Ultimate Highs and Tragic Lows

Martha and Gaelic Marriage at Rebecca Farm 2011

Anyone who can compete at a level higher than myself is an idol to me. Anyone who can qualify for and compete at their first Rolex at the age of 50 years young is a hero to me. Martha McDowell became one of my heroes last year when I read her story. Hailing from Billings, Montana, which does not immediately pop to mind at the though of upper level eventing, she and her TB gelding, Gaelic Marriage moved up the ranks successfully after she found him in 2004 and finally competed at their first 4* event last year at Rolex. Unfortunately, they were eliminated on cross country, but that is not the point of this story. My point is, she had the determination and ambition to go for the top level and she made her dreams come true with her horse of a lifetime.

Gaelic Marriage was euthanized at the beginning of March after battling a post-surgical infection for a fractured patella sustained at Galway. My heart broke for Martha – truly it is a tragic loss to have to endure the death of any partner or pet, but the death of your horse of a lifetime is not something anyone deserves.

Today, the news broke that a fire has destroyed Martha’s barn, killing some 19 horses. Eventing Nation broke the news just┬áminutes ago. It certainly seems that 2012 is not starting out the best for High Plains Farm, and after the endless tragedy that befell the Martins last year, it’s hard not to think of the long recovery road that Martha has ahead of her.

However, the eventing community is a strong one. There are few people more resilient than eventers, and this is a fact proven on a daily basis. I have full faith that Martha and her team will recover from the tragedies that have come their way and emerge on the other side stronger and braver than ever. In the meantime, be on the lookout for fundrasing opportunities to help the High Plains team get back on their feet.

Update: Montana Equestrian Events has begun fundraising efforts to help Martha and her staff and boarding family. Visit this link to donate!


We love you, Martha!

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Getting ready for Kentucky!

I can’t believe that my favorite time of year is right around the corner! I feel like it was only yesterday that I was experiencing premature withdrawal from Rolex as we were driving back after the awards ceremony. This year, a few girlfriends from the barn are coming with me, some of them for the first time. There is nothing I love more than first timers at Rolex! We are driving up on Thursday night and we got passes for Friday to watch some dressage, shop, and go on the Practical Horseman course walk with Jim Wofford. We also have a tour scheduled at the beautiful Three Chimneys Farm, home to racing heavyweights Big Brown, Dynaformer, and Point Given. And of course, Saturday is cross country day!!! Insert happy dance here. Seriously, there is nothing better than cross country in Kentucky. I heard some sad news that Boyd Martin has withdrawn his veteran campaigner, Ying Yang Yo, because of an eye injury that kept him out of The Fork as well. I was so excited to see this horse go in person. But. Horse comes first!

The last time Ying Yang Yo competed at the 4* level, this happened

Either way, though, it should be a fantastic weekend. I plan on updating nightly and possibly from my phone as well, so be prepared for picture and video overload!

More later! Onward and eastward!

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Farewell, Amy

Amy and Poggio II - ex-mountain horse!

This is a bit late, and it is unfortunate that this post is even necessary, but the awful fact is that it is. Amy Tryon left us with only her legacy on April 12, passing away in her sleep with her dogs by her side. I got my first inkling on Facebook when a post from Lainey Ashker popped up on my timeline about being devasted over Amy’s death. Praying it wasn’t the Amy that we all know and love, I scrolled down farther to confirm my fear, seeing a picture Lainey had posted of herself and Amy at an event. My next stop was Eventing Nation, which had the full release up.

