Year in Review: The EN Storylines That Stood Out in 2020

It’s always a useful year-end exercise for us here at EN to see which stories resonated most with our readers over the past 12 months. 2020 has been, to put it mildly, a year like no other — but everything we’ve been through, we’ve gone through it together.

Has it only been a year? Scrolling back to January 2020 feels like it was a lifetime ago, and even now things remain far from normal. Here are a few of the more memorable stories and storylines published on EN this year.

Laura Collett and London 52 took the win at the 2020 edition of Les 5 Etoiles de Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Live Coverage (When We Could)

Covid-19 chewed gaping holes into the national and international eventing calendar, eating alive six out of seven CCI5* events worldwide and postponing the Tokyo Olympics to 2021. Championships were shuffled about, fixtures were rescheduled or canceled outright, and our hats are off to the organizers, riders and stakeholders who still managed to cobble together some semblance of a season out of the chaos.

When it was all said and done only one five-star event, Pau, was left standing, and we savored every moment of Laura Collett’s wire-to-win win with London 52. Tilly Berendt also covered the Young Horse World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers and Haras du Pin CCIO4*-S, as well as Belton and Britain’s only CCI4*-L of 2020, Burnham Market.

Stateside, we had boots on the ground when we could and remote coverage when we couldn’t. A recap: Blue Ridge MountainBruce’s FieldChattahoochee Hills, Fresno CountyGalway DownsGreat MeadowMorven ParkPine TopRebecca FarmRed HillsRocking HorseStable View, Tryon International, Twin Rivers, VirginiaWellington Showcase and Woodside. We rounded up results from all events each Monday via our ongoing Weekend Winners series.

Virtual Eventing raised £178,500 for the NHS & Medical Charities fighting COVID-19. Photos courtesy of Virtual Eventing.

Conquering the Quarantine Blues

The coronavirus has cut to the quick of our lives this year in innumerable ways, ranging from derailed goals and isolation to financial hardship, sickness and loss. Some of us found ourselves cut off from that which anchors us the most, our own horses. As Leslie Threlkeld wrote in her March 28 editorial, “The Barn Isn’t a Safe Place Anymore“: “As I planned my last visits to literally say goodbye to Beau for who knows how long, I got really, really sad. Until now, the pandemic hasn’t affected a whole lot of my day-to-day routine. I felt a little bit like I was watching everything unfold from a distance, safe in my little mountain town. But it’s here now. It’s all around us.”

But from virtual horse shows (EN’s March Event Horse Madness was an especially bit hit this year and virus or not, the utterly bonkers Virtual Eventing needs to become an annual tradition) to fundraisers and Zoom meetups, our community found creative ways to take care of ourselves and one another and stay connected. In between event cancellation notices, we traded notes and best practices and lifted one another up. And of course we managed to get a few laughs in, too!

The USEA Foundation’s Frangible Technology Fund at work! Photo by Shelby Allen.

Frangibles at the Forefront

With the death of Katharine Morel due to a cross country rotational fall in February came a renewed urgency for real actionable change. In her widely circulated editorial, “A Plea for Transparency,” Maggie Deatrick cited a sobering statistic: “We have lost five women in in eight months in cross-country related accidents in North America alone.” Then she asked the question that makes many squirm in their seats: Why? “Tragic accident is the official story, and so often is all the information that we as the public receive. But every accident occurs due to the decisions leading up to it.” She cited the need for a safety investigation, with a publicly released report, following fatal accidents in the future — and many readers agreed.

Even better by an immeasurable margin is a future with no fatal accidents, as I wrote in related editorial, “This Is How We Save Lives, and Our Sport:” “Not one rider on the planet is immune to making a mistake. Bad decisions will happen, no matter what stopgaps — qualifications, risk indexes, rules, watch lists — are in place to prevent them. Riders will press their luck. Horses will miss. Accidents will happen, but when they do it shouldn’t cost us our lives, or the lives of our horses … There must be a safeguard in place, a buffer between a serious wake-up call and a funeral. That safeguard is frangible technology.”

Since then eventers have kicked into overdrive, fundraising over $430,000 for frangible fences to be implemented on courses across the country — and there is still work to be done. Click here to make your secure, tax-deductible donation, earmarked for Frangible Fence Research, today.

Earl Robinson competing at Shepherd Ranch H.T. Photo by Aaron Sonego.

A Racial Reckoning

As America’s reckoning with its racial history continues, the topic of equal access and opportunity within the equestrian community has come to the forefront as never before. We’ve been thrilled to see eventers mobilize to create innovative nonprofits, such as Strides for Equestrian Equality (SEE), and scholarship funds — we look forward to continuing our Annual Diversity Scholarship, which benefitted 27 minority equestrians in its inaugural year, in 2021. We’ve also seen an increased representation of non-white riders in media, companies stepping up with their words and actions, the formation of diversity committees at USEF and USEA, the Tom Bass Seminar for Diversity in Equestrian Sport which took place during Tryon International, and many collaborative efforts to cultivate a more welcoming sport for all.

EN’s Sept. 8 editorial “The Problem With ‘Plantation’” drew controversy but also strong support from many who agreed that a reconsideration of the venue name was overdue. As Earl Robinson wrote in his Sept. 17 editorial, “Why Words Matter“: “I understand that there are many who want to hang on to the old ways. But in my experience, when people won’t welcome feedback about the language they use that impacts people of color, I can rest assure they wouldn’t welcome me either.” Change is hard, indeed, but it’s coming and we welcome it with open arms.

 

Thank you for trusting EN for yet another yet as your go-to eventing news source. We are humbled by your support and vow to continue covering the sport with the utmost dedication, integrity and insanity in 2021 and beyond.

Go Eventing.

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