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July 30, 2012

Fighting Well

The colors of the CDCTA Youth Team's ribbons were great, but the colors of their characters were even brighter.

While that other team equestrian sporting event has started across the pond, I was at Morven Park for my favorite competition of the year: the Region 1 Youth Team Championships. Every year I coach the team(s) from my local GMO, the Commonwealth Dressage & Combined Training Association (CDCTA), and not to brag or anything, but we come in First or Second every year. Just sayin'.

It's actually a sweet gig for me. Every year I get a new group of very talented young people on very lovely horses and ponies, and after one coaching session and some coaching at the shows, I get to take credit for their home trainers' 363 days of hard work. Sweet!

But seriously, folks. This year's team was almost all riders I already coached, three riders (Kristin, Sydney and Megan) from a local Pony Club whose trainer I also coach, with the addition of Stella, who I'd coached at a different Pony Club's annual camp, and whose trainer I coach as well. Stella has owned her horse - who's not an easy fellow - for about a month, and she had spent the last 10-or-so days of that month on vacation with her family, so to say that we chucked her in the deep end without her floaties would be a bit of an understatement. But she rose to the occasion, learning from Day 1 to Day 2, making some very big changes between the two rides, and getting rewarded with a big upswing in her scores. She also handled a tough situation in the prize giving with a lot of grace, something that isn't so easy to do.

The other three girls I worked with before the show, and I was so impressed by how they took what we talked about in lessons to the show ring. Every single one of them remembered what we talked about. Every single one was diligently prepared. And every single one then took what they learned from their first test and applied it to the second.

This all seems like just good riding, right? Good studentship? Here's the kicker: Stella was the oldest, at I'm guessing 14. Sydney and Kristin are, I believe, 12. And Megan is a tiny 9. How many kids do you know that have that kind of focus?

What's more, how many kids that age do you know who can speak articulately about bend and throughness and connection and accuracy of figures? And to top it all off, how many kids that age do you know who can think outside of their own butts long enough to really, truly want their friends to do well, even if it means beating their own performances? That was these girls. It was really amazing, and really inspiring.

In the face of the Olympics, the very model of the modern sporting egofest, four tweenaged girls lived Pierre de Coubertin's motto for those games: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well."

Turns out they fought well and also kicked some butt, which is the best possible thing. The team took Reserve Champion honors for their division, as well as an Individual Reserve Champion ribbon for Kristin, bested only by a rider one level below theirs (They competed in a mixed division). Of eight scores, half were above 70 percent. Sydney had a brilliantly-timed warm-up-ring-aha! moment (gotta love it when those happen in the warm-up) on Sunday and brought her score up from 65 percent to 73 percent. And yes, they fought well.

Another of my students, Kate, won her division and led her team to victory. Another rider from a previous team I coached won her division as well. And it seemed like there was just something magical in the air - in years past I've seen some less-than-desirable behavior from parents or riders or coaches at this show, but not this year. Perhaps de Courbertin's Olympic spirit is contagious. Perhaps in frustrating economic times we're all being a little nicer to one another. Or perhaps we're evolving as a species.

I won't hold my breath on the last one, but I saw the true colors of my four riders this year, and those of their parents and regular coaches, and as always, loved what I saw. And red, yellow and white look good on anyone!

4 years 23 weeks ago
Madness in Wellington
One of the most unusual situations involving local government and economic and recreational opportunities is being played out in Wellington, Florida. In the Village council election last March, a... Read More


4 years 23 weeks ago

Madness in Wellington

One of the most unusual situations involving local government and economic and recreational opportunities is being played out in Wellington, Florida. In the Village council election last March, a small clique of persons wanting to rollback the local equestrian industry invested $700,000 to get their slate of candidates elected. They were successful. Normally thei candidates in ewould have had combined budgets of around $60k. The clique opposed the increased popularity of the Winter Equestrian Festival and other events operated by Wellington Equestrian Partners. And now we have a village council majority that is trying to dismantle equetrian events and venues for which any other municipality would be offering incentives. Victoria McCullough, a member of the clique, filed legal action against the Master Plan that had been approved for the project that includes the WEF showgrounds. and the new council attempted to revoke the Master Plan approval but was unsuccessful. An invitation to submit a bid for the 2018 WEG was issued by the FEI to the producers of WEF, Equestrian Sport Productions, a subsidiary of WEP. Cooperation by the local government is vital to a WEG bid. But the council majority quickly made it known the Village was not interested. So ESP was forced to withdrew. Last winter WEP constructed a new derby and dressage venue (that includes a large covered arena) that hosted among other events the Global Dressage Festival. Remarkably, the council majority revoked all the approvals that had been issued to the venue right down to the Certificates of Occupancy! Now a grass roots organization has formed to help protect and enhance the equestrian industry in Wellington - The Equestrian Forum of Wellington. Their first order of business is to convince the hostile council to allow the GDF to be held this season and allow the venue to be used as intended. If you are interested in receiving more information or wish to join the Equestrian Forum you can email them at or visit them on Facebook. The Forum is hosting a party this evening at the Polo West Hunt Club that features a musician from Jimmy Buffett's band. And tomorrow night the Village council will be discussing the GDF and whether or not they will allow it to be held. The Forum is organizing people to attend the meeting and express their support for GDF and to convince the new venue to be used as intended. The council meeting starts at 7:00 and is held in the City Hall.