Drinking and EventClinics.com do not mix well — or perhaps they mix extremely well, depending upon who you ask. On the Fourth of July, after several American beers (I’m a patriot), I was scrolling through my predominately horse-related Facebook feed when I came across an Event Clinics post about an adults-only summer eventing camp at Appleton Equestrian with four-star rider Waylon Roberts called Wine & Ride.
Last year, I did a week-long cross country camp in Ireland that was life-changing fun, so another camp — and this one in Maryland, my backyard — sounded like a great idea. I love wine, I love riding, and I definitely decided in that moment that I loved Waylon Roberts as well. I sent a very non-committal email asking about the camp’s available horses and within an hour — just enough time for a few more drinks — I had a response that yes they had horses for me, and there was only one spot left. ONE SPOT LEFT! They got me. I signed up and put my phone down, mentally noting that I’d have camp at the end of August.
For the past few months I’d been very casually horse shopping. I’d been leasing for about six months and wanted my own project but was having a hard time justifying the leap from leasing responsibilities to ownership. Unfortunately for my bank account, a few days after I signed up for camp I stumbled upon my ideal horse. I knew right away that he was the horse for me. It was a hectic swirl of vet checks and checkbooks and trailering schedules. Driving straight to an out-of-town wedding after tucking my new horse in his new stall, I got a reminder call about camp the following week. Turns out my mental note for camp at the end of August was off by a month.
So I did what any level-headed horsewoman would do and made plans to bring my new 5-year-old Thoroughbred, off the track for about four months, to summer camp. And then of course he threw a shoe, which meant I got to ride him a grand total of one time before camp. But, off we went anyway, to a camp that turned out to be 3+ hours away and past three very expensive toll stations (guys, seriously, trailering on toll roads is the WORST). There is nothing quite as terrifying as driving behind the trailer hauling your new, precious horse. You want to bubble wrap the trailer. You want to take over all surrounding lanes and force people to give the trailer space. You curse and you pray and you promise never to do it again — or is this just me?
Luckily this camp was called Wine & Ride so the first day started with mimosas, which helped to calm my post-haul nerves. There were shots involved as well. I think they were blue. We then tacked up for a dressage lesson which was simple but just what I needed. It was our first off-property ride and my new baby horse was an angel. No spooking, no misbehaving with the four other horses in the ring, no funny business. I was elated. I got just enough feedback to feel hopeful for the training to come, but not enough to be overwhelmed.
As I left the barn I felt a little hesitant. I didn’t like leaving my horse in a new place, and his stall door was slightly shorter than I felt comfortable with. I know that overnight stabling is something I need to get used to for shows and clinics, but it was hard leaving him that first night. It didn’t help that by morning he had gotten bored, peed on his hay and moved on to chewing on the front of his stall door. It was mortifying (sorry Appleton!).
The day got more mentally taxing when we saddled up for a three-hour trail ride. Earlier in the summer I had taken a nasty fall on a trail … at the walk … and gotten a major concussion. Still working through my issues, I spent the next three hours freaking out about new situation overload while my baby horse acted like a seasoned trail pony. We galloped fields, went over bridges, through tunnels, over streams, and tied the horses to a post for lunch. By the end of the ride my horse was leading everyone home on a loose rein.
We untacked and went to a Paint & Sip party where we got to drink wine and paint portraits of our horses. I felt like I was back in horse camp as a kid and I loved it.
The day three jumping clinic with Waylon Roberts was the highlight for me. The focus was gymnastics, with a line that progressed from poles to a bounce, one-stride, bounce. We went from destroying all the poles, to destroying all the jumps, to having a nice clean line of five jumps. It was a great experience to learn with the other girls in the clinic and to feel the changes in myself and my horse in just one hour. Everything I heard at the clinic was something my trainer at home had said over and over to me, but there is something unique about hearing it reiterated from a new voice.
After the clinic was over, I felt like the homesick kid at camp calling my parents and begging to be picked up. We had one more days on the schedule but I had reached max capacity. The weather had been scorching hot, I’d had a bit too much wine at Paint & Sip the night before and had hit rock bottom when I found myself sitting in my car eating Taco Bell outside of the Hampton Inn. I called my trainer and got picked up that night. My horse had been smart, kind and brave all weekend, and I wanted him to be able to run in the field that night with his friends. I may have left a bit early, but I left with a jumpstart on building a strong relationship with my new partner … and also maybe with a hangover.