Sunday was a day that never rose out of freezing temperatures, with gale force winds that would knock the breath out of your body. Luckily, I got to spend much of it indoors at the Area I Annual Meeting, held in Springfield, MA!
It's been a long time since I've been to an Annual Meeting, and I can tell you, it will be a long time before I miss another one. Regardless of the awards (which, of course, is always a great goal), the education, camaraderie and friendships that grow and flourish by seeing each other in the dead of winter just gives me a sense of community and support, whether I was speaking with a Young Rider, Adult Amateur or professional - all of whom gather to share ideas, hear about progress and tasks that need to be done for the 2012 season, and, the best part - educate ourselves. While eating cake. That never hurts.
One of the major highlights of the day was catching up with young rider gal pal Katie Murphy, who I hadn't seen in years. Literally - years! College, careers, distance and injuries led us down different paths for more than a decade, and catching up with her was the icing on the cake for an otherwise fantastic day. Since we both have young horses, we're hoping to meet up more often at events, clinics, and schoolings! (I also asked her if it was appropriate to register for an air vest for my baby shower....she thought it was a good idea. I tend to agree with her!)
I had the opportunity to sit in on the Organizer's Meeting, which was enlightening and fun to be a part of - rubbing elbows with people I respect, volunteer for, and wave hello to on my way to the dressage arena. What fascinated me the most was the orchestration of the 2013 Area I calendar - the coordination, communication and planning that makes for a streamlined and fair season for all events, and competitors, around the region.
The working 2013 calendar - before the hard work began!
Another very exciting announcement was from Louise Meryman, a very well-respected upper level eventer and coach in our area. In conjunction with NYRA, all New York events in Area I will be a part of a prize program for off-the-track Thoroughbreds! Imagine my excitement when I chatted with Louise about it, and her excitement was apparent as we chattered about getting the movement to spread to other states and other regions. The racing industry is really beginning to realize that Eventing is the ideal sport for so many of the Thoroughbreds that leave the track for a new career.
Outgoing Area I Chair Katherine Cooper speaking, with incoming Chair Heidi Beaumont in the foreground
The General Meeting was a year in review, announcements such as the location of the Area I Championships (awarded to the incomparable Fitch's Corner for the second year), and the Adult Team Challenge at Town Hill (my personal goal, with a new member of the family cheering us on).
What resonated most to me, was what guest speaker Peter Gray said to a young lady who asked how to get to the top of our sport:
"Love your horse."
Peter Gray, Olympian and former Canadian Olympic Coach
His point was to take your time with your horse, and not to rush through the levels. Be mindful of footing, training techniques, and taking the easy way out, because it will be a detriment to you and your horse in the long run. In his quiet, unassuming way, he had us roaring with laughter with understated comments on XC riding technique, both positive and negative.
At the end of the day, it was the kick in the pants I needed to continue furthering my education - even if I can't do all of it this year in the saddle. Well, I could, but my doctors probably wouldn't like it very much. I can read books, I can audit clinics, I can volunteer at events - all of it benefits me, my horses, and my students. Win/ win/ win.