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June 2, 2014

A Thousand Years From Now

The trip to Vienna to train at the Spanish Riding School is a dream come true for Jen Shepherd. Photo by Jagg Photography

I hope that the possibility to dream is still alive for that little girl or boy sitting at the edge of a dressage ring; the one who is not building castles with moats, but instead fixated on their favorite international-level horse and rider combination, secretly hoping for a chance to meet and obtain an autograph and then perhaps one day finds them self in similar stirrups. (Cindy Ishoy: I still have my framed, signed poster of you & Dynasty from the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair).

For that child then grows up to be 90 years young sitting at the edge of a dressage ring, still looking up at a horse with radiant eyes, touching its velvet nose with shy fingertips and sharing that same special connection. It’s never too early or too late to dream.

It’s hard to believe that the eve of my departure for Vienna, Austria is just a few lengthened strides away. This time last year, I was finalizing my application for The Heldenberg Training Center Fund in Memory of E.L. Dreitzler. Of course, I had no idea what the outcome would be, but just taking the initiative to apply filled me with absolute joy.

A few weeks ago, I was jotting down some ideas on the back of an envelope with an orange highlighter. Isn’t that how all of life’s monumental events begin? I was brainstorming ways to ‘give back’ to The Dressage Foundation as a thank you for all of their support. Coincidentally, The Sound of Music DVD I ordered arrived in the mail and was next to me on my desk. Yes! Guglhupf! That’s it!

The Hills Are Alive—Bon Voyage Party & Fundraiser for The Dressage Foundation. I am dreaming of live music, singing, and dancing in abundance. Fresh rose blooms in mason jars with satin blue ribbons, pink lemonade or ice tea, crisp apple strudel and scrumptious cake.

Why a party? Why a fundraiser? Dressage folks are known to throw down some fabulously fun parties; however, I truly believe it’s because the emphasis is on community. When a local community gets together wonderful things can happen. In a world overfilled with electronic devices and instant messaging, there is something uniquely gratifying about helping each other and spending real time together.

The phrase I’ve used repeatedly this week—our community is amazing, beautiful and all things awesome. Do I know anything about planning and executing a successful fundraiser? No, not really, but I have an incredible group of friends who do and are embracing this idea whole-heartedly. What more could I need?

Well, I am glad you asked!  To get this party started, a friend requested creative input for what should happen at a Sound of Music themed fundraiser. This inquiry generated ideas faster than I could read or respond to.

Here is just a sampling because I think they are spectacular:

  • Obviously some yodeling & sing-a-longs
  • Your favorite things for the silent auction
  • Auction each of the things from the “Do-Re-Mi” song, for example, "Re, a drop of golden sun": a weekend at the beach? "Mi, a name": stud fee of a stallion with a big name? "Fa, a long, long way to run":trailer service? "So, a needle pulling thread":something monogrammed? "La, a note to follow so": musical freestyle?
  • Maybe a few (mystery) brown paper packages tied up with strings
  • Put pine cones on everyone’s chairs

I asked a few of my horse and non-horse related business-owning friends if they would consider donating an item for the silent auction and I was left speechless by their overwhelming "yes without a doubt" response.  I really appreciate and embrace all of the efforts towards making this fundraiser a success. Every donation, every helping hand, and every smile means the world to me. There will be hand written thank you notes coming your way!

A thousand years from now the possibility to dream is still alive.

Jennifer Whitelaw Shepherd is one of the adult amateur dressage riders who received an inaugural grant from the new Heldenberg Training Center Fund in Memory of E.L. Dreitzler to attend the Spanish Riding School’s Training Center in Heldenberg, Austria. She grew up in Ontario, Canada and has spent most of her adult life in Hillsborough, N.C. after graduating from North Carolina State University with a degree in Biological Sciences. She works in the field of clinical research, which supports her seemingly endless riding activities, triathlon races, family and fish. Jen is an adult amateur dressage student and passionate advocate for classical dressage. She currently rides and proudly owns an unconventional dressage horse who has taught her essentially everything there is to know about life.

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