Just one picture couldn’t capture Kent Farrington flying over the final jump of the jump off before blazing through the timers to win the Tryon Spring 3 Grand Prix a few weeks ago!
Hello, North Carolina! I’m now officially up in Tryon, NC for the next six months and I couldn’t be more excited. To give a brief re-cap of the past month, the day after WEF ended, I flew to Denver, CO for my first ever visit to the Colorado Horse Park for a few days. After that quick trip, I had a few quieter weeks working and getting organized in Florida before beginning to pack and get ready for an amazing season ahead up here in NC. Now that I spend half of my year in FL and half in NC, I have to say that returning to NC feels a little like it did when I would go back to college after a summer break. Florida will always be my actual home, but ironically I went to college only about an hour and a half from where TIEC is in NC, so when I load up my car with all of my belongings (including a pop-up laundry basket circa Target college collection 2007) and take the exact same route from FL to NC that I used to, it’s deja vu. My 5-year college reunion will even be taking place less than 100 miles from me in June (but it falls on the night of our first ever 5* at TIEC, which I would never miss.) There’s also something so amazing about the atmosphere at TIEC that I’m still trying to put into words – it’s friendly and welcoming and even though the show grounds are large, there’s a real sense of community here. I also enjoy the change of scenery and I’m happy for the variety in competition I’ll get to experience over the next few months with Pony Club Championships East, the American Eventing Championships, and more. Anyway, I don’t even know where to begin describing everything coming up most immediately that is so exciting to me – the 5* in June, an incredible Hunter Derby event planned with Breyer and the one-and-only Brunello, and I’m also just so ready to share all the latest updates to the facility here, and so much more. So, in an effort to keep up with everything coming up, I wanted to share my first week here so far via a few of the photos I’ve managed to take on my camera so far, and others that I’ve snapped on my phone.
That’s it for now! More to come soon as I head into my second week here! If there is anything specific you want to see or for me to write about, please send me an e-mail – I love hearing from you!
“I don’t like the word distance. I like the word choice. Let’s make good choices.”
Today I caught the second half of the Charlie Moorcroft and Bill Schaub Ride & Learn session, which was focused on pony riders and was held on the grass field at the AGDF show grounds. Attending these Ride & Learn clinics throughout the WEF season has been another favorite part of my job because, to me, the number of resources there are to learn from while here in Wellington during the winter circuit is just as exciting as getting to show here. I’m slightly biased toward these clinics and auditing experiences because right now I’m without a horse to ride so listening and watching is what I enjoy instead, but I would definitely love to also participate in one in the future.
Today’s session was for beginner and younger pony riders, and I have to admit that I was surprised by just how much I learned even being an amateur in my twenties and coming into it at a riding level above the one being taught. In fact, because this session was geared toward young pony riders, Charlie and Bill were exemplary in the way they explained the basic principles of a good round in a way that was simple, straightforward, and an amazing reminder for the “rest of us” to not over complicate things even at a higher level. Emphasis was put on rhythm, straightness, balance, and keeping ponies in front of the rider’s leg. I think it’s easy to overthink what you’re doing as you advance as a rider, so today it was refreshing to hear the basics explained in a new way that was easy to understand and learn from, no matter your riding level.
My other favorite part of the clinic was that it just looked like FUN. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for this clinic – 80 degrees, sunny, and complemented by the sound of tiny hooves cantering across the grass. During the first part of the clinic, the riders were also giving pointers on jogging and modeling their ponies, which I thought was an awesome addition to the overall learning experience for the day. There were plenty of smiles and reminders that it’s totally okay (and good) to make mistakes. I don’t think it’s a secret that WEF can be intimidating and a lot of pressure on any rider. I think it’s important to break up the routine, to take some of the pressure off, to try something that is not only new for you, but new for your horse. Attending these clinics has taught me that there are so many ways to just have fun with your horse (even if he’s a nice show horse) and that making time to try new experiences, even unrelated to your discipline, can also make it feel less like the “end of the world” if you have a bad trip in the show ring.
Thanks to Charlie Moorcroft and Bill Schaub for the great lesson today, from an amateur just a little older than these pony kids.
It sounds really simple, but one my favorite parts of my job is getting to meet other people who love horses as much as I do and who are able to talk about their stories as to how horses have helped them or been a meaningful part of their lives.
About two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet seven girls who are a part of the Gleneayre Equestrian Program, which is a work-to-ride and equine facilitated learning program based out of Lumberton, New Jersey. They were visiting WEF and Wellington for five days and the trip’s purpose was to help them explore different ways they can be involved in the equestrian industry as well as meet several renowned riders who have established careers for themselves by riding, grooming, training, and more.
As part of my job, I was lucky enough to get to shadow them and document their visit through photos. Their trip included volunteering at the county Special Olympics, visiting with Beezie Madden and her horses at her barn, observing an equitation lesson with Stacia Madden, walking the 5* Grand Prix course with Beezie Madden (and then watching it afterward), hanging out with George Morris, and more. As they did each of these activities, I tried to make sure I hung to the back and stayed out of the way since this was all about them, but inside I was actually freaking out with excitement to get to be there with them too. I would classify it as a dream day for any horse lover. I was so happy and moved to watch them experience each of these events after what has been a lot of hard work and persistence to get to this point in their program.
