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A Dream Deferred: Behind the Scenes with 2020's LRK3DE First-Timers

We caught up with four athletes who had planned to make their LRK3DE debuts this year and are now keeping busy at #HomeWithHorses

by Glenye Cain Oakford | Apr 20, 2020, 4:22 PM EST

Rider: Fylicia Barr

Horse: Galloway Sunrise

#HomeWithHorses in: Kennett Square, Pa.

Fylicia Barr, 24, has been living under her state’s stay-at-home orders in Kennett Square, Pa., and has had to close her barn to clients. “We’re still keeping the horses going,” she said of herself and her three-person staff, who are taking care of 19 horses. “I’m definitely riding a lot more than I was before! Usually I’d be teaching, too, but now we’re all riding and mucking all the stalls, feeding and turning out. We’ve split the staff so there’s no chance of all of us getting sick at the same time. So it’s kind of lonely these days, but we’re all healthy, and that’s what’s important.”

Barr, who was selected earlier this year to US Equestrian’s 2020 Emerging Athlete Eventing 25 Program, had been heading for her LRK3DE debut with the mare Galloway Sunrise.

What’s Galloway Sunrise like?

“She’s not as personable as most other horses! I think the best way to describe her would be Regina George of ‘Mean Girls’! She’s very intense, very competitive. Everyone wants to be her friend, but she only cares for one or two people on certain days. I like to think I’m one of the few people she genuinely cares for. I’ve had her since she was a baby, so we’ve built up a good relationship, but at the end of the day she just wants to compete. She’s the kind of horse you can’t really take for a casual hack. She’s like, ‘Okay, we’ve gotta gallop. We’ve gotta jog.’

“She was two gallops away from Kentucky, so now she’s fit without a really serious job to do, and she’s very unhappy about it.”

So what are you able to do with her now?

“I’ve had to back her down, because our spring season is pretty much over, and I don’t want to keep her at this prime fitness with nothing to look forward to. She’s not doing any more fitness work, and we’re going back to work on some flat work, some relaxation, little grid exercises for jumping, just to keep her mind going and keep her ticking over without the wear and tear on her joints.”

So is her intensity her superpower in eventing?

“Definitely. I always laugh that she’d finish the course if I ever fall off. You can drop the reins 10 strides out from a jump and she’s going to lock onto it and take you right up to it. She loves it just as much or more than I do.”

What’s helping you get through the shutdown?

“Honestly, my group message with my riders, my clients, and my owners. We’ve all been passing the time by trading memes back and forth, and funny pictures or pictures from last season. We’ve definitely passed around drink recipes and words of encouragement and support. I’ll be at the barn and take a picture of someone’s ear and say, ‘Guess whose ear this is?’ We put the horses through the jump chute and had a Who Jumped It Best edition. That’s something that’s kept us all going and kept us motivated at the barn.

“One of my working students has created a theme song for every horse, and she’ll send the theme song to the group message, and they all have to guess which horse it’s for. Everyone’s having a good time with little things like that.”

If you had to be quarantined with any two figures from any point in history, who would you choose and why?

“I’d want to be quarantined with my favorite band, The Killers, because at least we could be listening to really good music the whole time. And Gordon Ramsay so we’d have good food.”

So who is your eventing hero?

“I’d have to say Mary King. I grew up in a small town, and when I first started riding, there wasn’t very much jumping around. But I got the jumping bug, and I remember watching Mary King get first and second at Kentucky in 2011. I remember thinking she was the most badass person in the whole world. That’s when I thought, ‘I’m going to do Kentucky.’ And that was my dream from then on. She’s really the one that sparked that flame inside me. 

“And I have to say that Beezie Madden is the reason I wanted to start jumping. She’s just an incredible woman.

“They’re just two awesome women.”

 What do you think makes eventing such a great equestrian sport?

