After a trip to The Event At Rebecca Farm, our columnist wonders whether some riders are working hard enough to be worthy of the nation’s best events and the dedicated individuals behind them.
What a week I just had.
During my trip from my home in Pennsylvania to The Event At Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Mont., this past weekend, I had a lot of time to think about the state of our sport. I’ll be the first to give constructive criticism about eventing, but with all the analysis of what’s going wrong in our sport these days, it’s easy to lose sight of the many, many things that are going right. And Rebecca Farm is one of them.
This one event has everything a horse and rider could ever want or need, from a HSBC FEI World Cup-qualifying CIC*** to a novice level horse trial to Young Event Horse and Future Event Horse classes to a team competition. If you get a chance to go to Kalispell, do it. It’s the best event I’ve ever done, and I didn’t even win!
Throughout the eventing world, almost everyone agrees that the quality of the footing is the most important thing for our horses. Events across the country have taken huge steps forward to ensure better ground. Rebecca Farm is well known for its impeccable footing, but there are examples of this dedication everywhere.
The week before heading to Montana, I was at the Maryland Horse Trials At Loch Moy Farm I, and it was about 100 degrees. But the facility has improved so much with the use of an aerovator and their new dressage and jumping rings that it made competing in the sweltering weather worth it.
I don’t have to tell you how difficult these events in the middle of summer are for organizers, because conditions are far from perfect. Without their incredible extra efforts, this sport can’t go forward. A big thanks goes out to all the organizers from the riders and, more importantly, the horses.
There are obviously different tiers of competitions, and that’s important. We need horse trials like Maryland, Waredaca (Md.) and The Horse Park of New Jersey to get horses out and train them so they’re ready to contest the levels that people tend to turn out to watch in much greater numbers: the CICs and CCIs.
These “minor” horse trials are the grassroots of our sport, and without them we have no “show.” As long as these local and regional horse trials continue thinking about the horses and putting their interests first, as they are, we’ll have a product that we can sell at our more “major” events like, for instance, the Cosequin Stuart Horse Trials and CIC (N.Y.), the Red Hills Horse Trials and CIC (Fla.) and the granddaddy of them all: Rebecca Farm.
Talent, Money, Hunger, Drive
It’s so important to have these big, crowd-drawing events to showcase our horses and riders and engage the public. These competitions make huge efforts to bring in prize money and spectators.
So even though an event like the one at Rebecca Farm might offer lower levels in addition to its Fédération Equestre Internationale divisions, riders at every level there should remember to treat these caliber of events as a showplace, not as a place for first timers at the level. At these special venues, we need to show off our sport, not be training and practicing.
Unfortunately, even though we’re seeing the events themselves getting better from the bottom to the top, I’m just not sure the same can be said for the riding. It’s very scary to look at our short list for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games coming up in September. We have many horses, but very few riders on that list.
As Vince Lombardi said, “The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work.” This is very clear to our WEG-listed riders—they get it. I believe everyone who ends up riding for the U.S. team in Kentucky will have made a horse from the ground up, and they’ll have earned their spot with years of hard work.
But there are a lot of riders out there with the talent and the money to make it to the international championship level, but not the hunger or the drive. I think it’s pretty clear that you can’t buy your way to the top in our sport. The only proven way to succeed is hard work.
This is where we need to develop from the ground up, not from the top down. As with our competitions, you start at the grassroots and work your way up. The U.S. Equestrian Federation’s Developing Rider program is in shambles; we have some younger riders with some nice horses, but we cannot just give them money and think it will magically produce our next WEG medalists.
We have to show the younger developing riders that they need to work first before they get the money, just like you need to ride novice before you can get to run a CCI. Maybe instead of the developing riders just getting money, they should be granted working student positions with top riders to see how success is really earned! To me, there is no other formula.
When up-and-coming riders learn these lessons, they’ll be truly prepared to represent our nation someday. But more than that, they’ll also be truly worthy of the incredible gifts our organizers give to the sport—organizers like Rebecca Farm’s namesake, Rebecca Broussard.
Mrs. Broussard has been one of the most important people to have ever touched our sport. She’s helped so many talented, hardworking people from the grassroots of our sport to the top names in eventing. She’s helped a huge group of people in her state of Montana realize their dreams with horses, and she’s a longtime owner for a lot of top riders—riders who work extremely hard and have earned her respect.
Just like our sport itself, Mrs. Broussard and her family reward hard work. The attention to detail at her farm and the event held there is second to none, so it’s easy to see why she’s been successful in business, in her longtime marriage to her husband Jerome, and in life. The Broussards are people we all look up to.
On behalf of all the riders and horses that compete in U.S. eventing, I want to thank Becky, Jerome and their daughter Sarah Kelly for all they’ve done for the sport and the standard they’ve set for the next generation.
Good luck to everyone next time out, and let’s all work a little harder and win a gold medal in Kentucky!
Buck Davidson is an event rider based in Riegelsville, Pa., and Ocala, Fla. The son of eventing legend Bruce Davidson Sr., Buck has carried on the family name with major achievements beginning during his young rider career. More recently, he was the alternate for the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong, was named the Chronicle’s 2009 Eventing Horseman of the Year and is now shortlisted for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games with three different horses. He began contributing to Between Rounds in 2010.