Pheew. It’s been quite a summer for Kulak Equestrian. My incredible working student (assistant in training), Karri Bellamy did a great job recapping her experiences this summer and gives us a complete rundown on our competitions and results. It was a busy summer with 7 event horses and 3 show horses, all going to many different shows on alternating weekends and a raft of ship ins for lessons and training! Check out her blog!

At 14 Karri is an amazing young lady. She along with Kristal Gessler and Sadie Luck ran the barn in Michelle Realmuto’s absence. Michelle reluctantly spent the summer finishing her last semester at college. We all missed her but are thrilled to have her back full time in Wellington!

The most special happening this summer was my mom doing a century club ride. She and her horse London Gem have together, reached the 100 yr milestone! How remarkable! My mom has made so much of my career possible, unending sacrifice for basically 50 years. So it was her turn. A beautiful day, an amazing show of community and family support and an incredible performance, 79% and high score of the day!! There are some lovely photos on the website. All I can say is I hope and pray I’m still riding and making a huge contribution, like she does, when I’m 80 years old!!

I’m going to reflect on a slightly different path and offer some insight as to where I think our sport is heading.

As a team we attended 9 Horse trials this summer and 6 during the winter season in Florida. I was there riding, coaching and in addition, as rider rep for 5 of the events. It was interesting to see organizers try to produce a quality competition and at the same time minimize their costs. They realize that the economy, more than ever is making riders choose their events more carefully. Many look for events that are 1 day and well within driving distance to avoid or minimize stabling, hotel, food and fuel expenses. In general most events were not totally filled and some very high profile competitions struggled to compete with scheduling conflicts. It’s a tricky balance in this economy but I think both competitors and organizers can both play a role in keeping the good events going with some attention to details and a new level of flexibility.

First, the new normal for organizers is entries. The opening and closing dates are merely guidelines; very few events fill on opening day or week anymore. The most successful events allow riders lots of flexibility in adding, scratching and changing their entries right up to the 11th hour. While this really taxes the secretaries it does, in the end favor the organizer and garner more horses. While secretaries and organizers must be open to last minute changes, we competitors must also shoulder some responsibility. For instance, entries that are clear, complete and financed! Current coggins, signature pages etc. we need to make it as easy as possible for them to accommodate us! Upon arrival, park where you are asked, follow the rules and clean up your mess. Remember when we drive out of an event our day is over, the competition still has 2 or 3 days of breakdown and clean up after we leave. Let’s do our part to make that easier and more cost effective for the organizer. If we work together to reward the really good events and encourage organizers to put more emphasis on the quality of the footing, the best judges, good course designers and beautifully built cross country jumps. We all win, especially our horses!!

That brings me to footing. In my opinion, it is one of the main reasons why all of Europe is ahead of America on the International scene. The footing in Europe in general is far superior. My horse show back ground makes me much more of a connoisseur of what I ride on. Granted, it takes money and a bit of help from Mother Nature to have better than average footing, but in terms of longevity of career and long term soundness, footing is it!! Even in a dry summer the use of an aerovator goes a long way to take the sting out of the ground. Not just the cross country. Any grass surface, dressage, show jumping and the warm up areas. Think of how much time you spend warming up verses actually competing. Organizers and course designers must focus more money and man power on the surfaces for all the phases!! Competitors need to help make that possible and when footing is addressed, entries come in droves!!

Competitors wake up. Volunteer once or twice a season; give a little money to the footing fund, fence judge for a couple of hours. Offer to help change the show jumping between levels. Weed wack, paint jumps etc, etc! Be polite and grateful to the officials and volunteers, be on time for your rides, thank and thank again the volunteers, secretary and the organizers. Give feedback; fill out your event evaluation reports! If we support the really good, proactive, progressive competitions the sport will be financially successful and preserved for the future, at all levels!

America has fallen behind nationally and internationally, and not just in Equestrian sports. Look no further than our current political and economic crisis!! It’s really serious and it may very well affect our ability to make a living in the horse industry! This brings me to another point. Get involved. I sit on several committees. A very important one to the future of our International teams is the Active Athletes committee. Phillip Dutton, Karen O’Connor, Kim Severson, Buck Davidson, Becky Holder, Lauren O’Brian, Bonnie Mosser, Jan Byyny, Steven Bradley and I all serve. This is clearly a very busy group of individuals who juggle incredible amounts of work to stay at the top of their games. Yet each of us recognizes that our leadership is vital to the future of our sport. We, along with many others must offer leadership and support to our new coach David O’Connor and encourage the next generation of international riders to get involved. It’s easy to stay in your own little bubble and forget that our success as a nation requires everyone to sacrifice and do their part. Our program has an opportunity, with David’s leadership to be the best in the world once again. However this is a long term project that will require everyone’s best, the coaching staff, riders, owners, veterinarians, farriers, corporate sponsors and our Horse trial organizers! Regaining international prominence will fuel the future of Eventing, at every level. Play a role, get involved, don’t just sit back and watch or worse yet, complain. If you don’t like something, work constructively to change it! America is still the best country in the world. Take a minute during Thanksgiving to reflect on what we have in this country and wherever your interests lie, make a contribution to its viability and future!

~ Happy Holidays, Marcia