had not been for one incredibly supportive group of riders and friends. I have been involved in varying degrees in the equestrian community for long enough my experience can legally enjoy a morning mimosa and laugh at my nerves, but this last year has taught me more about the importance of surrounding yourself with fellow riders to support and encourage than the rest of them combined.
About a year and half ago with the purchase of my current mare, I started seeking out the company of friends when hauling to varying schooling events, lessons, and clinics. While the first part of my partnership did not go as planned, I found a great support group of riders that continued to encourage me and point out all the things that were going right. This support kept me from falling into a gloomy rut that would have been difficult to have pulled out of.
Then when my partner was ready to take on our first rated event together, they were there to help me make it through my nerves. Their support lead me to bring home a ribbon in our first attempt together — in fact the entire team brought home ribbons! On our long six hour haul home, we formed our little team to merge goals and have never looked back.
When looking at the spring season, we all set down and looked at the calendar, picked out dates and locations to aim toward. With all of us thinking about really pushing ourselves this year, we landed on making May-Daze our big event for the spring. We attended a March clinic together, pushing each other through the terrible cold, rainy and flooded conditions. I cheered them on from back home, stocking the live scoring websites as they took on the March Texas Rose event and honestly felt the energy from their rounds as if I was competing myself. We schooled together, took dressage lessons together, cheered our own through a surgery and hopefully helped her find some peace with having to sit the spring season out. I began doubting my abilities and my training schedule, wanting to back out of an event and yet they were there to push me forward. They wouldn’t let me take the coward way out, and I could not be more thankful.
We attended the May Texas Rose Horse Trials together and rode in the worst conditions I have ever seen. I forgot fence 9 in stadium and a fellow rider received a TE for missing the finish flags in cross country – it would have been so easy to have felt down, to have given up, to have wanted to pull back and not make the 11 hour haul to the horse park just two weeks later. But we were there for each other. We were there to make the bad times better. Rather than crying in the stall feeling completely defeated, they gave me something to look forward to. They gave me the strength that I lacked. I can honestly say, I would not have made it through that weekend without them.
The weekend of the fated event came, and we were all there. We hacked around the park together, we supported each other, and when things didn’t go as planned the others were there to give encouraging words and a cold beverage (the adult kind, of course). I have not felt so comfortable or prepared at an event in almost six years, and I owe it all to the rag tag group of riders that were there for me. I hope I provided at least half of the support and encouragement to them that they have given me.
I was recently tagged in an article on #RideWithYourTribe – I do not think there could be a better goal to have to help eventing grow in your area. There is so much we can all aspire to with the right support and push from our friends and family. The camaraderie in eventing is something that keeps me coming back over and over, even after the bad runs. I cannot image taking on the weekend without my team by my side.
Thank you, A-Team, for taking me in and helping me continue to grow and feel that anything is possible. Thank you, Kentucky Horse Park, for allowing amateurs like us to walk in the footsteps of the best. Thank you to the eventing community for creating such a wonderful culture within a highly competitive sport.
Here’s to the next season, the next goal, and the great friendships that will help us get there.