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Will Faudree

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A Letter to Me — Will Faudree

If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you say? That’s the topic of an ongoing series by Equestrian Marketing Firm Athletux. Today five-star rider and U.S. Eventing Team rider Will Faudree shares her letter. 

Previous letters: Tamie SmithJennifer WootenKaty RobinsonNatalia Gurmankin, Joanie Morris

Photo courtesy of Will Faudree.

Will,

As I sit down to write a letter to my 15-year-old self my mind starts seeing a movie trailer directed by Tim Burton …  A lot of bright colors that you wouldn’t put together but somehow it works so here goes.

I need to talk with you. You spend all your time in the barn, don’t worry it is where you are supposed to be. You are not actually that good at anything else, so I am so proud that you recognize this now and you can focus to make this your career and reality. It’s not going to be easy or smooth the whole time. In fact, a lot of it is going to be hard. Really hard.

I am so proud of the fact that you have shown the passion and drive to be in the barn with a bunch of girls, all the time. In fact, I know — you feel like one of them (this will make sense as you get older).

You have always been the black sheep, and that is OK. That’s why you started taking jump lessons — you will not believe where all those jump lessons are going to take you.

The dreams and hopes you have and write about in every English paper; they are going to come true. You are going to graduate high school, move to the east coast, and pretend to go to college, though it won’t last too long.

You will get a new horse because the ones you brought with bring with you have absolutely no scope and are what you will call as you get older, leg hangers.

This new horse will change your life. He will take you to your first five-star, he will take you to your first senior team and win team gold! You will even get to do Badminton and Burghley. You will go to Athens as the traveling reserve and even place 4th with the Team at the WEG in Aachen. This is all going to happen by the time you are 24 with not a lot of knowledge of how you got there or how he got you out of the distances you got him to.

The friendships and advice you will get will shape who you become. You will be told that your success is all because of your horse. That will be true, but what you may not know at the time and what I want you to remember is what this horse teaches you. Your work ethic, your drive, your focus. That is what you will gain and take to many other horses in your future.

One thing I want you to remember is not to ever expect one horse to fill the shoes of the next. That is advice you will get from an Icon. You will have more success, but you will hit the ground a lot more than you bring home the blue. There will be great heartache from the horses. Remember with great success comes great responsibility and with heartache, there will be a lot of pain, in all aspects (especially when you break your neck).  There will be more heartache than success, and you know what? That is OK, because it makes the good even better. It is all worth it. Don’t ever forget that.

Your life outside the horses will remind you why you keep yourself consumed with the horses. Remember when you were young and loved being at the barn with all the girls … well that’s because you’re gay. It will take you until your 30s to be able to tell your family. Give them time, it took you 30 years to accept yourself. You will fall in love, you will get your heart broken. Always Love hard, but don’t ever become hardened.

The hardest thing you will ever have to do is carry your sister’s casket to the grave, you will rely on everything your horses have taught you to get you through this. All of the friendships you have made, that work ethic, drive, and focus. You will never stop celebrating her, missing her, or loving her. You will continue to cherish and champion your family, and you’ll give one hell of a best man speech at your brother’s wedding to his high school sweetheart.

The horses you will get to meet, they are all amazing. Enjoy them, learn from them, listen to them, remember to always accept, and never expect. This is true for all areas of your life. Never lose your soft side.

You are going to be left off teams when you think you should be on them and likewise, you will be put on some that you don’t see coming. Keep believing in what you do. Keep dreaming, keep wishing. Keep your head up through the hard parts … It is a beautiful life.

P.S. You will never be able to sing well, really sorry.

Love, Will

Equestrian Marketing Firm Athletux is proud to be one of the longest running agencies in the business, working exclusively with equestrian brands, athletes and events. Athletux understands your audience, utilizing innovative and creative ideas to build your brand and image. By integrating a passion for all things equine with drive and knowledge, you will achieve unparalleled results. Think of Athletux as an extension of your team, providing highly specialized tools to take your business to the next level. Learn more about how Athletux can help you revolutionize your business today. Visit athletux.com for more information, or follow along via social @athletux. 

