Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Horses, Friends, Teammates and Dedication. Our USEDC Success Story

Originally Written:  July 22, 2009
Vol. 1, Issue 7

Welcome back, Everyone! 

I hope you are all well and enjoying your summer!  I’ve been away from my writing lately as I’ve been out of town and recovering from our exciting trip to the United States Equestrian Drill Competition - the National Championships held near Lindale, Texas.

Since the beginning of February, our team members have braved freezing temps, walked through pastures to catch horses in sub-freezing wind chills, loaded them before we changed our minds, then headed to some nearby arena, (hopefully indoors) to get to drill practices so we would be “up to speed” for Nationals. Eventually, Old Man Winter would say his goodbyes and the cold wind would give way to high heat, humidity and sunburn.  Our ever-faithful horses performed like troopers.  They probably adjusted faster to the changes and the physical demands with far less complaints than we did.

Cold temperatures are my worst enemy since my diagnoses with FMS.  There were some practices that all I could do was sit in the chair with a blanket and pray that when I got back up, my muscles would actually do what I told them to do.  Riding in those temperatures for me was out of the question.  Those times were strictly for Peyton and done out of love for him.  I would watch my son ride from the sidelines.  On these cold practice days, I would pay dearly the next day.  The knowledge of hot temperatures just around the corner kept my hope alive and I persevered.

Why do I put my body through this?  Well that’s easy.  I love my son dearly and I would do anything I could for him.  I have a deep passion for horses and have all of my life.  Truth be told, I love this team.  Some of the members are so dear to my heart I couldn’t even begin to tell them how I feel.  I just don’t have the words.   So I keep that inside, like a safe treasure only for me to hold.  Many of the veterans of this team I consider mentors, not just to me, but true examples for new riders of all ages.

This year there was a lot of excitement, new friendships were made and great times were had.  While there have been groundbreaking changes and thrilling successes, it hasn’t been an easy year by any means.  It has been hard for many of the people on the team.  Some members have been overworked, some are riding with injuries, and all of us were struggling with our children's church programs, school schedules and conflicts with performance schedules.  There were times when tempers were short, but the teams pulled together as always, to do what they do best, ride the drill.

I joined our drill team in 2005 when I was invited to ride in a parade late in the season. I loved it so much that the next year I purchased my horse and continued riding with the team in parades when I could.  It was that next season that Peyton also fell in love with my horse Filly and with a little encouragement he joined the youth drill team.  It only took one practice and he was hooked, just like his mom.

Since I rode in that first parade, there have been many changes in our club.  I have watched a team that was struggling to get enough people to win parades, loose a few teammates, and then come back strong the next season with 10, then 12 drill riders, and as of now we have 16 official riders, with several riders lined up eager to fill backup positions in a moments notice.  We have had to turn people away because there just has not been the room. 

We have also had fabulous blessings.  This team was the first ever to win two back-to-back National Championships.  In addition, the team won three consecutive Rodeo Division 1st Place Titles, and two consecutive Ride of Champions, quest for the SuperCup wins!   We have come a long way in those five years.  A team once severed almost in two, pulled together and came back stronger than ever.   Why?  I think it’s love and respect.  Love for the horses, love for the drill.  Respect for each other.  I believe that is the secret to the success of this team.  They rise and fall TOGETHER!

We added a youth team last year so our kids could ride instead of sit and watch their mothers and grandmothers compete.  They did well that first year with 8 members at Nationals and 10 at Regionals.  All along there would be sacrifices.  Equipment is expensive, uniforms and hats are costly, gas was almost $4.50 a gallon and pulling a trailer full of horses all over the country doesn’t get you the best gas mileage.  There were hotel rooms to pay for, stall fees, shavings and in some cases you had to pay just to get in to the event you were riding.  Meals on the road add up and take a chunk out of your pocket book.  But, every child deserves something to pursue.  I loved every moment I spent with my family as we drove to events and watched performances.  I did a little riding myself.  Last year I carried the team flag during grand entry at a local rodeo and had the time of my life.

This season [2009], we have been blessed with so many eager young children that we were able to put together a youth novice team of 8 and a youth advanced team of 12.  These children are the future of drill.  They will be the ones who keep the sport alive when we are too old and broken to perform at such a demanding level.

Our Novice team came in an impressive 3rd place at Nationals.  The Advanced Youth team captured the Advanced Youth Division Championship that eluded them last year by only a few points.  There were tears of joy, exhaustion and pride from both parents and children.  This is a family sport and by the time you get this far into competition, well, you become somewhat of a family.  I’ll never forget the smiles on the little faces of the 7 year old girls as they proudly carried their ribbons to mom and dad.  I still tear up when I see the three ribbons won by my son’s team, and I think of all the other teams that worked just as hard and are just as deserving of that respect.

While I would have loved to ride with these wonderful ladies on the adult team, I know that my disease will not be conducive to this sport.   That is okay with me.   It was in the beginning and it still is okay.  It’s okay for the same reasons.  Love.  Love for the horses and the sport.  I’m perfectly content to ride my horse on my own and enjoy the parades. I cheer the team on from the sidelines, just as the rest of the families do, and I love it just as much.  I also get tremendous joy out of assisting the team as part of their ground crew.  From water, to holding horses, to switching out tack, you name it I’m there to help out!  I want these teams to succeed!  If I can help in some small part, it is my honor for these wonderful families.

It is my hope that someday my disease will somehow be put in check so I can compete and enjoy that same thrill and excitement of success.  But, until that time comes, there is enough love in my heart to go around and be thrilled for all those out there giving their best and leaving their heart and soul out there in the arena dirt!

See you all next year!


[Writer’s note:  As of June 2011, the ladies team has won the Ride of Champions three out of the four years it has been in existence.   They hold three Division 1 National Titles and 3 Rodeo Division Championships.  The youth team returned to capture the Advanced Youth Division 6 Championship again in 2010.   The new youth team, a mixture of a few advanced and a few very young riders received ribbons and placed very well considering the age and experience they have had.]

© Robynn “Bobbie” Dinse / Bobbie’s World Blogs
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