Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dragonfire To Host Hawley Bennett July 11-12, 2014

You know what this means.

Get ready for some fun in the sun and a last minute prep for Rebecca Farm at Dragonfire! We will be hosting crowd favorite, Hawley Bennett, July 11-12 for two days of jumping exercises designed to whip you into shape before the big trip to Montana. And because this is Dragonfire, OF COURSE we will be having a pool party Friday afternoon/night complete with BBQ and Olympic-style Games. Don't miss out...bring a towel, BYOB, and bring your A GAME!

Seriously, we are riding.
The clinic fee is $215 for two days of intimate sized groups that will guarantee that Hawley will be able to give you the attention you need to improve. The Dragonfire facility also boasts a fantastically large ring with several types of stadium and cross country type obstacles that will give you the challenge you desire. Auditors will be just as pleased with the large seating area on the raised berm and a sound system to hear all of Hawley's instruction. The auditing fee is $10 per person for both days.

Be a part of this sensational rider's team as she continues to set the international scene on fire and learn from her vast experience. Make checks out to Dragonfire and send to 13247 Orange Rd. Wilton, CA 95693 to reserve your spot now, along with your experience level. Spaces in the clinic will not be held without payment. VERY limited stabling is available for those traveling over distance for $40/day.

There will be no refunds on clinic fees unless your spot can be filled from a wait list. Late entries will only be accepted if space warrants, and will be on a CASH basis only.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What The 2014 Rolex Three Day Event Meant To Me: Thoughts on my first 4**** with High Times

Taylor's encouraging artwork.
Photo Shannon Brinkman

I love the old saying, “If you don’t ask, you won’t get”. Many people will deny themselves of the things they really want because they are afraid of asking for it, be it connecting with someone new, applying for a job, or maybe even buying a horse that seems out of the budget. The same thing applies to achieving goals …  “If you don’t try, you’ll certainly never do it.” It is easy to stop yourself before ever getting to the point of knowing whether or not you measure up to a task, because you are afraid of failing in the end. The thought of actually competing at the 2014 Rolex Three Day Event was overwhelming when I first started the plan in the Spring of 2013, but by allowing myself to concentrate solely on each step of the preparation one at a time and not on Rolex, I was able to feel prepared and ready for the challenge when the time came to actually compete at The Kentucky Horse Park with Billy.

Thanks to the generosity of some great friends, Billy flew to Kentucky the Monday of the show. He arrived fresh and healthy, which was a big boost in my confidence knowing that he was ready for the hardest week of his life. Earl, Taylor and I drove there and made it to Lexington just in time to see him deplane and take him to the horse park. Billy settled in quickly and spent Tuesday hacking around the show and seeing all of the exhilarating sights Rolex has to offer.

The Californians arrive in Lexington
Wednesday was exciting for the both of us, with the opening of the cross country course and also our first four star jog. My initial walk of the course was with Earl, Taylor and my brother, Jon. Although I was prepared to see a big and difficult course, I was still impressed with the sheer size of the fences and ditches. Luckily the fear of having your big brother tease you is strong, even in old age, so I kept my mouth shut knowing the first time you walk is always the worst. Then it was on to jogs and the official start of the competition. With a borrowed dress from my Coach, Hawley Bennett, and the most sparkling and glamorous version of Billy courtesy of my Super-Groom, Sophia Zeier, Billy and I headed to our First Horse Inspection at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event. I have to admit that I had little faith in our capability of producing a classy and controlled jog since Billy has the reputation of being “The Foot Stomper” at our farm, especially when there are fun things to spook at. But I can happily report that he loved both the crowds and oodles of photographers and stayed well clear of my scantily clad feet while modeling his good looks for the ground jury. My Wednesday evening was spent partying at Spindletop Hall with some of my favorite people, including a lively chat and shared drinks with the legend, Mark Todd.
My brother and I standing in one of the ditches on course with Taylor.

Photo Sherry Stewart
I can't thank this little lady enough for getting me here.  Photo Shannon Brinkman
Party-time with Sir Mark. NBD

Thursday was consumed with working Billy and getting cramps in my calves, I mean getting comfortable with the cross country course, since I did not show until the next day. But Thursday will forever go down in my memory as one of the best for one shining moment. After leaving the stadium from our turn in the ring familiarization, Billy startled when someone trotted up behind us on the long walk back to stabling. On my left, a gentleman’s voice apologized and asked if they could please walk back with me. I turned to see William Fox-Pitt and his soon to be winning mount, Bay My Hero. Uuummmm…. YES! It was pretty hard not to sound like a giddy little girl when faced with the fact that I knew we would walk together for an extended amount of time (I have an admitted crush on WFP and he has been the unknowing subject of my profile pic on Facebook more than once) but I’m pretty sure I came across totally nonchalant. NOT! Because he is perfect, William (we are on a first name basis) did not speak of himself but spoke of how handsome my horse was and asked MY opinion on some of the lines cross country. Well, sure, I’d love to give you some advice on how to ride on Saturday! Anyhow, it was a thrilling ten minutes for me, even if he was just making polite conversation with a rookie because he needed a lead for his horse.

