Normally Meaghan Marinovich Burdick leaves her winter base in Aiken, South Carolina, in early April to return home to her parents’ farm in Cumming, Iowa. But this year, the 30-year-old professional eventer has extended her South Carolina stay for at least a few more weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I was supposed to be at the Ocala International Festival of Eventing (Florida) with my event horses this weekend, then was supposed to go home on Monday,” she said. “We decided to stay just waiting out the virus.”
Marinovich Burdick is taking advantage of every opportunity during the lull in the season, including entering and winning the first level test with a 71.66% during the first week of the Stable View Virtual Dressage Show, which is ongoing throughout April, with Bella.
“Bella is owned by a client of mine, Jenny Tyler,” Marinovich Burdick said of the Oldenburg mare. “She’ll be 9 this year, and Jenny’s owned her for two years. She’s been in my program for eight months. She’s a super good horse, a good mover and has a fantastic brain. Technically this would have been her second ever horse show.”
Marinovich Burdick said Bella was bred to do dressage, and while she might event the mare a little bit, she’s focusing on her dressage education for Bella’s owner.
With all in-person competitions canceled, Stable View opted to offer virtual dressage shows instead, giving riders a chance to get feedback from licensed judges and a shot at $100 of prize money per class. Each week features different judges and different dressage and eventing dressage tests. Show attire is not required, but videos must be complete (no cuts). There’s no rule against re-riding a test, but Marinovich Burdick said she wanted to treat it the same as she would an in-person competition.
“At first I was thinking I would go somewhere with a big sand ring with all the letters and make it like a horse show, but I actually just decided to do it at home,” she said. “I said to myself as I was going around that if I made a mistake I was just going to keep riding and treat it like an actual horse show. So there was some pressure even though I was at home in my own ring.”
Marinovich Burdick has several horses in training in Aiken, and she’s moved her own business online as well, conducting lessons using a Pixio system. Her clients set up the motion-tracking camera in their ring, and Marinovich Burdick can watch them live from her laptop while coaching through an earpiece.
“I’m super fortunate,” she said. “I have some amazing clients who have kept their horses in training when they could have brought them home. But I think about [finances] a lot. Can I go so many months without being able to teach? We’re all in the same boat just waiting to see. All of the equestrians across every discipline are in this waiting game of, ‘What’s gonna happen?’ We want everyone to stay safe and healthy, but I think horses keep us sane too.”
Marinovich Burdick fell in love with horses during her first pony ride at a fair. She begged for lessons until her parents gave in when she was 6. In 2005 she took a working student position with Tracey Amaral at Pond View Farm (Massachusetts), which started her road to the CN North American Young Rider Championships (Virginia) in 2006 with her Trakehner stallion Ahlerich, who eventually took her to the advanced level.
After graduating high school in 2008, Marinovich Burdick moved to England to attend Hartpury College, where she earned degrees in equine sports science and equine business management. She returned to the U.S. in 2014 to launch Marinovich Eventing and has since operated out of her parents’ Powder River Ranch in Iowa.
“[The isolation and lockdowns] have been kind of emotional,” she said. “I live to compete, and I love the adrenaline from competition. I think most horse people have plans A, B, C and D for the horses, but all of a sudden the whole world is in this situation like, ‘There are no plans.’ But recently it’s been enjoyable. I’ve focused on a lot of basics with the horses. We’re lucky to go on trail rides and enjoy the horses without the stress of competition. Normally I’d be panicking not knowing what I’m doing every weekend, but it’s been OK. I think my husband Michael likes it because I spend more time with him.”