Blogger Contest Round 1: Dagmar Caramello

We announced the 10 Blogger Contest finalists yesterday, and now we’re bringing you their awesome entries from Round 1 here on Bloggers Row. I will be posting all 10 entries over the next few days, so be sure to check them out and leave your feedback in the comments.

All entries will be reprinted without editing for fairness’ sake. Thanks again for your support and readership, EN! We are so thrilled to have such quality entries this year.

Entrant: Dagmar Caramello, 24

Bio: I’ve been riding since I was five years old and have focused on eventing as my primary equestrian sport of choice since then. I’ve also spent the past three years breezing horses at the Bowie and Laurel racetracks. Right now I am working with my Oldenburg mare who came out of the jumpers 4 years ago with her mind completely blown. She’s super fancy, equally crazy, and I love her for that. I’ve had to (re)start her from the ground up and, fingers crossed, she will move up to Prelim later this year.

I currently work as the Director of the Unwanted Horse Coalition at the American Horse Council in Washington, DC. I just completed my MA in English at the University of Maryland in December, 2013. I went to Penn State for undergrad where I majored in English and minored in Equine Science. Ultimately, I’d love to be able to write/edit for an equine magazine or website while restraining horses off the track.
Embarrassing: I CANNOT do math. I’m severely mathematically challenged. This means I have to keep a note to myself in my phone with striding and measurements so I don’t have to stand in the middle of course walks counting how many steps equals three strides. Setting up grids at home is a process…
Entry: Insanity in the Middle

I started riding when I was five years old and never looked back.

The horse that introduced me to the sport of eventing was a school horse named Duchess. She was a bay mare of questionable breeding—probably QH/TB– with a star, stripe, and a snip on her lower lip (oddly enough, my current mare sports these same markings). She was your typical school horse—bombproof, reliable, and a little cranky. I do, however, remember that she could surprise you with a dirty stop when you weren’t paying attention This is possibly where I developed an affinity for opinionated alpha mares.

I did my first event with Duchess when I was eight. Up until this point I had spent three years doing dressage shows, hunter shows, combined tests—anything to get exposure, experience, and some competition mileage under my belt. I don’t think my mom was at the event that day. She was probably too scared to watch her four-foot tall daughter barreling (trotting and cantering) around over hulking, solid fences (logs). I’m fairly certain that today my mom still imagines that I’m riding around the Grand National steeplechase course every time I leave the start box.

I know for a fact that my dad was there that day because he was the “horse parent” (He can still be found at the stadium out-gate ready with my cross-country vest and galloping boots. He can also be found unsuccessfully legging me back up after SJ/XC tack changes while my mare scoots and spins out from under me and into innocent bystanders). I’m also going to assume that my mom wasn’t there because all photo evidence of that day would suggest that Duchess had been amputated at the knees (my dad’s photography skills have improved slightly in the past 17 years, though iPhone cameras now pose an entirely new set of challenges). After an obedient dressage test and two clean jump rounds, the day concluded with a blue ribbon. It’s still pinned to a bulletin board in my parents’ house.

One thing I’ve noticed about eventers is that many seem to get into the sport at a young age, whether through Pony Club, a parent, or simply by virtue of being brought up in an event barn. I know there are plenty of riders who make the transition from the hunters or the dressage arena, but it’s the riders who spend their childhoods galloping out on cross-country courses and trails, tackling whatever challenges that happened to materialize between their horse’s ears, that have that certain grit that is unique to this breed of riders.

Some call it insanity. Some call it eventing. Tomato, tomato.

When I was five years old I was lucky enough to just stumble into a lesson barn that focused primarily on eventing (something that I’ve learned is pretty rare). In addition to our weekly dressage and jumping lessons, my friends and I also spent a lot of time galloping around our barn’s cross country-course and exploring miles of surrounding trails. This introduction to riding encouraged active, effective riding, developed problem solving skills, and instilled in me a sense of confidence and independence. While never done recklessly, the lessons and shows I attended as a kid consistently presented me with new challenges, tested my skills, and pushed me outside of my comfort zone. Twenty years later and I am still learning and developing as a rider every day. This is the reason I love eventing. With three sports neatly packaged into one ultimate test of athleticism, finesse, power, and grace, eventing is, in my opinion, the most dynamic equestrian sport out there. And because eventing as a whole, requires the mastery of three unique sports, there is always something to improve upon. We are constantly adopting new skills and adapting old ones.

Over the past twenty years, while I have remained a steadfast eventer, I have spent plenty of time riding in and around other horse sports. After leaving my barn, a lease brought me to a dressage barn for the next three years. Later, I boarded my mare at a nearby hunter barn while I was at Penn State. Finally, I’ve spent the past three years galloping horses at the Bowie and Laurel racetracks. While you may have guessed what the DQs and hunters thought of us event riders (spoiler alert: we’re insane!) you probably wouldn’t expect the same reaction from a professional jockey. On several occasions I’ve gotten into debates with jockeys over which sport attracts crazier riders. Sure, you’re galloping around at 35 miles per hour, on a three-year-old you’ve only been on a handful of times, knocking stirrups with the other 10 horses in the race who are also going about 35mph, but I’m the crazy one? “I like to keep all my horse’s feet on the ground. Jumping is nuts!” they argue.

Alright, well at a flat-out gallop your horse’s feet aren’t technically all on the ground, but I see your point…

So maybe we are all a little bit insane. But in what context? One thing I’ve learned about eventing is that success is greatly determined by personal perception, and only sometimes by ribbons and scoreboards. A good day for one rider might mean keeping their green OTTB inside the dressage arena at their first Beginner Novice, while a good day for another rider might include a double clean trip around an Intermediate course.

Some riders strive to win Rolex, while others make it their life goal to get to Training level. But that unquenchable thirst for the adrenaline rush we get waiting in the start box, that hunger to grow and improve that can never quite be satisfied, are things we are all familiar with.

Maybe we are all a little insane, but if insanity is our illness, then cross-country is our drug. Go Insanity. Go Eventing!


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