As I sit here thinking about what I need to pack for my journey to Wellington, FL (aka Welly or Wellyworld), home of the Winter Equestrian Festival (aka WEF), I can’t help but be hit by a plethora of emotions. I run the gamut of feeling: insanely excited, stupid nervous, out of my mind grateful and a little bit out of my element.
It’s not my first time at WEF. But I like to think it’s my first time actually EXPERIENCING it in it’s entirety.
When I was a junior I went to WEF one weekend over school break because I was with my family in FL visiting my grandparents who lived in Jupiter. My trainer lined up a couple of catch rides for me so I could get a taste of what showing there was like. To tell you the truth I don’t remember much besides one memory that is forever burned into my mind: I fell off in front of Bruce Springsteen who my mom had somehow made friends with after tripping over him while making her way to the seating to watch me in a junior jumper class. Once realizing it was me, dear old Bruce ran into the ring with my mom to make sure I was okay (I was, the only thing really bruised was my ego.) Besides the embarrassing fall and Bruce-to-the-rescue episode, I recall having a really good banana Nutella crepe from some food vendor. Who knows if they’re still there – it was over a decade ago and I hear things have changed since then, which wouldn’t surprise me, because I mean I left the riding world familiar with non-stretchy, hot wool coats, pull on boots and button on show shirt collars that would always go missing about 15 minutes before a class. I re-entered 10 years later to a world of shockingly technical Lulu Lemon-esq stretchy show coats and collar-included shirts, zip up tall boots and memory gel half pads. The times had changed.
Luckily I’ve gotten to ride at a handful of other A shows since I jumped back into the horse world (after updating my showing wardrobe, don’t worry) so I do feel somewhat prepared for the caliber of riding that is needed to put in a respectable round. Hopefully I can pull through and deliver, but we’ll see, weird things can happen in the show ring when nerves make our alter-egos emerge. Additionally, Cam and Tater have one up on me, since both showed at WEF last winter. I’m hoping they’ll have a bit of memory retention and help get me through my first weekend as I learn the in-and-outs of the rings.
As for adulting, I’ll be flying back and forth for work. We’re currently renovating a 1920s colonial as our first flip project and have a couple of clients but luckily the northeast winter market is generally quiet, so I’m very fortunate to have the time to focus on riding. I have to admit, after battling the past two CT winters with Donny I am doing an inner happy dance thinking about hacking in the sunshine and only worrying about bundling up & shoveling out my car from snow when I’m home.
Aside from getting the opportunity to ride, I think what I’m most excited for are all of the learning opportunities I’ll have just by walking around and observing. Where else can you watch top hunter riders navigate tricky handy rounds and the best FEI show jumpers in the world warm up for a class? One of the things I love about this sport is there is no ceiling: you can constantly learn and grow as a rider, and I plan to use my time in FL doing just that.
I’ll be showing Cam and Tater in the younger AO’s (3’6” Amateur Owner Hunters.) We kick off with weeks 2&3 on Saturday Jan 19th, so I’ll be sure to post an update on how that goes. Until then, I’m going to try to stop staring at my suitcase and pack because as hard as it is for me to believe, this is really happening and I kind of need some clothes down there.