I have just returned from the annual convention in Arizona and as always the meetings are normally interesting, the bar is normally entertaining but the "fireside chats" are inspiring.
For years I did not attend the conventions because I honestly thought if I was going to take three or four days off in the winter,I was going to spend it in the bloody sun not talking about horses! My first convention was in New Orleans and two things came out of that convention for me, PRO ( the professional riders organization) and a hell of a good time on bourbon street. PRO was the result of several people getting together and throwing ideas around about how to improve the sport and PRO is now making huge strides in improving sponsors, education, event organization, prize money and overall awareness in Eventing. Arizona being my third convention I am still seeing my piers sitting around "pontificating" ways to help our sport improve. It is the color coated scheduled meetings that inspire the ideas from my idols, my friends and myself when we are sitting around the fire in the evening that keep me coming back for more.
When I walked into the hotel I was sent a text from my best friend/Canadian WEG rider Rebecca Howard to come out to the courtyard. On my way out I ran into old friends Clark and Jess Montgomery( Clark has just been named to the Developing Rider list with some exciting horses), Michael Pollard, Doug Payne and Buck Davidson. I said a quick hello and carried onto the table where Rebecca sat with Max C(karens head groom and long time friend), Cathy W(advanced rider and friend), Vix ( a loyal groom for OC's now turned profesional and close friend), Jan Byynne(no introduction need she is just great and endlessly inspiring) and Stephanie Goodman ( a Pro. and friend based in Idaho now that used to be in middleburg). Just then walked up David and Karen O'Connor with Eventing Nation John caddying their golf bag from the golf course. At this point I am thinking this is what the Convention is about. If someone could have taped the conversations happening even at just these two tables im sure books could be written ( maybe not ones we would allow written but a cross between Jilly Cooper and 101 jumping exercises!) The evenings to follow covered discussions of how to bridge the gap between Young Rider's and Developing Rider's, How to pick a charity to donate funds to, Syndicates, Picking the next coach and how to develop a team with more depth,honesty, humility, dealing with tragedy, dealing with success and all the amazing and devastating experiences that as horse people we are lucky enough to experience.
I was not overly impressed with Ollie Townends speech. I like Ollie and have had several experiences with him over the past few years in England,US and even Canada ( at the Royal last year) and all I will say is that I do not think someone should write a biography until they are old enough not only to have had experiences but to have enough age to have gained perspective. The same I think of the role as keynote speaker at the Convention. Ollie has had plenty of experiences but right now his perspective is enough to convey an entertaining story but not one with depth.. ill hang out with him at the bar any day that being said.
I am going to finish this blog with an excerpt from a book I have been reading called " The Fighters Mind" . It is a book on the psychology on MMA(mixed martial arts) fighters. The fighting sport is amazingly similar to eventing in the terms of one day you could be champion and the next day TKO! This bit I hold close to my heart after listening to the WEG recap and in the power of "investing in loss"
" Greatness in sports is born in the moment. It is situational. Its not inherent to the athlete with the most ability,or the most dominance, and its not just about the championship (though that added pressure is essential). It's about the pure moment,the transcendence of time and place, when an athlete or a team performs miraculously under the most intense pressure, against insurmountable odds. The situation rises out of sports but speaks to universal truths and emotions, an attainment of the divine, touched by grace ( indeed miraculous). The moment steps out of time,into history, it becomes important to everyone."
This quote may resignate more with the canadians than americans but to me it says that winning and greatness is not a "given" it is a rarity. I feel very disappointed in WEG's and even Hong Kong. I feel as Americans we presume we are great because we work hard and want "it" but so does everyone else. We have been humbled and humility will again lead to greatness because now we are ready to listen and learn. As Marylin Payne said at the convention " we did fine but we just need to get better" I look forward to London and hope to do my part and do as rapper/singer/song writer Lauren Hill sung "flip a negative into a positive picture" . I am so looking forward to the 2011 season there is a new hunger in the air and I expect great things from not only my country but myself.