Amy Tryon was one of the first names that I learned when I first began studying eventing. Usually, you tend to remember the names and faces of those who have had some sort of impact on your life in the early stages of whatever it is you are working toward. Amy was one of those names, and I always searched for her name on the Rolex entry lists and devoured every bit of news I could find on her. I was not up on the news when the whole Le Samurai incident occurred, but I have seen the video and I tend to lean towards her side of the story – yes, the horse is clearly lame before that last fence, but I would venture a guess that it is next to impossible to pull up a 4* horse when it is pumped full of adrenile and locked onto a big galloping fence. I believe that attempting to pull him up would have resulted in a crash and further injury to both Amy and Le Samurai. But, that isn’t the point. The point with that story is that the public and media will spin whatever story they want, quick to point fingers and armchair quarterback through the whole debacle. Unfortunately, Amy’s reputation seems to have suffered from the backlash. Personally, I admired Amy. She worked hard for her career, and she had a greatly successful career to show for all of that effort. Poggio was one of the greatest event horses to ever grace the podiums and Amy deserved everything she earned with him.

I attended Rolex for the first time in a few years in 2010. My boyfriend and I left our house at 2 am and drove straight through to Lexington, stopping only for breakfast and to let the dog out to stretch his legs. The purpose of this all night drive was to make it to the Horse Park in time for the Smartpak sponsered coursewalk led by Amy Tryon and Allison Springer. We arrived at the park only a few minutes before the walk was scheduled to start, so we booked it to the Smartpak tent to register and then to the start box, where the walk was just getting underway. Amy and Allison did a wonderful job with the coursewalk despite the chilly, drizzly weather.

The only photo I have from the coursewalk with Amy and Allison, Rolex 2010

Later that weekend, Amy and Leyland went out on course. I was standing with my boyfriend and dog at the rope at one of the earlier fences in the course. It was a combination jump, and the out was a large brush that required a hard, 90 degree right turn directly towards the ropes and back out onto the galloping lane. We were positioned directly on the line from that turn to the rope, and Amy came through the combination and headed straight for us. My dog was only a few months old at the time – maybe 3 months? So this was a very big deal for him. He had never seen a horse until this moment, and having no idea what this very large, very fast beast galloping straight toward him was, let out a mighty albeit slightly WTF bark. The spectators standing near us laughed as Brody craned his head as far to the left as he could without falling into the galloping lane so that he could watch Leyland gallop away. This moment is not much, but it is now the last memory I have of Amy and I will always cherish it. I had attached sentiment with it simply for the fact that it was Brody’s first horse sighting, but now it means so much more.

Amy will forever be fondly remembered in my book. She was a hardworking professional with an illustrious career that anyone would envy. Her legacy will never fade, and you can find myself and my friends wearing green ribbons on cross country day this year at Rolex in her honor.

Rest in peace, Amy.



A great article on Amy’s background here.

Amy Tryon Eventing

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What Rolex Means to Me

What Rolex Means to Me


Eventing Nation is basically my Bible. I read this site religiously, and recently they began publishing reader submissions about the meaning of Rolex. I decided to go ahead and submit a post, and they published it this morning! I will use this as an extention of my introductory post.

Onward and eastward!

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Well, the time has finally come for me to write my obligatory introduction post. I will try to keep it short and sweet. Essentially, I started this blog to chronicle my love for the sport that is eventing. I’ve had a consuming obsession with the sport since I was a teenager, and that obsession has grown into a lifelong goal of competing at the highest level. I will touch on a lot of reasons why I love the sport throughout future blog posts, and I hope that you as well will learn to appreciate, respect, and love eventing.

A bit a bout me! I hail from St. Louis, MO, where I have lived for the vast majority of my 26 years. I was adopted from South Korea, and I think my horse obsession came as part of the package since I did not grow up around horses. In fact, I’m pretty sure my parents are both quite resentful of the species after seeing the bills for all of the lessons and shows that they were saddled with (pun intended, of course). I did not actually start seriously riding until I was 13. At the time, I was fascinated by dressage, but mostly because jumping kind of frightened me and dressage seemed like a good alternative. I am thankful for the fact that I got my start in dressage, however, because it later became apparent that dressage is THE founding principle on which you want to build your riding. More on this in a future post. A few months after I began riding at the lovely Town and Country Equestrian Center in St. Louis, a new hunter/jumper trainer was hired. I remember shaking in my paddock boots when I first heard her giving lessons. My trainer was very correct and strict in her lessons, but I had never heard yelling. The first time I heard the new trainer yell, I wrote her off as a mean lady who wants to make people cry. After awhile though, the jumping bug got the best of me and I started taking lessons from both the jumper and the dressage trainers. Lo and behold, new trainer was actually not a mean lady who liked to yell, but rather just a very knowledgeable and thorough instructor who just happened to have a very loud voice and a personality to match! I was hooked.