I'm sure this has been his profile pic too.
Riding into the Rolex Stadium for my Dressage test was an absolute thrill. I was fully aware every moment I was in there that all of the doubt that I had ever had about my goal of riding at Rolex could have come bubbling to the surface right then, but instead I felt that I was realizing my destiny. I felt that I was simply acting out the next stage of my preparation, which I was meant to do, whether the outcome was good or bad. I have conversations with my Dad to thank for that, and because of this thought process, I fully enjoyed my entire Rolex experience.

That was fun! Photo Shannon Brinkman
Although I was in a good mental space on Saturday, the anticipation of my ride was unbearable. Being number 66, meant I rode at the end of a very long day, a day full of trouble on Derek’s tough course. Being in the rider’s lounge with the likes of Jan and Kim and seeing just how nervous they were watching others go on the monitor was an eye opener and made me question what I was going to do out there. It was so exhausting waiting for my turn and seeing others’ mishaps on course that I actually had to take a nap in the truck before my ride. Inevitably my ride time was upon us, and with a double check of my equipment from Sophie, I was off to warm up.

Good thing I had Dylan to wait with me.
Once I was on my horse, it was simply time to get our job done with no more time for scheming and planning. Billy’s warm up was oddly calm for him, but he was jumping in good form and when I walked down to the box he got his normal fire cooking. Knowing that your first 4**** cross country is about to start is an unnerving feeling. The struggle between opposing thoughts of “I am doing this” and “Am I really doing this?” pull each other in your mind until mercifully the timer says you're off and you can just focus on the task at hand.

Let's goooo! Photo Shannon Brinkman

The course itself was pure joy to ride on Billy. We went out as a purposeful, willing, and eager team and came back exactly the same, but with a 4**** completion under our belts. That is another feeling that is nearly impossible to describe. The sense of accomplishment and gratitude for your horse, family, and loved ones is so poignant it made even me feel a little teary-eyed. Of course, a horse could never understand how they can change your life. Billy could never know that he made me believe in myself and gave me the courage to try this. But, I do think he knows that we are partners for life and that I would do anything in my power not to let him down, just as he does for me. 

Billy at the famous Head of the Lake. Photo Shannon Brinkman
Shake and Bake! Photo Shannon Brinkman

Earl, Jon, Sophie and Grant giving the champ the royal treatment.
The team behind the scenes is just as important as the team out in the spotlight, and it was such a comfort knowing that Billy was in the capable hands of Sophie, Grant and Dr. Laura to keep him comfortable and feeling ready for Sunday. Thank goodness I borrowed Gina Miles’ flat boots for the second jog instead of the wedges I had planned on wearing, because Billy was extremely proud of himself on the jog lane. Somebody should tell him I can’t run, like at all. 

Warmblood freight train coming through! Photo Shannon Brinkman
Dr. Laura congratulating me on not falling down. Photo Shannon Brinkman
Being back in the Rolex Stadium on Sunday was a new sensation of its own. I had the opportunity to complete the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event 4****! The best of the best in the sport certainly have the same feeling I had at the thought of that. I was so happy to be in the position to complete the event, I truly had no nerves going in and performing in front of the sold out stadium. And Billy was prouder than ever when the crowd cheered him on, his ego growing exponentially with every fan he gained throughout the course.

Photo Shannon Brinkman

I have so many people to thank for helping me get to Rolex. Earl always believed that I could do it. My family always supported me, even if they didn’t think I could do it. Hawley gave me the skills and the faith in my ability to use those skills. Dr. Muller, Jamie McDonald, Grant Showalter, and Dr. Werner for keeping him going in tip top form. Team DF for willing me over every fence. My sponsors and contributors that helped to fund this trip. And my friends, eventing and morgan, who made me feel like I wasn’t alone on this journey. THANK YOU!

It's good to have friends.

People have asked me if I feel different now after completing Rolex. I have to say no. Just like having a birthday, you're glad it happened (if it was a happy one), and hope to have many more. I feel the same about the path I am on and my purpose in this world. I still feel like I have much to accomplish and much to improve. I still want to enjoy every part of my journey. I guess, in many ways, I will always feel like the journey is the best part of any goal. And when I feel like I am dreaming the impossible and am afraid of what will come of it, I think of a part of Theodore Roosevelt's speech that he delivered in 1910, known as The Man In The Arena:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

Maybe these words will help you to dare greatly and start a journey of your own that will lead you to unknown adventures and accomplishments.  


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Wilton, CA
A full service equestrian facility offering lessons for all ages, training, showing, breeding and sales.

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