The competition breathing down the back of your neck can be one heckofa motivator.
Midge and I were all set to leave Wednesday for the Global Dressage Festival, the new dressage showgrounds in Wellington, for their second show. Then we got an email Tuesday night saying that the grounds would not be open Wednesday; instead, they'd open Thursday at 6 am. That would be about four and a half hours before I was scheduled to go down centerline.
The reason? More drama from those fighting against the facility.
I must confess that I have not followed the whole sordid affair in detail, but here's what I've surmised: there was a group of people who wanted to build a stunning dressage facility in the heart of Wellington, right across the street (practically) from WEF, on a parcel of land not doing much of anything. There was another group of people who wanted it to stay undeveloped, for various reasons, the most logical to my mind begin concerns about traffic and water, concerns about whether there was enough of a dressage community to merit another showgrounds, and concerns about plans to also build a hotel and strip mall.
Those who wanted the facility got done what they needed to get done, started building, and have completed the outdoor arenas, some parking areas, and two gorgeous new barns, with more barns, a gigundo covered arena, and more on the way.
The crazy thing? There's still a whole lot of protesting going on. Do those opposed to the new venue think that the Village is going to change its mind, say Hey, gang, we were just playing with you; could you bulldoze all that stuff you just built? Thanks.
I studied Urban Planning in college. I understand the passion against development, against cookie cutter homes and mega box stores. That's not what's at stake here. I also understand the strain that new development of any kind places on natural resources, on water (a major factor here in Florida) and and sewer systems; there will certainly be a big change in traffic volume on the nights of big money freestyle classes, and I'm guessing that it's only a matter of time before they need to further open up that intersection at Pierson and South Shore. That will not be a small expense or undertaking, and that will be a bummer, for a little while.
The realist in me thinks that all of these arguments are ultimately moot, because something would have gone onto that plot of land eventually. Maybe more barns, maybe homes, maybe strip malls, cookie cutter condos and a Walmart. I think that a prestigious dressage showgrounds is far from the worst the town could do.
But back to competition. We were allowed on the grounds at 6 am Thursday, so we arrived early, went out for a spin (on which Midge was INCREDIBLY grown-up and well-behaved), got braided, got dressed, and hit the warmup. Midge was so terrifically well-mannered that I actually had to push, and since I'm not used to that, I didn't do it very well. I made lots of mistakes, all of them small and silly and, therefore, repairable. Midge put in his two cents by once again doing ones on the centerline, and at the end of a really exquisite line of twos. (Sigh.) And we got a 67%. Not too shabby, right?
Then I saw Heather Blitz. And Adrienne Lyle. Todd Flettrich, Tuny Page, Ashley Holzer. And I want to do BETTER. Because these guys are, someday, I hope, going to be what I'm up against. And the bar is high. That means I'm going to need to get my game face on to meet it.
A little competition is inspiring. It lights a fire in the belly. Having a big venue like this will, I hope, motivate the other Wellington area dressage venues to improve; in truth, it already has. You know what's happened in the last year? The Brandon Center updated their footing. Equestrian Estates has improved their stabling dramatically; planted big, beautiful trees; and has major other improvements on the way. The "old" White Fences spent a ton on redoing their footing, and put in more stalls; they'll even offer qualifying classes for the various USEF national championships this year. And that's all before the GDF is even finished.
Competition makes for better performance, and with better performance, everyone wins. Midge won his second day of showing, on 68.5%. And with this new stellar venue, this centerpiece for our sport, we're all winners.