“I always come back to the community behind eventing. The sport itself is incredible. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted, and it’s the great combination of precision and grace and that little bit of adrenaline rush, too. But the community behind it—the people you meet and interact with, the way they care for the horses—it’s just the best in the world. I’ve never met more down-to-earth people. The fact that you can walk up to an Olympic rider and ask them a question, and they’re going to sit down with you and give you the time of day. If I have a question about a course and my trainer’s not there, I know I can text Boyd Martin or Phillip Dutton and know they’d come back and tell me, ‘This is what we walked that in.’ 

“It’s true at the lower levels, too. I stabled at Pine Top in Aiken, S.C., this winter and was next to a woman who was doing her first beginner novice, and she was so excited. That excitement that everyone shares—I just love that.”

How do you think your equestrian life has contributed to who you are today? What has it given you?

“It’s given me my career, first and foremost. It’s developed me into someone who’s tough and competitive, too, but it’s also given me a lot of patience. It takes patience to work with the young horses or to slowly work your way to the top with an upper-level horse. It gives you a tough skin and makes you appreciate every day.

“If you don’t have tough skin, you’re not going to make it in this sport, because a lot of it is just disappointment and heartbreak. But you have to keep pushing on, and you keep doing it because you love it. And your time will come if you’re patient. For me, it’s given me a good balance of patience and working through each day as if it’s a new day, and not thinking about yesterday when the horse was bad or we had a difficult ride—just letting go and being patient with the horses, not taking anything personally. They all have bad days, just like us.”

What’s your idea of fun when you’re not in the saddle or the barn?

“I love anything outdoors. I grew up in Western New York, where we just camped all the time, so I’m definitely fond of camping and cooking out. But I also love amusement parks. I love roller-coasters.”

While we’re in the shutdown, what’s your pick for a movie, show, or book?

“I just watched a couple of series that I really liked on Netflix: ‘Peaky Blinders’ and ‘Mindhunter.’ And a good inspirational movie is ‘Miracle.’ It’s about the U.S. Hockey Team that won the gold medal. Even if you’re not a hockey fan, it’s a great movie to watch. It definitely re-motivated me the other day!”

What’s your happiest Happy Place?

“It’s in the barn. There’s just something about being the last person in the barn and listening to the horses munching hay in their stalls, and the smells and the sounds of being in the barn—that’s always appealed to me. It just brings me right back to the first time I stepped foot in a barn. It’s just all so familiar.

“I’d also have to say the final jump of a four-star cross-country round, where you know you’ve nailed everything, and you’re coming across the finish line and your horse feels fresh still. That’s always an amazing, amazing feeling, especially with my horse, because I have such a relationship with her. We were very much looking forward to the last jump of our five-star debut, but now we’ll look on to the fall. We’re all healthy, the horses are going well, and that’s all that really matters right now.”

 

 

Rider: Cornelia Dorr

Horse: Sir Patico MH

#HomeWithHorses in: Little Rock, Ark.

Cornelia Dorr had been pointing for her first LRK3DEwith Sir Patico MH (known as Hugo around the barn), with whom she has a nine-year partnership. A member of US Equestrian’s 2020 Emerging Athlete Eventing 25 Program, she spoke to us from Little Rock, Ark. 

“I’m fine now,” Dorr, 22, said when asked how she’s faring during the shutdown. “When it first started, I was a little bit anxious and stressed out, but now I’m settling in to what’s kind of the new normal. I’m lucky enough to live on the farm, so my time with the horses hasn’t been affected. But I’ve stopped doing any trot sets or galloping, and the horses are pretty much hacking and flatting more than jumping. So they’re still in work, but it’s pretty light. It’s like time is standing still.”

Tell us about Hugo. What’s his personality like?

“He’s a hoot! He’s a little bit of that old-man personality. I used to ride with Jimmy Wofford a lot, and he would call him The Professor. Even as a six-year-old, he always had that look in his eyes like, ‘Oh, you know, I’m just doing my job!’ He’s goofy about some things, but he takes his job very seriously.”

What’s his superpower?

“I think he can read minds, and I think that’s what makes him special. He’s really, really in tune with his people, with me and his groom. If one of us is a little off or upset, he dramatically matches our mood, which is great, but it’s also hard if maybe I didn’t sleep well the night before and I really want to drill the changes on the flat and he’ll be like, ‘You’re putting a lot of pressure on me! Can you not do that?’ He just reads minds.

