I had planned to venture down to the Winter Equestrian Festival since last February when I had a meeting with my trainer and parents. However, I have dreamed of going for many more years. So when I began traveling to WEF in January I was finally struck with the realization that I am actually going. I give my parents tremendous credit for pulling this trip off; there are so many small seemingly insignificant details that truly take significant effort to make happen. There were many steps that had to happen before finally deciding we could do this.
Riding is one of the most expensive sports out there, and it's a reality most people have to figure out how to live with. I knew this would be a stretch for us to pull off once I factored in tutoring, apartment rental, training with Anne Kursinski, horse show fees and much more. Instead of feeling guilty that my parents had given me this opportunity, I decided I would soak in every last drop of education I could, making my one month mean something much more than it could to others. I planned on going above and beyond expectations. For example, instead of just having lessons with Anne I reached out and asked if I could help during her other lessons or training rides or even at the show. There is so much to learn on the ground, in horsemanship and even riding. For me, visualizing the ride is first and the feeling comes once I see it in my head. Therefore, being able to watch her teach others, and ride herself, I was able to soak in the education more effectively.
Being a first time WEF rider felt a little intimidated as I traveled down to Florida and wondered what was to come. One of my first observations on my daily drive from my apartment in Palm Beach Gardens to Anne’s farm in Wellingtons was that Welly World is in a bubble. Before coming down all I knew about WEF was from people’s experiences they shared with me, videos of riding online, pictures, and of course people’s snapchats sharing their WEF Lifestyle. I’m sure seeing as I was only there for a month there were some little things I missed out on but I tried to experience it all. I now realize I was probably staying at one of the nicest barns around because it was right across from the show getting full service care for Chaz so it could be a very different experience than others. I think I would have had a stronger attachment to it if I was able to care for Chaz myself, but because I only rode him and watched others ride I felt guilty not caring for him. I repeatedly reminded myself that I came down here to further my riding development and put the horsemanship care of the horse aside for a moment. At all my regular horse shows I take care of the horse myself, with of course the tremendous help of my trainer. I really love the whole horse show experience of doing most things myself because the feeling you get from placing in your class is even more amazing! If I went back down next year I would do things a little different, taking care of Chaz myself, but I appreciate having the ability to experience the top service my first time down. I now understand how it all works for most of the riders down there who stay Thursday - Sunday and fly back home each week for school and fly back down for the long weekend of competing. It’s a whole new world...a Welly World bubble.
One of the weirdest feelings ever was waiting at the show ring reviewing my course in my head while I saw Chaz being walked to the ring by one of the wonderful grooms at Anne’s barn. I think Chaz and I were both a little confused our first couple weeks here, when I greeted him with treats in his stall he had the expression on his face like he was anticipating I was coming back in with something like ice wraps, or liniment, or to take his braids out. On the other hand, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to sleep past 5am on a horse show morning, not ruin my white breeches before I compete, and actually being awake enough to do homework later than day! Much to my surprise, I kept my academics on track with the help of Upper Echelon Academy, and I even improved my grades in some classes.
It's important to experience other’s riding philosophies so you can take all of that information and shape it into your own riding philosophies. I believe the best trainers are the ones that still have the mind of a student, always wanting to absorb other’s ideas and having the desire to progress the education of themselves and others. I have absorbed immense information from Anne and taken away what I think holds true to what I believe in key in riding and horsemanship. My style and philosophies of riding are continually changing as I gain more knowledge from other trainers, reading books, and having personal realizations while riding. This WEF 2018 experience has given me knowledge I will keep with me as I continue my pursuit of excellence in and out of the ring.
TFE Ambassador Martha Wyatt-Luth
15 yo competing as a 14 yo Junior Rider, Zone 2, USA
Jumpers, Equitation, Hunters