I haven`t commented much since our USET squad didn`t get it done in London, but I`ve been trying to think of what to say to the very good aspiring riders in eventing who might be thinking that the USET is too big a mountain to climb. Too many mountains, maybe. Million dollar horses, strings of horses, trips to Europe, so much that`s so daunting and so out of reach for good riders without those elusive “owners”.
So forget all that. Stop making yourselves crazy with impossible dreams and start dreaming an impossible dream that actually can come true for the best of you. That possible impossible dream is called Rolex.
There are, what, 25,000 of you out there who event at some level in North America, from pre minnow/guppy/trot rail/ all the way to Four Star? And how many of you ride around Rolex on a very good year for North American riders, maybe 50, which is really pushing it. So 50 out of 25,000 is one out of 500, or 1/5th of 1%. Math whiz I`m not, but a very tiny minority, right?
So don`t think you have to be a USET Star (Or a Canadian Team Star) to be a Superstar, but you DO have to be good enough to go to Rolex, that`s the bad news. But the good news vastly outweighs the bad news. Here are some of the things you DO NOT have to have or be to get to Rolex:
You don`t have to be born rich. You don`t have to have some mega rich sponsor. You don`t have to travel outside of the USA, except maybe to Canada, which is like the USA in every respect except that they speak French, say “Eh” (In English), and fight at hockey games. You don`t have to spend a gazillion dollars for a Mr. Medicott or an Otis Barbotiere, or a Land Vision, or a Biosthetique Sam. You don`t have to ride like William, or Mark or Michael, or Mary or even like a German. You don`t need to travel from the east coast on an airplane to ride in Montana. You don`t need a string of fabulous horses.
Here`s what you DO need. Talent. At least some talent, not maybe Mary King talent, and you don`t have to be Bill Steinkraus/Kathy Kusner reincarnated over the jumps, Mike Plumb/Bruce Davidson on cross country, or Reiner Klimke in dressage. But you can`t be hopeless!! You don`t have to win dressage, but they shouldn`t actually, you know, laugh at you. And you can have a rail or two (or three), on a bad day.
You DO need fierce resolve. Why are there so many African American boxers, Hispanic jockeys, kids from the “wrong side of the tracks” at the top of so many sports? They are HUNGRY, that`s why. You need to be that fierce and hungry, too.
You DO need a tough, brave, sound good jumper, but he/she can be a $5,000. off the track thoroughbred, or the product of a good North American breeder who raises great babies in her “back yard” so to speak. Those horses are out there, and you need to start hunting. You absolutely need MILEAGE, but it can be North American mileage, or even local mileage, not overseas mileage, despite what you hear. (“To ride your best, it is necessary to move to Europe, and test yourself against the highest possible standard.” ) The hell with that BS. It`s too expensive, and you can get it done right here at home. BUT—-You DO have to ride lots of horses, (but they can be just ok horses), you DO have to be a tough, fit, buffed athlete, you DO have to not `effin bounce at the sitting trot, you DO have to be gutsy, you DO have to see some semblance of a distance to a fence, and you DO have to have already struggled your way through preliminary, at least, and maybe also have some mileage at the intermediate level.
Then start grinding your way toward going advanced. You can do this, many of you. I know this. I watch you. You DO HAVE WHAT IT TAKES, but you have to start believing that you do.
I am convinced that the riders who will put the USA (and Canada) back on the podium, most of them, are kids from 18-30, not yet in the league where they hope to be, but hungry and driven enough to start thinking that Rolex might be in their gun- sights, maybe not now, but out there waiting. And on North American horses, trained in North America. THEN—-Once you can nail down Rolex, and only then, should you start thinking USET. Make a priority list that ends with galloping through the finish flags at Rolex. This can then be a glorious ending, or a starting point. Either way, go there first.