Is that helpful in competition?

“It is, especially on cross-country. For one thing, if there’s a jump within any eight-foot vicinity, he drags you toward it. But the main thing is that it takes so little to communicate with him. The line of communication between us is so true that it doesn’t take much time for us to read something or set up for a combination. I think that’s why he’s so quick cross-country, because we’re pretty much on the same wavelength.

“Dressage is the biggest weakness for both of us. He’s not necessarily built to be an event horse, and the dressage is hardest for him. He tries so hard, and he internalizes it, so he can get a little tense. But because I know how to talk to him under my breath and calm him down, it doesn’t turn into anything. So you wouldn’t see it as a spectator.”

What’s helping you get through these uncertain times?

“I think it’s the fact that I can still put time and thought into the training of my horses, because that’s what my passion is. The fact that I can still work on the little things has been good. My two six-year-olds have a lot to be introduced to and learning about, so it’s exciting for me to introduce new things to them, especially on the flat. The six-year-old I have going prelim is named Brush Dance; we call him Denny. He raced five times and always came in last, so he came off the track really quickly! The other six-year-old I have is fairly new to me. His name is Percy; his show name was Lucky King Louis, but I changed it to By the Sea, because that’s where my family live: Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass.”

If you could be quarantined with two other figures from any point in history, who would they be and why?

“I would definitely like to be quarantined with Theodore Roosevelt. My middle name is Roosevelt, and he’s technically a distant relative, so I would love to ask him a million questions. They say he had all of his animals at the White House with him, so I’d ask about that. And he was such a horseman, too, so I think it would be cool to see where that conversation would go. 

“And I think I’d also say [New Zealand eventer] Jonelle Price. She’s my girl-crush, because she rides horses that are untraditional and unconventional, and Hugo’s a bit like that. So I’m inspired by her ability to bring a horse to the top of the levels, even if it’s one that people wouldn’t necessarily expect to see there.”

What do you think makes eventing special as a sport?

“It’s one of the most natural equestrian sports. Galloping cross-country and jumping streams and things—it just seems to me that that’s what horses are meant to be doing. I also saw a quote somewhere once that said that event horses are like the Navy Seals, and I think that’s what sets them apart. There’s so much to it, and it demands so much and requires versatility.”

What’s your favorite keep-fit-at-home exercise?

“I love yoga. I think the meditation of it is great, and I definitely find that a couple of days after yoga I find that my balance is a lot more grounded and central, and I find that fascinating.”

What qualities do you think your equestrian life has given you?

“A work ethic, determination, and resilience.”

What’s your recommended read for “sequestrians” stuck at home?

“My favorite series is Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I’ve read every single one of those books, but I’m really excited because I haven’t read the new one yet. Those are definitely the books I’ve found I can read for hours on end.”

 

 

Rider: Emily Hamel

Horse: Corvett

#HomeWithHorses in: Coatesville, Pa.

Emily Hamel and Corvett (Barry to his pals) will now miss their planned CCI5*-L debut at LRK3DE, but she isn’t cooling her jets. Earlier this month, she launched her own training operation at Phillip and Evie Dutton’s True Prospect Farm, and she also rides part-time for Olympic medalist Phillip Dutton, for whom she had been head rider since 2017. The business launch had been in the works for several months, Hamel said, adding, “Maybe it’s not the best timing to start a business during a pandemic, but I’m doing it and it’s working!

“It’s kind of business as usual, minus the showing aspect,” said Hamel, 33. “At least for now, I’m enjoying a change of pace. It’s been nice to have a little time to get my business up and running the way that I want.”

Tell us about Corvett.

“He’s super-quirky but very talented. It’s been a lot of work to get him where he is now, but I love the horse. If you asked anyone who’s ever tried to catch him out in the field, he’s a bit of a jokester, and he only likes certain people; luckily, one of those people is me! He’s really particular about what he likes and what he doesn’t like, and he’ll definitely let you know one way or the other.

