Between the Ears with Karen Bowersox

These days, we often view each other’s lives through the lens of a highlight reel, glimpsing the incredible trips, impressive jumps, and moments we’re proud enough to share on social media. What we don’t often discuss is the immense pressure this places on athletes on both ends of the news feed.

Riders, whether professional or not, feel compelled to post content that portrays them as cool and successful. As consumers of this content, we are left with a distorted perception that the sport is easy and that failure might suggest one isn’t cut out for it. These interviews are part of my mission to shed light on the reality of the challenges faced by everyone, regardless of their level, at some point in their journey.

In this edition of Between the Ears, we’re shaking things up a bit and delving into the story of Karen Bowersox from the Major League Eventing Podcast. The podcast spotlights individuals in the industry, aiming to bring the sport of eventing into the limelight.

Karen co-hosted the podcast with her husband, Rob, until his sudden passing in November of 2022. Since then, Karen has admirably kept Rob’s dream alive, producing the show with her son, Robby. Through love and loss, there’s always much to learn about resilience and perseverance. So, let’s journey between the ears…

To read more Between the Ears interviews, click here.

Q: Can you tell us about your journey into eventing and how Major League Eventing started?

A: My journey into eventing began with humble roots in the hunter world. From a young age, I was immersed in the equestrian scene, starting with my first pony that I got at age 7 and eventually transitioning into Arabian competitions under the guise of my parents. I wanted to do eventing so bad, but my parents thought the discipline was dangerous and wouldn’t let me try it while I was still under their roof. Life took its twists and turns -— I got married at a young age, and Rob served in the Marines, so we moved around a lot. It wasn’t until later, after settling back on the East coast, that I found my way back to horses and got to start eventing. Both of our sons started riding as well, and when our son Joe started working for Boyd Martin we saw how the sport needed better opportunities for prize money and sponsorship. My husband Rob and I saw the potential to elevate eventing to new heights, and thus, the podcast was born.

Q: Losing a partner is undoubtedly a challenge. How did you find the strength to continue the work you and Rob started together?

A: Losing Rob was incredibly difficult, both personally and professionally. He was the driving force behind Major League Eventing, and stepping into his shoes felt daunting. But amidst the grief, I discovered his goals, both personal and professional, outlined on his phone. It was a poignant reminder of his vision and the importance of carrying it forward. The support from fellow riders and fans of the show also fueled my determination. With the help of my son and our community, we found the strength to persevere. Every time we finish recording an episode I am so glad that we’re still doing it.

Q: How did the eventing community support you during this challenging time?

A: The outpouring of support from the eventing community was immense. From heartfelt messages to food arriving at the house, we felt surrounded by love and compassion. For his service, instead of sending flowers, we asked for donations to be sent to Fair Hill’s From Green to Gold program and they received so much money that they were able to create Major League Eventing jumps among other improvements to the venue in Rob’s name. The eventing community rallied around us, offering not only condolences but also practical assistance. It reaffirmed my belief in the tight-knit nature of our community and the power of solidarity in times of need.

Q: You’ve shared some of your personal fitness journey with the Major League Eventing community. Can you share more about your journey back to fitness after experiencing grief?

A: The past year saw me grappling with grief and its physical toll. I found myself in a rut, neglecting my health and well-being. I know Rob wouldn’t have wanted that for me and I didn’t like what I was doing. It was a realization that spurred me into action. With the support of friends and the guidance of a trainer and nutritionist, I embarked on a fitness journey. From gym sessions to rediscovering the joy of running, I reclaimed control over my physical and mental health. It’s been a transformative process, reminding me of the mind-body connection and the importance of self-care. I don’t even really like running, but I feel so much better after it. I needed to do it and I’m glad that I did.

Q: What lessons have you learned about resilience and overcoming adversity through this experience?

A: Through grief, I’ve learned that resilience isn’t about overcoming adversity but rather learning to live alongside it. Each day presents its challenges, but with resilience comes the capacity to navigate them. I’ve learned that one minute I’m completely fine, and another it feels like I’ve been struck by lightning. My fitness journey has fit into this as well because, on a bad day, I look around and find that my time should be spent playing with my dogs or going to the gym and it cascades into feeling better, sleeping better, and having better overall mental and physical health. Embracing the journey one day at a time has been critical.

Q: Any advice for others experiencing grief and loss, particularly within the equestrian community?

A: Grief is a deeply personal journey, but no one has to navigate it alone. Seek solace in the support of loved ones and cherish the moments of connection within the equestrian community. Take each day as it comes, allowing yourself the grace to grieve and heal in your own time. Remember, true friends and family will stand by you through it all, offering a beacon of light in the darkest of times.

Q: What goals are you currently pursuing to honor Rob’s memory and further the mission of Major League Eventing?

A: Rob had ambitious goals for Major League Eventing, including expanding the MLE Fit Club into a clothing line catering to equestrian athletes. His dream was to have a line of clothing that could seamlessly navigate from the gym to the barn, and I’m looking into different ways to make this a reality. While navigating grief, I’m committed to exploring avenues to bring his vision to fruition and honoring his memory.

As a community, we’re immensely grateful for Karen’s dedication to continuing Rob’s work and embodying the sentiment that life isn’t about what happens to you — it’s about how you respond to it.

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