One Step Closer

Sep 14, 2015 - 8:13 AM
Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda, aka “Ping,”
on their way to winning the inaugural Land
Rover Great Meadow CIC***.

I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged, and to be honest there are so many things I’d like to share with you all that it’s a little bit overwhelming to think about where to start.

I’ve battled with myself about whether or not to write about this, but I do want to touch on the news of polo player Will Tankard’s passing, which broke over Millbrook weekend. On July 30, Will was on his way to a match with 10 ponies when he was killed in an interstate collision in Ohio.

I’d just like to pay tribute to the type of person Will was. He was in my life for what happened to be some of the most challenging times I experienced in a short period…. my broken collar bone… the barn fire… and my first four-star attempt that ended in failure. He was the type of person who pushed you to be better all the while reminding you about what truly matters in life, and he didn’t fit the stereotypical mold of a polo player at all.

Will was insanely hardworking and grounded and such a kind, well-liked person that I honestly don’t think there are many people like him. My heart goes out to his girlfriend and family, and I hope everyone continues to support the fund to take care of the horses that survived the crash. His loss is something I’ve struggled with, and I cannot imagine what it’s like for his family and close friends… My thoughts are with you.

I guess it would be apt to then start off with my win at The Fork and attempt at Rolex for the third time. I was so pleased with how well Ping went at The Fork, and it was an honor to be able to win that event for the second time on my great partner.

I was also shocked at how amazing Buck Davidson is, because he was giving me genuine support in the warm-up, all while finishing second to me, and then giving me a huge hug when we were cooling out the horses. I love that about eventing—it makes our sport so special. 

Then came Rolex, where yet again, because of my spring season, I was pegged to do well. But I’ve been a bit of a letdown at that level due to such interesting happenings that at times it’s hard to put all that out of your head.  

I was happy with Ping’s dressage, but I knew looking at the weather that it wasn’t going to be easy for me on Saturday. Ping likes hard ground, and I was late in the order with the rain, so I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me. I left the box confident and determined, but putting Ping into the Head of the Lake, the four strides to the chevron came up very long, and he climbed through it. Being the careful horse that he is, he wasn’t going to jump that same chevron after that, and I had a runout.

This is about the time when you decide just how tough you are. Finally finishing that event was extremely important to me. While I am a very competitive person, I said to myself, “All right now. I am going to be seeing the finishing flags here.”

Ping jumped around the rest and was sound come Sunday and jumped well to earn himself a vacation in the Gardners’ field.

Ping hanging with his groom, Erin Rose, prior to the
first horse inspection at the Pan American Games.

Then came the email…. After not being named to the USEF training squad, needless to say, I was a bit shocked to get an email that Ping would be vetted for the Pan Am Games. At this point, he was in the field with no shoes, and I had no clue that they were considering me.

But out we pulled him, and the vetting went well, and the next thing I know I’m headed to Great Meadow for the final outing. I have to say that I was in a good place mentally going into this event… I didn’t feel like I had anything to lose, and I know Ping so well.

He put in the test of his career in a time that it meant the most, and the whole weekend was a dream. I felt honored to gallop on the turf where the Gold Cup steeplechase is held, and Ping jumped his heart out to take the win and earn me the right to be the traveling alternate for the Pan Am Games.

I will say it seemed a bit surreal traveling to the Games and being there with the team and all the team kit when two months before I didn’t think I stood a chance. It was an odd mental struggle, because I respected everyone on that team and really thought, “All right, this is the deck of cards I have; I’m going to be the best alternate I can be.” I tried to be supportive, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bit tough to be so close to achieving a lifelong dream.

All said and done, I’m proud of our team, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world, and when I see the pictures of everyone galloping around with gold medals I smile because I feel as though I was a small part of that team, and I’m proud of them. In the end, I have an odd faith that if I keep my head down and work, things will work out…

I think I’ll leave it at that and hope you enjoyed reading… I’ll catch up again soon, and thank you to everyone who’s reached out to support me and my team. I know I’m very lucky.

All the best,


Brannigan Eventing


Team USA at the Pan Ams in Toronto, (from left), alternate Jennie Brannigan
with Cambalda, Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous, Lauren Kieffer and
Meadowbrook’s Scarlett, Boyd Martin and Pancho Villa, and Phillip Dutton
with Fernhill Fugitive.

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