Jennifer McFall and High Times have big plans for 2018. And big plans means big planning.
“It just takes so much to make these big events happen. It’s a huge endeavor and a major effort for everyone involved,” Jen says of her plan to head east with “Billy,” a 14-year-old American Holsteiner gelding (Hunter x Gerda I, by Tin Rocco) owned by the High Times Syndicate, in the coming weeks. Being in California means a lot of access to top facilities and beautiful weather, but it also means a LONG haul for America’s one and only four-star event, the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event.
“We’re going to be gone training with Buck Davidson on the East Coast for about a month leading up to Kentucky, so right now we’re working hard on getting as physically fit as possible,” Jen says. “Billy goes for physical therapy three times a week in preparation for the really intense training that’s coming up. As we get closer to the event things really ramp up for the horses, and it’s my job to make sure he’s prepared for that.”
Their most recent Kentucky outing, in 2017, yielded a commendable 24th place result. The pair jumped clear around both cross country and show jumping, picking up just time faults in each.
Preparing for a cross country trek to the biggest event in the nation doesn’t just mean getting Billy prepped and ready. The entire Dragonfire team also has to be ready to step in and take over Jen’s duties while she’s away, a job they take on enthusiastically. “I really am so lucky to have this group behind me. It wouldn’t be possible without everyone stepping up.”
This year, Jen’s team has gone the extra mile. “Dr. Clair Thunes of Summit Equine Nutrition, who is one of my amazing sponsors, came to me and said, ‘Let me help you get Billy out there.’ So Summit Equine Nutrition is hosting an amazing fundraiser seminar — it’s going to be super informative and a really good time.”
Getting to any big event is not only a time consuming process, but a financially draining one. Jen explains, “Not only are you looking at the costs associated with an event, but you also have to factor in the price of being gone and losing revenue for that time period. It’s a big sacrifice that is being made in order to chase these dreams.”
Jen has held fundraisers to reach her four-star goals in the past, having contested Kentucky with Billy two of the last three years. “This year I have so many sponsors coming forward to help, it’s just been amazing. Along with Summit Equine hosting the seminar we also have an amazing silent auction going on.”
Getting to the highest levels of any sport take a lot of hard work and dedication, which to Jen goes without saying. “The work and the dedication are obvious, but my advice to anyone who has big goals and big dreams would be something that I still have a tough time doing: Ask for help from those around you!
“We are lucky as eventers to have the best community full of people who want to help, who want to see you succeed and achieve your goals,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to ask for support when you need it, people are so generous and so great, they will happily come forward and help you in any way they can. It’s one of the things that makes this sport so remarkable.”