Thursday, May 5, 2011

Horse People are Neat

It is pretty typical to hear about how crazy us horse people are. I'll admit I even say it sometimes. But then again I think anyone who has a true passion for something can be referred to as "crazy" by people who don't know what it is like to have that kind of passion.

The biggest three day event in North America happened last weekend, the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event, typically referred to simply as Rolex. It is the only four star rated event in North America and attracts top eventers from around the world. I saw this letter posted from one of the Australian competitors, Hamish Cargill, on the Eventing Nation website and it was just too good not to share. Thank you and credit full credit goes to Samantha Clark at Eventing Nation for posting the letter below.

It was a reminder to me as to why I love horse people and being part of the horse community. What can I say, we're just cool.


Goodbye USA, posted at Eventing Nation

Dear Eventing Nation,

I'm writing this at 32,000 feet, somewhere above that large expanse of the USA that lies between Lexington and the West Coast. Wherever we are I know that we're not circling around Kentucky because the sun is shining, the skies are clear and there's no imminent danger of being swept up by a tornado and dropped in Ohio. I'm almost sad to say it but for the first time in nearly three weeks the weather is not that interesting.

I've been in the USA for 21 days. I arrived on a cargo flight in a business class seat with four bags of gear, two saddles, a suitcase and a horse. I'm headed back to Australia with just the suitcase in a cramped economy seat, and instead of a horse I'm sitting next to a guy who's stolen my armrest and is eating his tuna-salad foot-long with such intensity that he may well be single-handedly responsible for the over-fishing in the world's oceans. I can only imagine how Mary King is travelling but I strongly doubt whether she is fighting a territorial battle with a fish as she returns to Mother England.

It didn't seem right to leave the USA without saying a proper goodbye. The three weeks I've had in Kentucky have been some of the best of my life. Flying Tiger over to compete at Rolex was a complex, expensive and some might say crazy undertaking. While this whole trip has had its ups and downs, I'll remember it as a huge and exhilarating adventure. I've ridden at one of the biggest and best events in the world, and I'm proud of my horse, my coach-partner-groom Annabel (Bols), and my family. And even though it might not be reflected on the scoreboard, I'm even a little bit proud of the way I rode. The lessons that you learn in a week at an event like Rolex can take years to learn in your own backyard. Unlike Mary I'm not taking home a Rolex watch, an enormous trophy or enough cash to buy a small farm, but I am exporting a wealth of experience and in the end that's far easier to get through airport security.

I can't say enough how appreciative we've been for the hospitality, support and friendship shown to us by the riders, organisers, equestrian media and the general eventing public while we were in Kentucky. Not once did we feel out of place, unwelcome or foreign. Christina Gray, chief organizer of the Rolex event is a champion who went well out of her way to make us feel at home at a time when she had far bigger fish to fry. The same can be said about Samantha Clark of EN fame who supplied enough groceries when I arrived for me to establish a chain of restaurants catering to even the biggest of American appetites. She's so cool she didn't even complain when I returned the bike she lent to me with a cross-country day injury so severe it's going to need 3 months of intensive rehabilitation before she can even consider putting it back into work.

Before I came over here the best event riders I knew all spoke with the same accent as me. This all changed quickly. I met Mary King at the Sponsors Reception held on the Wednesday of the Rolex event, thrusting out my hand to introduce myself after fate brought us together at the bar. I'm guessing that even after coming first and second in this massive four-star event, this meeting will remain a highlight in her week as it has in mine.

I met William Fox-Pitt - or 'Fox' as I like to call him now - in the rider's grandstand in the main stadium as he diligently watched dressage. He made the mistake of catching my eye and I went in for the kill, shook his hand, introduced myself and reminded him that for at least five minutes six months ago we had stood within ten metres of each other. I'm sure it was his focus on the dressage that prevented him from remembering this moment but I can tell that our 19 second conversation this is the beginning of a long friendship.

I walked the cross-country with Phillip Dutton and Clayton Fredericks helped me warm-up for the show jumping. I went reining with David O'Connor and Karen let me hitch a ride on the back of her motorbike. Hell, I competed in the World Cup Freestyle Reining, and while I might have rounded out the bottom of that field too at least I can now show the dressage judges at home my new take on halt and rein-back. While I might have had a heart-breaking two run-outs on the cross-country, some kid still thought it was worth stealing the pinney right off my back in the finish box. And I might have had a few rails on the final day but I jumped in front of a packed house in the Rolex Stadium on the same arena that played host to Totalis only six months earlier. My question is this - how could you not love the USA?

Sure, it's a little different but that's what makes it so fun. Initially it might seem lazy that almost every task in the day can be achieved from the comfort of the driver's seat in a drive-thru lane, but when you're out of cash and it's pouring with rain you quickly appreciate beauty of drive-thru banking. It would be easy to make fun of Wal-Mart, the people who shop there and the fact that you can line up with a shotgun and a quart of milk at the same cash register, but you have to acknowledge the efficiency of being able to buy the weapon to hunt your dinner at the same place as you get the Cheerios you'll be enjoying for breakfast. And while the food here is a fascinating blend of meat and sugar, because of this you make some of the tastiest burgers known to man. For every atrocity that comes out of a deep-fryer like funnel cake, there's a triumph like deep-fried Snickers bars. And for every Rolex Stadium concession stand 'cheese-steak on a hogie roll' - far and away the culinary low-point of this trip - there's a Malone's Prime Rib Eye that must have been cut from a cow raised in heaven.

So really, what I wanted to say is thanks. Thanks for putting on a spectacular event. Thanks for making the weather a genuinely interesting point of conversation. Thanks for taking an Aussie who you didn't even know could ride and making him feel part of your event, your sport and your country. We've had an absolute ball and you can be sure that we'll be back

See you somewhere out there,



pretty Maisie

Dutch and Murphy

Alex, Darby, B-Rad, Boo and Chili

Spike and Lucky

Regis and Noble

O'Reilly and Lightening

Levendi, Baby and Thomas


Romeo trying his best to flirt with Silky who was playing hard to get

The Don surveying his kingdom

Fonzi, Faune and Winston


lytha said...

deep fried snickers bars? get out!

i haven't spent enough time in the south i see.

Anonymous said...

Good looking Maisie - and she seems pretty comfortable on her feet as well.

Marissa said...

What a great letter! I smiled the whole way through.

SmartAlex said...

Thanks for the giggle. Nice to hear someone with a postive opinon of America, WalMart and fried food for a change! I needed that.

I have to admit I'm in love with the drive-thru lane myself. Now if they would just put a Red Box out there!

Jason said...

Lytha; Oh yah ! If you pair a deep fried snickers bar with a Sun Drop Cola you can bring on a heart attack AND diabetes at the same time but OMG is it GOOD ! ;)

Vivian, said...

I just love the