By now you know the story of small-town girl Meghan O’Donoghue and her scrappy Thoroughbred Pirate. If not, the quick recap is that they both hail from the middle of nowhere in the midwest and worked their way through the Preliminary level before heading out east to continue their education.
After two clear cross-country trips and top-20 finishes at Rolex, plus a wonderful showing overseas last September at Blenheim CCI3*, Meghan and Pirate are now headed to France as Team USA alternates for the World Equestrian Games later this month. Talk about an underdog story!
While Meghan is busy stealing the hearts of all the selectors — and proving that she deserves a spot on this team or on the Burghley roster if all of the squad horses trot down the jog lane in a few short weeks — we have been rounding up everyone we can muster to help fund her trip. Meghan and Pirate received a Land Rover Competition Grant for use to compete at Burghley, but there will still be costs associated with the trip that must come out of pocket.
While Meghan has an enormous fan following, we are not the most wealthy bunch and all have horses of our own to feed, ride and fund. We do everything we can to help our friend/coach/hero, but we don’t have thousands of dollars to just hand her like we wish we did.
The beauty behind this is that we are all a very determined group of people, and we have some great ideas when we put our heads together. We now have an annual Meghan O’Donoghue Benefit Hunter Show in August to help fund her fall event plans. This year was just the second year, but I feel that it gives me the right to call it an annual thing now, and hopefully we have many more years and reasons to continue.
Hunter classes were offered from the cross rail through 3’3″ heights, with champion and reserve awards given in each division. As event riders, we threw in a couple of jumper classes as well, with roll backs and broken lines, to keep us from the dreaded pattern of outside line, diagonal and repeat.
Once again, this was a wonderful opportunity for all of us to get some time in the ring at an affordable price and work on the things we cannot in a proper show jumping round, while all the money from the entry fees went toward Meghan’s fund. We have a couple of local barns that travel now to come to these shows as well, and when I pulled into the parking lot yesterday, I hardly had any room to get my truck through, which was a very promising sign!
We hosted several fundraising events as well: a 50-50 drawing that raised over $200, with the winner donating back her half of the money; a raffle for several great donated items like a massage for your horse, a gift muck bucket from the local tack shop and brushes; and a silent auction that featured Meghan O’Donoghue Eventing embroidered saddle pads and donated items. The raffle drawings took place about halfway through the class list, and everyone was very excited with their winnings.
The final award, and probably the most special to our group, was graciously donated by Thoroughbreds Helping Thoroughbreds, an organization that supports local shows and second careers for off-the-track horses. Since Pirate, as well as many other horses in our barn, came from Fairmount Park in St. Louis, I contacted my friend who is very involved with Thoroughbreds Helping Thoroughbreds, and she sponsored the high point and reserve awards for our show.
The winners got beautiful champion and reserve ribbons, Meghan O’Donoghue Eventing/Thoroughbreds Helping Thoroughbred saddle pads and cash prizes; the high point winner took home a beautiful decorated plate.
This show was a great way for our community to feel like we are really helping Meghan on her journey, even if we are hundreds of miles away most of the time. We wish we could all load up and fly across the pond to support her — or even just have gone to the prep trials in Virginia to make embarrassing amounts of noise as she rode past — but we are doing what we can from home.
The benefit show yesterday raised close to half of what Meghan needs to complete the funding for her trip to Burghley — not too shabby for a small hunter show in southern Illinois — but we still need help in getting her and Pirate to Europe. (And back! No one-way tickets, please; we want her home this fall!) While there is not time for us to have another benefit show or auction between now and her trip, there is still plenty of time to help. You can go directly to Meghan’s website and donate to her travel fund.
This is a very exciting opportunity to support one of the sport’s talented young riders as she heads overseas to represent our country with poise and competitive class this fall. I hate to call them underdogs still after all they have done, but she is still a small town girl with a self-developed, off-the-track horse looking to defy all the odds. We are all on Team Pirate here in Illinois; you know you want to be as well!