“He’s very enthusiastic, and he loves to jump. He has so much power and just springs off the ground; I don’t even know how it’s possible that he jumps so huge.”

What’s his eventing superpower?
“If he were to have an actual superpower, it would be flying. If you’ve seen him jump, he’s basically doing that already. But what’s really great about him is that when I’m on him I feel like we can jump anything. That’s an amazing feeling when you’re galloping up to something large and imposing on cross-country, just knowing that the horse is 110% capable of getting over it. And he’s really brave, too. He loves the job. It’s fun. The flat work has been a struggle, but jumping him, he’s a dream.”

What are you working on now that you’re not competing?

“We’re taking it back a little. He’s still in full work, but it’s not as intense. We’re not doing any serious gallops. For jumping we’re mostly doing small rideability exercises, which is great, because the size of the jump isn’t really the issue; it’s more about rideability. We’ve been taking time and filling in any holes we might have. I’ve been enjoying that, because the pressure’s off a bit. I always have a plan for my ride, but this is less stressful, because I’ve been able to just have fun riding him without feeling like I have to get this thing done today because I have a show next week. There’s not a whole lot I can do about all of this, so I might as well have fun while we’re hanging out!”

What’s helping you get through the shutdown?

“Honestly, staying busy is helpful for me. I feel like I always have a mile-long to-do list, and having a little extra time without going to shows and not going out anywhere, just staying at home or being at the barn, gives me time to check things off the list, get more organized, do some clean-up around the house and yard, things like that.

“I've also been working on my other side project, The Whole Equestrian. This is a podcast that I created with my friend Tyler Held to bridge the gap between riding and wellness, discussing topics related to mindset, fitness, nutrition, and community (our four pillars). We've been using this extra time to do more with our social media, brainstorm future episodes, and reach out to possible guests who align with our four pillars.”

Do you have a good keep-fit-at-home exercise that’s helping?

“Every morning I do yoga and meditation for about 30 minutes. But for really getting fit, I love Pilates. It’s been super-helpful in my dressage. I’ll usually stream a YouTube video, and my favorite is Jessica Valant Pilates. She has one that focuses on your posture that has helped a lot in the saddle.”

If you had to be quarantined with two other eventers or figures from any point in history, who would you choose and why?

“I’d probably choose my two best friends, Maxine Preston and Tyler Held, who are eventers, and we’d have a great time together. We’d never be bored, and we’d probably come up with some great ideas for when the pandemic is over.”

What do you think makes eventing such a great equestrian sport?

“The community! I know it sounds kind of clichéd, but we all really do want the best for each other. It’s not a cut-throat sport. We all want to do well, but we also want our fellow competitors to do well. It’s a tough sport, and everybody’s trying to do their best, and it’s nice that your fellow competitors are typically willing to lend a hand. 

“Also, when you think about the number of people involved with each horse and rider who event, it’s really mind-blowing, all the people involved, It’s good to be part of something that’s bigger than yourself.”

How do you think your equestrian life has contributed to who you are today?
“It’s been such a big part of my identity for basically my whole life; I started riding at a young age and was fortunate to grow up on a horse farm from middle school on. I learned how to be responsible and care for something other than myself, so that’s pretty deeply woven into my identity.

“My parents also never bought me a made horse, so I had to put in the time to bring my horses to the level I wanted. I think because of this I’ve always been drawn to potential, both in horses and in people, and I’ve always believed that with hard work and dedication, you can bring out the best in something.”

Got any good movie or book recommendations for people stuck at home?

“I really like personal-development books and biographies, because I like hearing other people’s stories. The book I just finished is Get Out of Your Own Way by Dave Hollis. It’s basically about understanding your limiting beliefs and what’s holding you back, and how to break through them. He tells it in a fun way. It’s personal and relatable. I really connected with the book, and it hit home for me.”

 

 

Rider: Ashley Kehoe

Horse: Kiltealy Toss Up

#HomeWithHorses in: Lexington, Ky.

Ashley Kehoe, who had been preparing for her first LRK3DE with Kiltealy Toss Up (a.k.a. Tosca), is literally riding out the shutdown from her base of operations at Olympic jumper Sharn Wordley’s facility near Lexington, Ky.

