Eventing at the Bay: Spring Bay 2015

Preliminary water complex. Photo by Courtney Carson. Preliminary water complex. Photo by Courtney Carson.

I was warned Friday morning by my friend, a meteorologist, that he hoped I had packed a boat with me for my trek to Lexington, Kentucky, for Spring Bay Horse Trials. I laughed and replied that I had water wings, but that it would not be too bad as I had loaded without getting rained on. Little did I know he was more right than I ever could have imagined.

The KY Horse Park Friday around noon.  Photo Credit: Courtney Carson

The Kentucky Horse Park Friday around noon. Photo by Courtney Carson.

The closer I got to the horse park, the more water I was seeing in fields, moving closer to the road, and falling from the sky. I kept seeing fields with lakes that had formed overnight, and I held my breath knowing that more rain was moving in from the west that afternoon. It wasn’t until I got to the park entrance that it hit me we may only be running a combined test this weekend. I unloaded and set my stall up in the pouring down rain, thankful that I had packed two rain suits and several extra pairs of socks.

Somehow we managed to find a break in the rain to ride and check out the footing down by the dressage rings. I am always impressed with the footing at the horse park, especially since they have redone the rings. While it was sloppy, I was 100 percent confident that we would be running on Saturday.

When we came back to the barns, my two friends and I rotated between holding/bathing our horses off. When we began bathing the first horse, the rain began again. We left the hose and wash bucket down at the wash rack while we switched out horses, and by the time we came back there was a fairly strong creek running through the area. When we finished the second horse we picked up our stuff and moved it back towards the spigot by the stalls because the water was so strong it would have washed away the bucket.

We stayed at the park as late as possible because we knew if we left there was no way we were getting back to do a late check.  Pulling out of the park I had to cross two sections of running water across the drive, and there was a very swift-moving river running next to the road; we even joked about going white water rafting instead of riding the next day.

Entrance to the Horse Park, 7:30 pm Friday. Photo Credit: Courtney Carson

Entrance to the Horse Park, 7:30 p.m. Friday. Photo by Courtney Carson.

As the event community always does, we pulled together and the communication was fantastic thanks to social media. The officials for Spring Bay were constantly updating the Facebook page and event website about conditions for getting in/out of the park. By Saturday morning there were several posts about road conditions and the entrance to the park, with riders sharing the post and including everyone they knew who was competing.

The water had gone down extremely well, with there being no running water on the drive and our rapids were reduced to lazy river speeds. The dressage began on time, and the footing in all of the rings was great. Every volunteer showed up and had smiles on their face, and the officials continued to communicate with the competitors about their decision regarding the cross country.

When we went over to walk around our courses Saturday evening, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the footing had held and how much water had drained. Spring Bay runs two tracks for the cross country, with the Preliminary/Training on one side of the park and the Novice/Beginner Novice on the other. Honestly, this factor is what saved the event from being condensed, as the footing was able to withstand only half of the horses running on either side.

The Preliminary track was designed very well, asking several technical questions with an appropriate number of galloping fences. There were only two fences I was worried about: the water jump because the water was knee-deep, and the fence following the water because it was a swamp with deep standing water and mud in front of it.

The Training/Preliminary Water Jump. Photo Credit: Courtney Carson

The Training/Preliminary water jump. Photo by Courtney Carson.

The officials came through once again and made things work out. When we arrived at Masterson Station around 7 a.m. there was someone out and about with a backhoe, placing loading of dirt in really wet spots and moving fences. The fences in the warm-up were moved to the safest spots in order for us to use them. The second to last fence (which was the last fence for the training level) was removed, and they were using the backhoe to remove bucket loads of water from the water complex.

Our first rider was in the Novice, so she began down the hill. From the moment she walked into the warm up, volunteers and other competitors were sharing the news of fences that had been moved from their course. The starters made sure that she knew exactly what had been moved before she left the box, and which fences still had mandatory flags. When I opened my Facebook there were posts from other riders also informing me of the course changes.

I had a similar experience when I made it to the warm-up for the Preliminary. Volunteers were telling everyone of the course changes, and once again everyone was smiling. Mandy Alexander ended up being the trailblazer and when she was finished she came running to the warm up to give hints and information about the course.

Weekends like this remind me why I love this sport so much, as everyone went above and beyond to make sure that competitors remained safe throughout the competition. The officials did everything within their power to make the event run smoothly, despite less than desirable conditions, when they could have condensed it to a one-day combined test easily.

I am so impressed with the communication and proactive response to concerns from competitors. I personally cannot thank the Spring Bay organizers enough for all that they did this weekend. I just want to remind everyone as well to please thank volunteers and officials, because they are going out of their way so we can compete.

Now to keep fingers crossed that things dry out before Rolex in a few weeks, as I personally do not want to see a Badminton 2.0 in Lexington.

Go Eventing.