I am forever grateful for the instruction I received during my time with both of these phenomonal trainers. I completed high school at this barn and was able to lease several horses and really hone my riding skills while I figured out what I wanted to focus on. Eventing? Was not at the top of my list. We were fortunuate enough to stable directly across the street from the only cross country venue in the St. Louis area, and we took the opportunity to go over and school as often as possible. I never really got the eventing bug, though, and just kind of played around in the local events.

One of my lease rides, Leo, and I getting ready to compete at the Queeny Park Horse Trials - c, 2003

I won’t touch too much on this next part of the story since that is following in the next post!

Anyway, I went to college at the University of Georgia in 2004 and was accepted onto the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association team there. I competed at the Novice level and again and eternally grateful for the opportunities that this team afforded me. There, I learned how to catch ride. You literally draw a horse’s name, walk to the arena, get on, adjust your stirrups and away you go. I learned countless amounts of information about being able to ride whatever horse you are put on, and I try to apply this knowledge to my riding today.

My UGA IHSA team! Fall 2004 after a competition at Berry College

My riding career has also included a few hiatuses. My parents finally threw in the towel on the financial support in my second year of college, so I cooled it with the team since I was unable to afford the dues on my own. I would come back over breaks and ride with my original hunter/jumper trainer, but I found that this was also difficult to pay for on my own. So I ended up with a couple 1 year+ breaks.

3 years ago, I was living in St. Louis again and, on a whim, looked up a local barn that I’d heard about on Google Maps and wandered over there. As soon as I pulled up, a thought occurred to me: “I could really be happy here.” And I was home. I spent 3 very happy years there. There was a resident hunter/jumper trainer there, and I trained with her and was able to ride and lease several nice horses during my time there. She is also the one who found me the horse who I thought I would have for the rest of my life. I learned a lot and made some of the best friends I will ever have there. Recently, the trainer there moved to a new facility, which has worked out wonderfully for her. I briefly followed her there, but my financial messiness was starting to catch up with me and I found that I had bitten off way more than I could chew. I was forced to cut way back on board, training, etc. and found myself losing everything. The past 6 months are extremely painful for me to even think about, mostly because I know that everything was my doing.Icould have made better decisions andIcould have prevented the mess, but I didn’t.

My beautiful boy, Sutton aka Rock and Republic, who I only recently gave up. I miss him every day. Summer 2011

And that brings me to today. I’ve ventured back to my original trainer, knowing that she does a lot of event training and has horses that will teach me. I am currently preparing for a jumper show in May and will just kind of see what her schedule is like and how I am doing in training to map out the rest of the year. I have both time and financial constraints that prevent me from training full time, but I am still able to ride twice a week. I feel stronger and healthier than I did a month ago when I went back to her, and I am happy. There is a very sizable hole in my heart where my old life used to be, but I am slowly but surely working to fill that hole with my hopes and dreams for the future.

And that is a not so brief introduction! I hope you enjoy my blog. I hope to eventually be posting from Kentucky Horse Park as I get ready for my first go-round at Rolex, but in the meantime I am going to use this as a platform to express my love for the sport as well as chronicle my journey to The Start Box.

The start box for Rolex Kentucky, my lifelong goal. One day you will see me galloping away en route to my first 4* cross country round!

Til next time!

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