Without a Deadline It’s Only a Dream

With this week’s announcement that the 2021 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event will not run, several riders are reflecting on the tumult that has frequented the last two seasons. We’re honored that they’ve allowed EN to share their perspectives. Please consider making a donation to Equestrian Events, Inc. or rolling over your ticket to 2022 to help ensure the health and longevity of the U.S.’ beloved five-star event. 

Emily Hamel and Corvett. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Have you ever had something that you knew you wanted more than anything else in the world? Something that you willingly pour your blood, sweat, and tears in to make happen? That something for me presented itself at age 10 when I went on a 4-H trip to the event formerly known as Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. There I was, a small-town, horse-crazy girl from Wisconsin who didn’t really understand what eventing was, but there was no turning back after seeing it firsthand. I was hooked and knew I would ride there someday.

Fast forward to the same girl at age 33. After many years, horses, trainers, and life experiences, I was finally qualified and prepared to run a CCI5*-L. My amazing horse, Corvett, affectionately known as Barry in the barn, was fit and ready to run what is now Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event in 2020. I was on cloud nine for the most part, minus the nagging desire to cover my horse in bubble wrap until the last weekend of April. Then as you all know, because you lived through it, 2020 happened. Life was basically canceled, which included “the best weekend all year,” aka Kentucky. Que somber music and all of the sad emojis you can imagine.

Moving to the present-day me who believes that 2021 will be THE year! Barry, my partner in crime, feels better than ever, and we are set to peak for our 5* debut. Then the announcement, Kentucky is canceled … again! When I heard the news, my heart sank to a level that I didn’t know existed. The feeling was recognizable from last year, but somehow it stung more the second time around. I imagine it is similar to getting dumped by someone you are head over heels in love with, not once but twice. 10/10 would not recommend.

This feeling brings about one of my great internal struggles. Maybe some of you can relate? On the one hand, I am devastated for apparent reasons. But on the flip side, I understand that this is not the end of the world in the grand scheme of life. I am well aware it is an immense privilege to ride horses, especially in an elite sport at the highest level. I fully understand that it is a first-world problem and that while I’m disappointed that I can’t compete at my dream event, there are people in third-world countries who are literally starving to death. A little perspective is always a good reality check. However, as my sister reminded me, it’s okay to be sad, and I am entitled to my feelings. It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience is valid.

Emily Hamel and Corvett. Photo by Shelby Allen.

I know I am not the only first time 5* rider out there who feels this pang of disappointment. Even seasoned competitors are undoubtedly bummed for various reasons, a major one being that it is an Olympic year, and Kentucky was supposed to be an integral part of the process. My heart goes out to each and every one of them and their talented horses who won’t be able to gallop across the 5* course at the Kentucky Horse Park this spring. As eventers, we are resilient, and we will carry on, but for right now, this is your permission slip to embrace the suck. I’m sorry that your dreams were deferred, your plans altered, your motivation diminished. Lean into that feeling for a moment or a day or two, and then once you have given yourself enough time to honor the heartbreak, it’s time to get up and keep going because that is what we do!

One of my favorite sayings, especially when things aren’t going according to plans, is life happens for you, not to you. While it’s comforting to think that life is working in your favor, it can also be challenging to trust in the process, especially when you don’t know the grand plan. For the Type-A personality, which I will go out on a limb and say is most upper-level eventers, this can be especially difficult. Our desire to be in charge, set goals, and take the necessary steps to check them off the list is completely shaken when life reminds us that some things are out of our control.

As my favorite shark on Shark Tank, Robert Herjavec, says, “A goal without a deadline is just a dream.” Without Kentucky or a for sure 5* date on the horizon, it feels like we are in a dream that never ends. I want nothing more than to wake up and have a tangible thing to chase, but apparently, the universe wants me to keep hitting the snooze button. We can only hope that when it is time to rise and shine, there are things more wonderful than we could possibly imagine awaiting us, and we will be ready!