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,