Thursday, March 18, 2010

Not so good news

I am sitting in front of my computer writing this letter when I should be rushing to get out the door and head to Southern Pines Horse Trials. Unfortunately I found out yesterday I will not be competing there on my Rolex/ World Equestrian Games hopeful, Tate. Tate has suffered a small injury that will bench him for the season. This means he will not be fit nor qualified to be in contention for the WEG’s. I am reflecting on the last few months as to where it went wrong but I am also looking towards the future so I wont be sitting here writing a letter like this again.
Being a part of Team USA the last few months has been amazing. I have literally told myself to enjoy all the moments leading up to Kentucky because this is what all the work is about, not just Kentucky. I have been able to participate in multiple training sessions with top instructors/competitors from the dressage and show jumping world. I have been watching and learning all the behind the scenes work that goes into molding a top class US team. I have watched the top riders really get to know the strengths and weaknesses in their horse and watch them go through the training process to improve these slight imperfections. This has been very confidence building for me. I have realized even the best have things they are constantly trying to improve.
I have made some observations and still have some questions about where our sport is heading. I’m not sure how we are going to not only maintain participation in the Elite levels of the sport but how we are going to win. To speak candidly we have some fantastic horses and fantastic riders, but we do not have enough. I know my horse is lovely but still very green. I had to keep reminding myself of his greenness due to the fact there was so much interest in him to actually be competing at the WEG’s. I could not believe that there were so few top combinations to choose from. This sport is so expensive and only a small amount of owners get to experience the “ride to the top” it makes it difficult to entice people unfamiliar to get involved. Any horse person will tell you Eventing is the daredevil discipline of horse sports. When you ask an event rider why they do it most of the time they just smile and say I have no idea, but we do know.
Eventing is sometimes like a secret cult unless you are a member you really don’t understand the addiction to the thrill of cross country, the precision of dressage, the nerves of show jumping and ultimately the honest love and connection we have with our horses. We must build the strongest bond with these animals we put our lives in there hands and if they trust us enough they will give us the same in return. I trust Tate like I would a family member. I have been in enough situations with him to know how he reacts, how he thinks in a tricky situation what makes him give the extra inch I need to win. I am constantly working to learn more and more about what keeps not only his mind in the game but also his body. I have vets, farriers, trainers, sponsors and owners all working with me to get the best relationship I can with my horse. When we are out on course just he and I, we hopefully will have the best knowledge and understanding of each other to tackle what challenges lay ahead. That is what eventing is about.
Part of this letter is to let you in on my feelings of our sport, the other part is to put the question out there... how do I get more people involved? On a whole we need more horse rider combinations so we can win medals and therefore attract an outside audience to our sport. Personally to continue this sport I have to not just have one top horse but a few. This is not so that there is always one to fill the gap when something goes wrong but to even out the pressure in the barn. I have always tried to keep a balance to my program and my horses. In hindsight the only time I really feel I have lost some balance and perspective was about two weeks ago. I got caught up in making my horse better “right now” instead of realizing it takes time. Tate was the only horse I had at the level so I took advantage of the lessons I was getting. I truly think in my immediate efforts to make him jump up to the next level put him under to much pressure. His injury is slight and even the vets said if I really wanted to run him I could but there would be a risk of a larger injury. I have learned my lesson and im gonna wait this one out.
There are so many ways to get involved in Eventing... Syndication, American Horse Trials Foundation (tax write off), Forming an LLC that owns the horses... I am eager to hear if anyone has suggestions or thoughts. Please if you know someone who you think might have ideas pass this letter along. I am a horse person and love this sport, there is nothing more I want to do than compete and bring people into the sport of eventing so they can experience what I am lucky enough to experience everyday, highs and lows.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


  1. sinead not that i need to point this out again but this soo sucks about tate's injury. Thats a huge bummer about WEG/Rolex. But as you say there will be other years. i completely agree with everything you said in that letter. everything right to the T! I wish you all the best!!! :)~one of your many fans- McKenna