“We’re all kind of bummed about missing Land Rover, but, to be honest, it hasn’t slowed me down a lot,” said Kehoe, who has her own training business. “I still train every day, and I don’t need to gallop and jump big jumps every day. Even the little things with dressage, you can always make progress on those.”
With competition on hold, Kehoe and Kiltealy Toss Up, whose barn name is Tosca, were fine-tuning their dressage when we caught up with them by phone. “I have a dressage ring here and have been working on my flying changes with him,” Kehoe, 33, said. “My days are pretty normal, but I have more time to work out, so I’ve been doing a lot of strength training, fitness, cross-training, and running. At least when the events do come around, I’ll be a lot stronger and fitter.”

Tell us about Tosca. What’s he like?
“He’s definitely the most unique Advanced horse I’ve ever known! Honestly, if he were a person he’d be the kid who likes to play soccer and be part of the team, but doesn't see the benefit in practicing everyday. He'd rather be on the couch playing video games. That’s his personality.

“He’s not an overachiever, by any means! He’s talented, you just have to drag it out of him.

“As a trainer, I have to keep things interesting for him so he doesn’t get bored. We do a lot of cavaletti work and a lot of fitness. I play upbeat music when we dressage, and I have a lot of treats that I carry.”

How do you think the eventing athlete mindset is helping you get through this period?

“Eventers as a breed are usually quite determined. I see the quarantine as a setback, but it also means I have more time to prepare and get even better on the flat! We spend so much time galloping and jumping, I always feel like we’re playing catch-up with our dressage. 

“With each horse, I pick what I want to focus on each week, have a plan, and then hold myself accountable. I’m very goal-oriented, so I’ve just shifted my goals slightly from competing to something smaller like nailing a specific movement.”

If you had to be quarantined in a house with two other eventers from any point in history, who would they be and why?

“I’d definitely go with Mark Todd and Lucinda Green. They're legends and I know they would have some amazing stories. They're both incredibly inspiring people.”

Who is your eventing hero and why?

“I have two: Mary King and Ingrid Klimke. Mary King because I remember when she came first and second at the Kentucky Three-Day in 2011. She won with her home-bred horse [Kings Temptress]. That was amazing, to be able to breed a horse and train it all the way up to the top level and win. And she was almost 50. I'm 33, so that gives me hope!

“Ingrid Klimke is also an incredible athlete and horseman. To be at the Olympic level in both eventing and dressage is amazing. When I lived in Germany in 2015, I saw her grooming for her daughter at a small horse trials I was also competing at. When we pulled our trailer up, there she was, pulling the shavings out of her pony’s tail. It was a true testament to how much she loves the horses and the sport.”

Now that we’re all staying #HomeWithHorses, what’s your recommended reading?

“I love the book Riding Logic by Wilhelm Müseler, and I also love Ingrid Klimke’s Training Horses the Ingrid Klimke Way. She’s a horse person, and she tries to figure out what each horse needs and how to motivate it by keeping the work interesting and not drilling it too much. I try to emulate that.”

It must be an interesting challenge to figure out how to motivate Tosca.

“Yes, it definitely can be. I love him, because he’s very honest and has a huge heart, but it makes my job part cheerleader and part drill sergeant. I’m always like, ‘No, you have to do this! You have to do your homework!’ But then he always delivers at competitions when it matters."

What do you think makes eventing such a special sport?

“The relationships between the riders and their horses. Seeing the partnerships doing incredible things, testing their abilities as athletes, is what makes it so special.”

What would you tell a first-time eventing spectator to watch for?

“Watch for the horses who prick their ears cross-country and skillfully navigate a hard combination of jumps. Those are the special ones. You’ll see others who might not read the combinations or might not be as mentally sharp or have the quick reflexes to stay out of trouble. There’s nothing cooler than watching a horse that loves its job cross-country at the top level. When you see the horses lock on, you can see they really love their job.’”

 

To learn more about eventing, visit US Equestrian’s eventing page and the United States Eventing Association.