Ah-ha! Moment of the Week from Attwood: ‘Just Train Better’ by Will Faudree

Many eventers have encountered a special horse, had a breakthrough competition, or experienced a revelation during training that changed … well … everything. In a new weekly series presented by Attwood Equestrian Surfaces, eventers share their ah-ha! moments. This week Will Faudree, whose Gavilan Farm includes an Attwood Ameritrack nine-furlong gallop, recollects a piece of advice that would shape the career of his four-star mount Pawlow.

Will Faudree and Pawlow. Photo by Allie Conrad.

When I think of an ah-ha moment that helped shaped my career my mind goes down a path similar to the one Alice traveled … filled with trials and tribulations that have helped shaped who I am as a human. It’s hard to bring it down to just one but I do have one in particular that currently sits in bold.

At Jersey Fresh in 2005 I was sitting with my dear friend and mentor, Amy Tryon. She was telling me about a young horse she had that she thought would be a good match for me. Off I went to Washington where I met Ernie — better known as Pawlow. Fast forward to 2008, I was being spun at the first jog at Kentucky with the incomparable Antigua (it really was just an abcess) where I was again talking to Amy trying to sell Ernie as an equitation horse because I didn’t think he had four-star potential. In Amy’s perfect form she looked at me and said, “Why? He runs, he jumps, he moves — learn to ride him better.”

Will Faudree and Pawlow. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Flashback to 2006 where I was sitting at Jane Murray’s surprise 50th birthday party when the great Karen Stives congratulated me on the WEGs and told me not to expect my next horse to fill his (Antigua’s) shoes. Back to the tearful Kentucky jog … I thought to myself, well, he (Ernie) is going Intermediate, I should take him to a two-star and then decide, I didn’t have any other horses keeping me busy. Skip on to that autumn when Ernie finished in the top 10 (I think he was 4th or 6th) in the Fair Hill two-star and I was elated with him and hopeful for his future.

November 2008 was a hard month for me. I did close on my new and current Gavilan farm property which was exciting and scary all at the same time, but lost my sister to cancer on the 22nd, which is a grief I can not convey in words. But now I had a farm, some young horses, a recently retired Antigua, and a very fancy two-star horse that I had to sell.

Will Faudree and Pawlow. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Two weeks after Kristen died I reluctantly went to Holly Hill in Louisiana to teach a clinic, where I met the preeminent Jennifer Mosing — which is an ah-ha moment in itself. I spoke to several people about Ernie and the need to sell him but did not want to with the form he had shown me after my ah-ha moment at the tearful Kentucky jog … two weeks after that Ernie had a new last name and by fate I got to keep riding him.

Little did I know then what a “ride” he would take Jennifer and I on, and who all he would put in the hospital while attempting being clipped. He moved up to Advanced, went to England, had colic surgery, gave me my first ever FEI victory, tackled Kentucky with a vengeance, had colic surgery again, stormed around Luhmuhlen, fell at Aachen:/, put me on some short list, took me back to Europe, won some more big events, finished 6th at Kentucky in 2013 … the list could go on and on.

Will Faudree and Pawlow at Rolex in 2013. Photo by Kasey Mueller.

So the big ah-ha moment for me is that top horses come in all shapes and sizes. Ernie could not have been more opposite than Antigua, or the many wonderful horses that I have been lucky enough to be a part of their careers since. But if you believe, show up, train well (and with the right people) great things can happen — greatness comes from determination and perseverance.

Ernie, Jennifer and I would never have gotten to do all the fun things we did without the amazing coaching we had (Bobby Costello, Sandy Phillips, Mara DePuy, John Zopatti and David O’Connor) the support (Doretta Gaudreau, Suzanne Konefel, Nat V-C, Christina Curiale and the amazing vets and farriers that kept him in form) and that ah-ha moment of just train better.