  2. Hi Sinead--

    You don't know me--I'm a lower level middle-aged amateur and we've never met--but I've sometimes been lucky enough to learn from some of the people you trained with, and as it happens I've thought a lot about the issue you're raising here. I spent a week in Ocala this winter taking lessons from an upper-level rider--that person was great, a very busy professional who helped me in many ways. However, a few of the full-time students I encountered there were really rude--sort of a roll-your-eyes, I'm-putting-up-with-your-amateur-butt-because-I-have-to, but let-me-make-it-clear-I'm-more-important-than-you kind of way. I was annoyed, but it doesn't really matter to me--I have no ambitions beyond prelim, I have a non-horse job I love, I'm not competing against these people. But I also, after that week, sure as hell am not going to try and work with them. I don't see myself owning an ULH for someone else to ride--but if I wanted to I have the money to do it. I would never ask one of those riders to ride a horse I owned. I would never ask them to come to my farm for a clinic (as I have with other ULRs), I would never ask to take lessons from them, I would never recommend them to any of my friends, and I would even hesitate to buy a horse from them, even if they had one I liked.

    I don't think this is necessarily a majority attitude. I've ridden with a number of advanced-level riders who were not like this at all. But these particular riders ARE looking for sponsors, ARE hoping to someday make a team. I would think they would be smarter than to shut doors for no reason at all.

    Understand I don't mean this personally in any way--as I said, we've never met. But maybe it provides some insight for the sport as a whole.

    I'm sorry about Tate; I wish you all the best.


  3. Thank you Mckenna for your support! Im glad that something in this letter struck a cord with ya all us horse people go through the same ups and down glad to know we all can lean on each other!

    Kim I think you have a very valid point. Im sorry for your experience but im glad you have a statement like that to make because it is an important one. I think Jimmy W. said it best .. " be nice to everyone on your way up bc you will see them again on your way back down".. I hear ya and I hope many others do and take a step back. thanks very much for your imput and well wishes.

  4. Katie Malensek (nee Evans)March 19, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    Hi Sinead,
    Not sure if you remember me, but I remember you from my brief time riding at the upper levels in eventing. I enjoyed reading your post and I am really sorry to hear that your lovely horse Tate will not be travelling to Rolex this year.... we've all heard the saying that the highs in this sport are pretty high and the lows are pretty low. I hope he recovers soon and that you are able to fulfill your goals with him in the future.
    I definitely understand what you're going through and similar experiences with several upper level horses is what caused me to back away from competing at the upper level and pursue my education goals instead. But I still miss that life every day and hope to some day return to competition as a competitive amateur. I think you are doing a great job trying to put yourself out there, trying to attract attention the sport. I think that exhibitions of the sport of eventing at any possible equine event (western, english, 4H, pony club, driving, etc). will help attract more attention to eventing. Having a q & a session will help encourage interested people to approach you after demonstrations and maybe make key connections for yourself within the horse world, and perhaps even attract future students, owners, or breeders. Also perhaps involvement as coaching pony clubs and young riders may help with exposure in your local areas?
    Keep perservering and pursuing your goals, and as you already mentioned, continue to enjoy the journey, both the ups and the downs. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us, I enjoy reading about your successes and struggles. From someone living outside of the horse world it is really blogs like yours that allow us to live vicariously through you as a rider and horse person pursuing your dreams!
    Good luck!

  5. I am so sorry to hear about Tate. It just sucks that it had to happen now, but in the same breath I really do believe that everything happens for a reason. You brought up some good points, and being a dressage rider I can tell you that it is not just eventing that is going through a crisis right now. It was pitiful at Dressage at Devon last year when there were not even 12 riders with a score high enough to do the Sat night freestyle. I like the ideas of syndication, etc, but for me I just wouldn't feel comfortable doing something like that because I like to have control.

  6. Katie.. thanks so much for your suggestions.. i think the demo idea is fantastic .. I have been googleing( i dont know how to spell that!) local 4h's, pony clubs and any equestrian activities close to nj... Im glad you found success outside eventing but once an eventer always an eventer.. i have def. met people that have left the sport and it has been for sure the right move.. but that is one of the beautiful things about the sport you can always come back!.. thanks for your support

    On the bit..That is so interesting to hear it is the same in dressage.. i actually went to a large competition in Gladstone last year to watch and I was suprised at the small numbers in the classes and just assumed it was maybe invite only or something along those lines... im doing a lot of research into syndication and it seems you can really make it work for the individual situation.. if your the rider or owner you can dictate in the contract that you are the "program or care manager" therefore you make the decisions about things happening in the barn for example.. everyone joining the syndicate is aware of that when they sign up.. but i hear ya it can be a bit nerve rackin when you know that at the end of the day you might have to give up control to persons that might be less educated than yourself.

