Here is the recap of the Winona Horse Trials. The month of April was the wettest April on record which put us way behind schedule on course preparation. Fortunately the farm has great drainage with good soil and we only needed a few days of dry weather for conditions to be near perfect. Finally we got almost a week of beautiful dry weather and we were golden. These last week saw us frantically mowing, put fences in place, replacing old fences, building new fences, aerating, put footing around as a precaution if it should be needed, placed more gravel in the parking area and the list goes on. Although there were odds and ends to finish up the farm was ready to welcome their guests and provide them and their horses with a good competition and an enjoyable weekend. Even with rain on Thurs evening the farm and the footing was still in good shape on Fri. until the storms arrived on Fri afternoon.
The competition started with 13 young horses (yearlings to three year olds) for the Future Event Horse classes. There were several delays due to thunder and lightening. At one point we sent everyone for cover in the near by stabling barn while we waited it out. They finally were able to finish in the rain about an hour behind schedule. They are all definitely great event prospects as the boldly trotted through massive puddles and for the most part very well behaved youngsters many of which traveled more than 6 hours just for this class!
|Watching the FEH classes from the cover of the tent|
After the youngsters finished I still had work to do and while I was down in the stadium area I got my first look at how much the stream had swollen with the Fri. afternoon rain. This was not good, but I though if it didn't rain anymore we might still be OK, after all cross country wasn't until Sunday. So I continued to try to get some final course preparations done until torrential rains forced me back for cover. Drenched to the bone (fortunately it was still warm) I hung out with Penne (the secretary) and friends Karen and Nancy. That's when it the reality finally hit and I knew that, with more rain predicted, we had to cancel the cross country for the safety of all of the horses and riders. Only once before in the 27 years of running events, mini trials, clinics and hunter paces have we had to cancel even a portion of a scheduled activity. I remember then feeling like I had been stood up at the alter. All the preparation done, all the high hopes, all the guests have arrived, all the money being spent and bam, the big event doesn't happen!
|The Preliminary ditch before it went completely over the top and washed away ALL of the footing|
Like all of the competitors we were extremely disappointed (that's an understatement) that the riders and horses weren't able to enjoy the cross country courses. Having been on the competitor end of such a situation I can appreciate their frustration. Dave and I were determined to be able to provide those competitors who came the best competition possible in the safest conditions. As after examining the stadium course and actually having Kevin ride his horse on it to see how the ground would hold with a horse on it the decision was made to move the stadium course after the completion of dressage.
To get the word out announcements were made, text messages were sent, and a meeting was held during the lunch break to discuss our plans. While we had a group together we served birthday cake to celebrate Stone Gate Farms 25th birthday to kick of the year long celebration (not quite what we had envisioned) and held the raffle drawing where a $25 gift card to Big Dees along with a SGF hat bag, personal cooler and a water bottle. Sweets and prizes always help to make things a little better. Of course the warm and dry conditions didn't hurt either. So we made our plea for competitors to meet us at 3:00 to make the change.
During lunch break I walked around the dressage ring trying to figure out how we were going to fit Leigh Fischer's great courses into the two dressage rings. I was pleased that we were going to be able to fit it all in except for one jump that was only used for two divisions anyway. Too facilitate quick course changes it was decided to run the same track with a few modifications for the various levels. While dressage was still going on Dave and a great bunch of volunteers loaded up all the standards and rails so as soon as the last horse finished dressage we were able to move right in. While Dave was giving the judge's car a jump to get it out of the ring the riders and volunteers were putting the dressage rings away; I laid out the course. Then we got busy putting rails and standards where they needed to go. It was a sight to be seen with everyone pitching in and making fast work of it all. While the TD Muffin Pantaze measured distances, competitors walked the course and I dragged the rings; Dave and his crew went back and got all the gates, boxes, wishing wells. Muffin suggested that we pull in a portable cross country fence for the riders to finish on just for fun. So Kyle got the Pink Panther (a rusted out Geo Tracker) the pull a few portables to the rings and by 4:10 we were ready to start the first horse.
For the first time all weekend I finally began to relax and enjoy the competition a little. The course was riding great, the riders were appreciative for the opportunity to jump on good footing and the sun was shinning! For a brief moment I wondered if I had made the right decision about canceling cross country, but then the predicted ominous clouds began to roll in and we had to hustle the last few riders into the ring and finished the show jumping just minutes before the skies opened up yet again.
|Putting the finishing touches on the Starter Course|
My mother always taught me that "when you're handed a lemon, you made lemonade". I think we managed to do that this weekend and I am convinced more than ever that Eventers and those involved in the sport of eventing are the absolutely best people on earth. Another thing that my mother taught me is that you have to keep everything in perspective. Compared to all they other hardships so many people are going through across the country due to weather related disasters; canceling cross country is trivial.
We realize that for those who have traveled some distance that an offer for cross country schooling doesn't do you much good but we do hope that you will come back again some time and believe me when I say that in the 25 years that we have lived here, this is the wettest that our farm has ever been!!
Many thanks to all of our great volunteers especially my secretary Penne Colao who was sicker than a dog and was still here to do her job, to all of the riders and their friends who were so understanding and supportive and finally to Mother Nature. Yes you heard me right, because it could have be cold & wet and all day on Sat and we wouldn't have been able to salvage anything out of the weekend.
|Overflowing water jump and uprooted bush|
We hope you'll join us for our fall event.
Dave, Jackie, Kyle and Kevin
PS Brant said that she and Pete got some great pics and that they will be posted soon