My very first event

This was my very first cross country course. Don't you love that "approved" helmet! You can't tell from the photo but it was bright blue.

My mother was scanning old photos and she sent me this one. It’s from my very first event ever, which makes it about 1983-84. I was riding a horse that I half leased for a couple of years, a 5 year old Hannovarian/TB cross called Dudley. The venue was Pleasant Hollow Farms in Coopersburg, Penn. A farm that sadly closed its doors a few years ago.

Neither he nor I had ever jumped XC fences before but he proved to be surprisingly game. In fact, I had a blast with this horse.

The way I found him was one of those serendipitous situations that generally only happen among horse people.

After I graduated from college I went to work in Coopersburg. I had ridden a bit while in college but had no prospects for starting again. I wanted to wear an old pair of field boots with skirts so I stopped into a tack store to get them stretched. While there, one of the owners of the store asked me if I wanted to ride her horse. When I found out he was stabled only a few minutes from where I worked, of course I said yes. It seemed like a nice gesture on her part to offer her horse to a stranger!

Dudley was pretty green when I started riding him. He had a neat trick of hurling himself against the wall of the indoor when he got mad or frustrated so you could hear us from a long way off. The “thump”, “thump”, was a dead giveaway. But I loved having  a horse to ride again and it gave me something to do in a place where I still had very few friends. I loved the barn where he was boarded. It is still (I hear from my saddle fitter) owned by the same family and it was gorgeous. I loved the trainer there and I had an instant set of friends with the same obsession. Soon I was riding daily and Dudley and I were both getting into shape.

The barn was an eventing barn. I’d never jumped real xc fences but remember, this was back in the days when some hunter shows still had outside courses that were — gasp — not in a ring. I didn’t think it could be that different. Of course I was wrong, but I found out when I was already on course.

Dudley learned to jump about five weeks before that photo was taken. We started him in a jumping shoot and then over a few cross rails. Then my trainer got on him and jumped him over a roll top and a few other fences. He never really questioned it and I cheerfully signed up for the event.

Actually the event was a lot of fun. We had a clean xc round but one stop in stadium which knocked us down from first place to, I think, sixth. Still for our first time out, I was both pleased and completely hooked.

I rode Dudley and competed him for the next 18 months or. He and I had a great time and even went to North Carolina to compete in the Area championships. Unfortunately, I eventually moved out of the area and was not able to take a horse with me so he went on to his next career as a children’s hunter. I am still grateful to the owner of that tack store who shared her horse with me. I can’t think of any better way to have spent my early 20s than learning how to event with him.

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