The Best Moment Wasn’t the Blue Ribbon

As volunteer media coordinator at Aspen Farms Horse Trials last month, I found myself in a golf cart careening driving safely in pursuit of the “winners”–the riders on top of the leaderboards. In my frenzied attempts to get coverage of the blue-ribbon earners, luck helped me capture the above moment: two competitors exchanging words of encouragement and a high-five after dressage.

When these two riders showed support for one another, no one cheered for them, no one offered praise over the loud speaker, and no one ran up to ask them for interviews. But for me, it was the most memorable moment of the show.

You don’t win blue ribbons for lending a helping hand to a fellow competitor, great sportsmanship doesn’t land you on the cover of any big magazines, and I’ve never seen a dressage judge write “needs to give more high-fives” in the comments section. But these small acts of camaraderie and support define our sport.

I like being involved in a sport where people care about other people, and everyone cares about horses. Three-day eventers know success is more than a low dressage score or a clean jump round–success is being a kind competitor, supporting others, learning, and giving back. I’m proud to compete against riders who will offer to go in the ring before you when you need an extra minute to warm-up, or lend you the piece of tack you accidentally left at home, or remind you to put on your medical armband so you don’t get eliminated, or help you dust off your britches after a fall.

To all the big-smiling, kind-word-sharing, high-fiving, good sports out there, thank you for making three-day eventing great.

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