As promised, here is the third of my Fantasy Equestrian Discipline Interview Trilogy (FEDIT) for Eventing Nation. It’s been a struggle in which I’ve used “delete” more often than “enter” and even had my hand slapped (rightfully) by John for being too realistic to the point of being grim and sad. After sulking for three or four minutes, I discovered that I totally agreed with him and in fact hated the first draft I’d sent him. In my hunter and dressage interviews, it seems I was able to step back and produce a Carl Hiaasenesque bit of ironic fluff. With our own discipline, I know all sides of it too well and therefore ended up inadvertently taking some swipes at the underbelly of the sport. Let’s see if the following works any better! Here goes ………
FUN AND GAMES AT AN EVENT
Rounding out the trilogy, I zeroed in on my own sport. eventing. Actually, dressage riders believe that we eventers are flat out nut cases who have innate death wishes while hunter riders (when they bother to think) think we are people who are too dim to count strides, and who can only afford to buy their rejects who are too hot to be hunters and too untalented to do the jumpers. Eventers and/or eventer wanna be’s on the other hand tend to enthusiastically espouse whatever the eventing guru du jour opines about most any and everything. Our conversation (when we actually take the time to sit down and carry on some form of cogent dialogue) is laced with first name references – “Jimmy said …” “Boyd thinks …” “Bruce told me …” – secretly hoping that we will be regarded as part of the hallowed inner circle of uber-coolness.
I sought out my “typical” eventer at a small, local one day held at a venue aptly named Missed by the Tornado Park located in one of the Great Plains States where the buffalo used to roam, but which the deer and the antelope long ago abandoned in pursuit of fresher playing fields. It was early in the morning of a hot, humid and very buggy summer day, and the competition was getting off to a somewhat rocky start. I amused myself for a few minutes watching the two organizers shrieking abuse at each other over the radio as they ran around trying to get the sound to work and scrounging about for a volunteer scribe because the ubiquitous “someone” had forgotten to fill that job! So much for the seldomly heard discouraging word of fable. Great stuff though that would have made both Dr. Phil and Jerry Springer proud. These two must be a ton o’ fun at a party!
Going forward ….. The journalistic “prey” I had selected was easy to spot. She had finished her dressage test an hour previously and was struggling through the weeds juggling two saddles, assorted saddle pads, two bridles, a breast collar, and two Cosequin buckets, one filled with sweat scraper, sponge, poultice, fly spray, grease, wraps, cotton, and galloping boots, and the other with pinney, stick, spurs, safety vest, Point Two vest, helmet and boots. She was also dragging a totally uncooperative sunburned-sort-of-bay horse of indeterminate heritage who was much more interested in snacking his way across the field than in anything his rider had planned for the rest of his day. She was slight, blonde, and probably in her early to mid 20’s, and at that moment, she looked sweaty, disheveled and grubby and also appeared a lot pissed off, but still game. She was wearing a ragged Rolex baseball cap, faded blue running shorts over once white breeches, the trademark towel hanging from her belt, mismatched knee socks, lime green Wellie type boots, and a vintage, ill fitting greyish tee shirt whose color in a former life could only be guessed at. This is not really an ideal ambience in which to conduct an interview, but seeking to establish my journalistic creds, I soldiered on.
Prior to actually speaking with my quarry, I had been able to discover some baseline facts about her from the gaggle of younger girls who were doggedly following her, and who, I was told, made up her “Facebook Friends’ Forever Fanclub.” Her given name, I was informed, was Heliotrope Louise Matthews, but she is known to her friends as “Lance” because her chosen mode of transportation is a bicycle. Her horse’s show name is Hayley’s Firecracker with a stable moniker of Pudding, the etiology of which I don’t care to go into. Thus armed, I moved in after assuring myself that Pudding had been securely anchored to one of the FFFF bevy, and Lance appeared in better humor.
Me : “Hi. I’m from Eventing Nation and would love to have a few words with you if you have time. I’m especially interested in what sacrifices you have made along the way in order to participate in this sport.”
HM : “Oh cool. I love EN. My computer is broken, but when I get it fixed, I’ll read it every day. Do you know John? Could you introduce me to him? I hear he’s really cute! What did you say your name is? Damn it Pudding, get off my foot. I just got that cast off.”
Me : (carefully sidestepping Pudding who was staring malevolently at the Lance clone who was holding him while having fly spray applied to his rather generous ears) “For starters, tell me how you became interested in eventing.”
HM : “I was working for lessons at a small barn near my Mom and Dad’s house, and my instructor took me along with him to an event he was riding in. I was hooked. I fell in love with Pudding who was at that same barn. He is the horse of my dreams! He is part Mustang and part Thoroughbred, and his great great grand uncle ran in the Kentucky Derby, but didn’t win. He has really good feet. I read an article by Dr. Richardson at New Bolton, and he said good feet are really important for an event horse. Do you know Dr. Richardson? He’s really smart. I read everything he writes. If anything ever happens to Pudding, I’ll take him to Dr. Richardson. “
Me : (anxious to refocus the direction of the interview, but fearing for the worst) “What is a typical day like for you?”
HM : “I feed and muck stalls every morning at the barn to help with board, and in the afternoon, I sometimes pick up some shifts at Denny’s. Eventing can be really expensive. You need so much equipment! I ride Pudding twice a day because as Phillip says, fitness is essential no matter what level you are competing. I watched Phillip teach last year and learned so much. Have you ever interviewed Phillip? What is he like?”
Me : (starting to feel weary) “Do you live with your parents?”
HM : “No. When I told my father I was giving up school to follow my dream of riding for the U.S.A. in the Olympics, he told me I was on my own. He hates horses. I had to make other arrangements, but everything is cool with them now.”
Me : (quickly moving on) “The Olympics? That’s great. What level do you ride?”
HM : “We did pretty well at the local events last year, but Pudding doesn’t like ditches. I read an article by Buck. and he said the best way to get over a fear of ditches is …” (at that point, Pudding took violent exception to having his forearms and stifles greased for his upcoming cross country test, pulled back from his holder and fled for freedom with stirrups flapping in the breeze followed in hot pursuit by Lance and the whole FFFF troop.)
All’s well that ends well….
This abrupt, unplanned ending to a pretty unproductive conversation was in retrospect pure serendipity. Lance’s chatter had given me a headache, and her manic energy made me long for a nap. Striving to banish all these feelings, I decided the Hell with the interview, and instead I settled down to observe the progress of the actual event which amazingly enough, had found its equilibrium and was chugging along in fine form. I was happy to note that Lance and Pudding got reunited and eventually finished their cross country, also in fine form, even negotiating the Dread Ditch with great Ã©lan to the noisy approval of the FFFF. You never know. Maybe I had witnessed the first steps taken by tomorrow’s super star. I hope so! I liked her, and I especially liked her recalcitrant friend Pudding. A morning that had started out weirdly evolved into a really pleasant day. This sport is amazing! Go eventing!!