Besides getting to follow the girls around throughout the weekend, I enjoyed talking with them about careers in the industry, some of which are not typically thought of because they’re out of the typical realm of riding, training, etc. I’m at times a little bit shy, so I don’t always bring up my blog or Instagram right away, but several of them connected the dots when I first introduced myself and I was so humbled to hear that they had been following me, and here I was getting to meet them in person by chance. They were all so articulate, positive and smart, and it was the perfect reminder of one of the reasons that I love my job – getting to meet motivated people like them and encourage them to stay involved with horses if that’s what you love, no matter what, and a career can follow – that career might not even have a name yet. I don’t think what I do now existed a couple of years ago, and it wasn’t what I studied or pursed in college (or the three years afterward) either.
When I had first returned to WEF last year as a spectator still working a “real” job in e-commerce, I watched the riders in the ring and thought to myself that riding and showing and being at horse shows was just a part of my life that was over, a chapter that had been completed. At the time I didn’t see how I would ever have the means to able to be involved with horses in a big way again, definitely not like I had been when I got to ride and show as a junior. It didn’t seem possible now in my mid-twenties and out of college with student loans, an apartment and other responsibilties, and a 26 year old horse who I had made the decision to send to a retirement farm.
So I found a new way to enjoy being at the horse show, because I still loved horses and how they made me feel and how they brought me back to one of the happiest times in my life when I was riding and showing and spending time with family. So during WEF 2015, I started my Instagram account and blog and now here I am during WEF 2016, getting to be around horses every day for my career, and the idea of being able to show and have a horse again in the future doesn’t seem so crazy anymore (except when I’m really tired or hungry, then it still seems impossible). You never know. Enjoy the present for what you have now, work hard, talk to as many people as possible (even if you’re sometimes shy, like I am), and believe that you will find a way.
I was sitting here typing these thoughts tonight, on my bed with my laptop propped up against my knees, when I visited the Gleneayre website and discovered a shout-out that means the world to me:
“Throughout the trip, we were shadowed by Meg Banks from the Social Media and Marketing department of Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC. Meg made a name for herself in this industry after traveling to the Winter Equestrian Festival and starting her own blog. A self-starter who launched her career out of a passion for horses, Meg passed her advice to our girls that their goals are within their reach.”
And yet getting to be a part of something as simple as this trip, talking to girls who may have doubts at some point just like I did (and do), is what keeps me going in this industry and makes me feel like my own goals are within reach. My new career has been part of a dream come true, and the crazy thing that happens when you feel like a part of your dream has come true – you start dreaming even bigger, working even harder, and believing in even more things that you used to think were impossible.
A few days after the girls returned to New Jersey from their trip, a co-worker let me know that a stack of envelopes was waiting for me in the office. I received a hand-written thank you note from each of them, so to Nicole, Marielle, Izzy, Kate, Emily, Danielle, and Kirsten… Thank YOU! I saved all of your notes. You inspired me, reminded me yet again what I love about horses and our industry, and it was amazing to meet each one of you.
As the first few riders took to the course tonight, I noticed McLain Ward sitting quietly by the ring and studying their rounds. Having been there for now both of his 5* wins this WEF season, I have a newfound appreciation for the attention to detail and precision that he delivers with each of his rides.
Earlier this week, I watched him and HH Azur compete in the first round of the WEF Challenge, and then I noticed he was riding a horse in a smaller class over in the DeNemethy ring before he had to head back to the International Ring for his jump-off. I stood at the rail of the DeNemethy and watched as he made a jumper course look like an equitation round that he could’ve ridden with his eyes closed. One of my favorite things to do is to watch a rider like McLain up close in a smaller ring like that and focus on one part of their riding – on that particular day, I decided to watch how he carries his hands throughout the course. It was this same quiet accuracy and consistency in each part of his riding that I saw and appreciated that day, and again tonight as he made a 5* jump-off look just as effortless.
So there he was, off to the side watching and studying the course like any other rider would, and it was a moment that I didn’t want to forget tonight, especially as the thrill of his win leaves my fingers hovering over this keyboard at a loss as to how to convey everything I feel that is both so humbling and exciting about this sport.
If you were ever looking for an excuse to keep your collection of Breyer horses even longer, IT’S HERE! Even if you’re like me and have them stored in giant tupperware and you’re living in an apartment with limited storage space, and your mom is downsizing her own house and she’s like, you need to decide what to do with these…
These photos are from the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular Gala, where I got to photograph the AMAZING Breyer centerpieces on all of the tables! How cool are they?!
(One of my favorite blog posts I ever did was my trip to Breyerfest. Click here to read it!)
If you missed my first post on the beginning of the action-packed week of the Central Park Horse Show, check it out here. Now, to pick up where I left off, going in to Friday…