The Stories That Made Me Proud to Be an Eventer in 2017

From left, Lucy Boynton Lie, Mike Pendleton, Crackerjack and Boyd Martin at Pau 2016. Photo by Libby Law Photography. From left, Lucy Boynton Lie, Mike Pendleton, Crackerjack and Boyd Martin at Pau 2016. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

It is an honor and a privilege to be a steward of this website. It allows me to work in the service of the sport I love, which has been the backbone of my life and has given me so much. Every day I wake up thankful for the opportunity to share the stories of the horses and people who make it special — it is your passion for eventing that fuels everything we do here at EN.

The year 2017 has given us a lot to think about as a sport. We’ve endured some dark moments; we’ve been tested; we’ve asked ourselves difficult questions; at times it felt like our community was coming apart at the seams. But out of each hardship we have risen up, stronger and more united than before, because the common denominator is always this: we care, deeply.

Some of my favorite EN stories of 2017 have been pure reflections of that goodness rising up out of hardship. Here are a few in particular that moved me, reaffirmed my faith in our community, and made me proud to be an eventer this year:

Since Lee Lee Jones suffered a traumatic brain injury in a fall just before Christmas last year, the eventing community has come together to send love, strength and support to Lee Lee and her family. The hashtags #teamleelee and #leeleestrong became a battle cry for Lee Lee’s recovery, her name has been championed on hats, bracelets and shirts around the country, and a number of fundraising efforts have sought to offset her medical expenses.

Eventing Community Rallies Around Lee Lee Jones

And no matter how many medals Phillip Dutton wins, nothing will ever make me respect him more than the tremendous grace he exhibited in the wake of Lee Lee’s injury. In a February interview with EN, Phillip said his outlook on every aspect of his life, including his career, has been forever changed: “It’s been what you could call a life-changing moment for Lee Lee and our family, and it certainly puts things into perspective about what is important in life. Something incredible that has come out of it is the impact that Lee Lee has had on the eventing community.”

Phillip Dutton On Life, Lee Lee and What’s Next

The death of Crackerjack at Pau, and the turmoil that erupted within the eventing community in its wake, left the EN team searching our souls for an appropriate response.

Our very first priority was to honor Crackerjack himself, an extraordinary equine athlete, and support his owners, rider and team in the wake of their loss. A mere listing of the horse’s considerable accomplishments didn’t seem sufficient, however; hence the memorial photo gallery we posted — the happy, confident expression on Crackers’ face as he tackled the biggest cross country fences in the world said more than we could ever hope to articulate.

Remembering Crackerjack: A Life in Photos

As a media outlet, we strive to not just deliver the news, but facilitate and moderate a fair, honest discussion about the important issues facing our sport. And to supplement that discussion with commentary from the wisest voices available to us, beginning with our longtime contributor William Micklem.

William was in attendance at Pau, and he penned an eloquent series on the experience (see Part 1 “The Calm Before the Storm,” Part 2 “Triumph and Tragedy” and Part 3A “Love and Luck,” and Part 3B “Love and Luck.”) But perhaps the most poignant in his series on the event was its its forward-thinking preamble, “Focusing on the Right Priorities at Pau.”

William Micklem: Focusing On the Right Priorities at Pau

And our utmost priority, always, is to provide positivity, especially in times of crisis. Gratuitous drama, negativity and its toxic brethren have no place in the Eventing Nation. Now and always, we want EN to be a place where eventers can feel at home and be reminded of what’s so great about this sport in the first place. So when photographer JJ Sillman posted a massive, 400-photo gallery on Facebook titled “Reasons Why I Love Eventing,” I couldn’t resist asking if we could share it on EN — to which she responded with an emphatic YES.

“Since there is a lot of negativity going around about eventing right now, I figured I would give everyone 400 reasons why I have loved eventing all of the years I have gotten the honor of photographing it,” she explained. “I would love it to be seen everywhere. It made me so happy to make and I’m glad it’s made others happy. I love our sport.”

Cheers to that, JJ!

JJ Sillman: 400 Reasons Why I Love Eventing

Another time when eventers stepped up to the plate in the face of hardship was when Hurricane Harvey devastated southeast Texas. Between Burghley and the American Eventing Championships, it was a busy week of the calendar year, but equestrians never forgot the responsibility we have to our own.

Eventers Join Forces to Aid Hurricane Harvey Relief

Eventers around the country stepped up to help the relief efforts in a variety of ways, and they did so once again later in the year when wildfires ravaged Southern California.

Help Horses Affected by the Southern California Wildfires

Left to my own devices, I could go on and on with this list. My favorites competition reports of this year have ranged from four-star level …

37th Time’s the Charm: Andrew Nicholson Wins Badminton With Nereo

… on down to Jr. Beginner Novice at the AECs. Our sport has such incredible range and breadth, and every inch of the spectrum is important. The future of our sport isn’t some hazy ideological construct. It’s already here, right before our eyes.

#AEC17 Not-So-Live XC Updates: Jr. Beginner Novice 14 & Under Faceoff Showdown

But competition reports are only part of it — it’s the journey, punctuated by the progress reports that event results provide, that makes all of this worthwhile. I am inspired every day by submissions from eventers sharing their journeys with EN, whether they’re adult amateurs or BNRs. I learn from your clinic reports and live vicariously through your helmet cams. I have shared in your triumphs and empathized with your losses. So many of your submissions moved me, to happiness or to tears or to action, that I am reticent to list them here. But please know that you are being heard, and you are appreciated.

Curating the incredible community we know as the Eventing Nation is both a challenge and honor. It is with humility that I raise a New Year’s toast to celebrating our sport, and ourselves toward an even brighter future in 2018.

Now, more than ever, Go Eventing.