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Megan Bond

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EN Gives Thanks: 22 Years … and Still Counting

What are you thankful for this year? That’s the question we asked EN readers for the 2018 Thanksgiving Challenge from World Equestrian Brands, and your responses were numerous and heartfelt. Over the holiday weekend, we are honored to share your special stories.

Photo by Pete Landon.

I’m thankful for twenty two years … and still counting.

It is your typical love story: he was a deep red 6-year-old OTTB that the kids at the barn were a little scared of. I was just out of college, about to start grad school, had no money, and would ride anything anyone would let me.  When I finished school I took over ownership.

I had previously done equitation and hunters but the spring in his step was not going to fit that type of round. So we played around for long while until we found eventing. At home I could get some decent flat work, but no matter how many field trips we took I could never settle him down off-site for a pretty dressage test. I tried to convince him it was not a timed event, but he figured that if the other two phases were; than this one must be as well. But that was OK; I knew he would bring me home safe from cross country. By then I had a full time job, a husband, and a kid so that was more important.

Photo by Ashley Branford.

He is my best friend and closest confidant.  I can’t even count the number of hours we have spent together; the good, not so good, and everything in-between.  The past two years I’ve been lucky enough to have my daughter on her pony next to me a lot of that time.

I’m thankful for twenty two years … and still counting but slowing down.

Photo by Jan Pickering.

28 is tough when you’ve always played in the pasture and been ridden your entire life. Arthritis, deteriorating teeth, and Cushing’s don’t help. This summer we rode a couple times a week. But when were stuck in the indoor it is more difficult. It isn’t large and that makes for a lot of corners. His balance isn’t as good. He trips. But he’s stuck with me and we will still spend time together. He seems to be OK with a good brushing, treats, and then going back out to play.

Photo by Megan Bond.

At some point our time together will end. I know that. I will pretend to be strong and, if need be, make the tough but compassionate decision. It will crush me. But I will be thankful for all those years.

Lessons Learned from Michael Jung at The Royal

Michael Jung with Cruising Guy's owner Shawn Ferguson (left) and Kelly Nicholls of Horseware and his daughter. Photo by Ben Radvanyi Photography. Michael Jung with Cruising Guy's owner Shawn Ferguson (left) and Kelly Nicholls of Horseware and his daughter. Photo by Ben Radvanyi Photography.

I was at our local farm-to-table dive bar when I read on EN that Michael Jung was going to be in the Horseware Ireland Indoor Eventing Challenge at The Royal in Toronto. I was able to reasonably contain myself as I told my daughter and texted a friend. We were going to be there; we already had tickets! 

A group of friends, sisters, daughters, cousins and nieces were going to spend the weekend eating carnival food, shopping, wandering the barns and watching the ponies — the ultimate girl’s weekend which now would include an appearance by Michael Jung. I’m the only eventer in the group so I was by far the most excited about this addition to the itinerary. 

I kept an eye out as we wondered the barns. We did see several people getting ready, but not Ze Terminator. Everyone else wanted to sit down and the electronic tickets were on someone else’s phone, so I couldn’t stalk the schooling ring, but I kept on telling myself that was OK; I would see him ride in the next hour. 

As we were getting ready to enter and take our seats, he came out of the bathroom just a few feet from me. I grabbed my daughter to show her and was able to contain myself until he was out of sight. At that point I jumped up and down clapping like a kid hopped up on sugar. I love that he hits the restroom before he competes just a like real person does. Then it was show time.

Let me tell you: The man is a total pro. He won on a horse he met the day before (I’ve had my guy for 19 years and there are days I have trouble getting him to walk), but what I was most impressed with was how he walked the course. He walked it at least three times more than any other rider.

He went up to each fence to the spot he was going to take off from and stopped. He then went around it to the spot he would land, stopped, looked around and went on from there. The other riders just walked next to each of the fences and kept on going.

During this process he was stopped several times for pictures by some lucky people in the ring (how did they get down there?); he smiled and accommodated them, but then it was head down and back to business. He used every second of the course walk. It was a demonstration in preparation, classiness and professionalism. 

I loved that my 10-year-old got to see that. I loved that she got to see the entire thing, but that was a life lesson and made it a little more OK that she missed a day of school for the trip.

We screamed and yelled and jumped up and down and had a blast. We saw some amazing riders: Jessica Phoenix, Selena O’Hanlon, and the entire Millar clan. I did find it amusing how there were amped up lights and music for the indoor eventing but calm silence for the show jumping later in the evening, which Captain Canada Ian Millar rocked.

While the Saturday night performance was a personal highlight, the entire trip was amazing. We wandered around looking at so many different things, ate great food, shopped, saw Snowman (we all cried), and watched amazing horses of all shapes and sizes (as well as goats, cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and bunnies). We will be back.