Let me start out by sending my condolences to Arden Wildasin and Michael Pollard. Losing an animal one loves and cares for daily is beyond gut wrenching. I hope their teams are fairing well. SPHT II has always been one of my favorite places to compete, and even after a tough weekend for some, it still is. I have ridden there for years on multiple horses, and while the courses are true to the level, they are fair with plenty of options. And like I said three years ago in a write up for the Chronicle, Marc Donovan is an outstanding show jumping course designer. His tracks are well built, with lines that require you to be precise and make decisions. I have always left the ring either happy, or with a clear understanding of what I need to improve on. I am sure many riders this weekend will feel the same.
As I woke up this morning better rested than yesterday, I find myself thanking my lucky stars Stewie and Boyd are safe and sound. No matter how successful the horse and rider are, there is always a chance of a mistake. And unfortunately, as you go up the levels, the room for error becomes very minimal. Boyd felt he moved up too much to a large oxer, and Stewie did not read it right. They had a crashing fall, which I pray would never happen to anyone. Seeing Boyd on the ground and Stewie a bit shaken was terrible. People who know me understand how much I love this little horse. They also understand how much respect I have for Boyd as a rider and horseman. I too have made mistakes as a rider, and will make more before my career is done. That is the nature of sport.
As an instructor that teaches all levels, I have always made sure my students know the sport of eventing is filled with ups and downs. But what makes a good competitor is how they handle their downs. Like my dad told me after a very dismal year I had in 2002, "Holly, get up, dust yourself off, and get back on!" This week Stewie and Boyd will do the same, and will be better for it at the Fork in two weeks.
Remember to love your animals the best you can, and horse show is just that. A horse show. What was driven home to me personally this weekend was how much I love Stewie, and at the end of the day, what is truly important is the safety of our horses. No result, ribbon, trophy, or prize should ever replace that.