  7. Dear Sinead,

    You and I met at the luncheon for volunteers at the Fork farm. I hope you remember me. I have some thoughts I would like to tell you about. First, my heart sank when I read your post about Tate. I am so sorry. The passion you have for your career was evident that day I met you.

    I am currently reading a book titled "Words for all Occassions". There is a story inside called "YOU CHOOSE". What follows is an excerpt:

    "As a senior in high school, I was required to read Victor Frankel's "Man's search for Meaning." However, the message contained in that powerful work didn't make a lasting impression on me until a few years ago. Man's Search for Meaning is the written account of Dr. Frankl's experiences as a courageous Jew who became a prisoner during the Holocaust.
    Imagine this for a moment: Your family has been taken away. You are stripped of your personal belongings - your home, possessions, watch, and even your wedding ring are gone. Head shaved and all clothes removed, you are marched into a Gestapo courtroom. Falsely accused and interrogated, the German high command finds you guilty. Years of indignity and humiliation follow in the concentration camp. No hope. No light at the end of the tunnel. You give up. Right? It need not be.
    Dr. Frankl experienced devastating events. However, he realized he had the power to choose one thing - his attitude. No matter what the future had in store for him, he could choose his state of mind. Do I throw in the towel or persevere? Do I hate the Gestapo command or forgive them? Do I exist in a world of deprivation and self-pity or endure the hardships? Dr. Frankl chose to exist in a world he created in his mind. He survived and was finally liberated. His attitude toward those painful years sustained him.
    You and I can also be liberated by unlocking the resources of our mind. Dr. Frankl lived the belief that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.
    You choose."

    I found this reading to be helpful for my struggles in life. I hope that you can get something out of it as well.

    I will brainstorm on some ideas to help the eventing organization and also do whatever I can in my schedule to attend various functions.

    As for passing the letter on, I will do what I can in my non-horsey circles to help out.


  8. Hey Sinead -

    Sorry to hear about Tate...that is definitely something I was looking forward to seeing - you and him at Rolex...and I know you were looking forward to it too...But I'm sure you both will come back, better than ever, ready for next year.

    I love the comment you posted above "once an eventer, always an eventer". For someone who had to take a break from it because of marriage and a baby, I would have to completely agree with you on that! It is extremely hard for me not to do it, even for someone (like me) who is just starting out, and still in the beginner novice phase...And I hope to be able to get back in it...But for financial reasons, that may not happen. But, I miss it, daily. Occasionally, I look for horses that are in my budget that would be able to do it. As you know, my little mare (although she is good for the lower levels) will not be able to go as far as I would like...or atleast that is what I am told...But you've seen her jump and rode her, so maybe I should be asking you instead of everyone else! :) I think I need to invest in something besides my little quarter horse, to do the job! haha! But shes good for me right now, and later I guess thats what matters ;)

    But, I'll be looking for you'll next year!
    Good Luck, I'm sure I will see you at the Fork in April!

    Jordan (Mabry) Huneycutt

  9. Paula,
    thanks so much for that story .. i love the moral to it and where as the man searching for meaning def. had a lot more to struggles than my own .. it does help to change your thinking to a more pro-active mind set! so thank you for that!..and thanks for spreading the word on ideas .. I will def. see you at the fork!!

    Congrats on all the new things in your life!! be patient you will get back in going in the eventing world in no time! .. I really like your little horse and you have a good mind set she is good for you right now. When you feel ready to get back into eventing full swing I would suggest looking for something else. She is a great little character but it would be unfair to put her in a situation she is not physically capable of( also it would just be frustrating for you) she seems like a good BN possible N horse.. but i would keep you eyes scanning for something that has a bit more scope.Look forward to seeing you at the Fork!