The 2020 USEF Eventing 25 Emerging Athlete Program is filled with talented and determined upcoming professionals. Just like the rest of us, these young adults have continued to persist throughout the suspension of competitions. In this three-part series, you will get to find out how some of these riders spent their quarantine. In part one, we catch up with Alyssa Phillips, Megan Sykes and Woodge Fulton.
Alyssa Phillips is from Fort Worth, Texas. She is a five-time NAJYRC medalist and is currently competing Oscar at the four-star level. They ended in the top five at almost every event last season.
“In the beginning, everything was so up in the air and uncertain, so we decided to give my horses a short holiday. They were super happy coming back into work, and that made me happy. During show season, I feel like everything is fast-paced, so my horses and I have enjoyed this downtime. I have been able to focus on each horse’s training needs without rushing to fix the issue or weakness. I love going back to the basics; rideability is key. I’ve stayed motivated during this time because I know my horses are benefitting from it.”
Megan Sykes is from Midland, Texas, and is competing with Classic’s Mojah this year. Shortly before lockdown started, she placed 4th in the CCI3*-S in Fresno. She also owns and operates Classics Eventing.
“Unfortunately, I got injured shortly after shelter-in-place started, from a fall sustained while training at home. This is a very real thing that happens in our sport, and I got very lucky. The fractures in my scapula and pelvis are healing ahead of schedule and I can’t wait to get back in the saddle!
“Before my accident, I was staying motivated by taking advantage of the down time to get to know my new horses and develop a strong foundation and connection with them. I have a new mare, thanks to my supporters Brian and Kailynn, imported from Germany who is coming along very nicely! Due to the pandemic we’ve been able to take our time with her and allow her to settle in.
“For my upper level horse, Mo, I backed off of his fitness and focused more on strength building exercises. Since my accident, my motivation is stemming from trying to heal as quickly as possible so I am ready to leg back up my horses and make a plan for the fall. Not knowing when shows would resume made it hard to stay focused, but making sure my horses and I stay as healthy as possible keeps me more determined than anything.”
Woodge Fulton, from Finksburg, Maryland, has been competing with Captain Jack and Franky Four Fingers this year. Woodge and Captain Jack had a successful run last season at Badminton, Strzegom, and Luhmühlen.
“These times have been uncertain to say the least, but honestly it’s been super useful for myself and my horses. Every year I find myself feeling like I’m playing catch-up, finishing up one event and then having to try to make last minute improvements before the next. After Ocala, there was no shows in sight, and this caused a weird, ‘Twilight Zone’ feeling where I could just train in a bubble. No pressure of upcoming shows that made me feel like I needed to rush training certain things, nor a potential start back up date to look forward to. For once in a very long time, we were training just to make each ride better and that turned out to be really beneficial for both myself and the horses.
“It was also interesting not being able to take lessons. It can be the case for anyone, but especially for young riders transitioning to professionals, one of the hardest steps is taking a step away from being under the constant supervision of a coach. So often it’s easy to get reliant on our coaches and trainers, and while quality instruction is obviously important, I think it’s good every once in a while to put the full pressure on yourself and know it’s up to you to get better. I intend to use what I’ve learned during this global pandemic going forward, and apply what I’ve learned even when we are ‘back to normal.’ Until then, I hope everyone is being smart and staying safe, and look forward to enjoying our sport together one day soon!”