|American Karen O'Connor competing at the Olympics in London. Eventing's actually really big there.|
I'd like to write some posts about my time in Ocala, but I've realized that the first thing I need to write about is my sport itself. This is because, despite its noble history, an awful lot of people have never heard of it. On the flight from Atlanta to Gainesville, I heard a woman in the seat behind me talking about going down to Ocala to ride. When we landed, I asked her what sort of riding she did (there are all sorts of horse sports in Ocala). She shrugged, almost apologetically, and said, "I'm an eventer."
I said. "So am I!"
The woman--a complete stranger to me--smiled. "Oh," she said, "I'm Bill Hoos's daughter."
I said, "I saw him teach a pony club clinic once." We exchanged names, shook hands, and two weeks later she beat me in the Novice Horse division at Rocking Horse Horse Trials.
But can you see the shift? The conversation went from, I bet you never heard of what I do, to I expect you'll know my father, a trainer of moderate reknown. After all, there are so few of us.
At Rocking Horse, I knew the people whose trailers were parked to the left, the right, and in front of mine. Twice while in Florida, I ran into people to whom I could say, "Oh, yes, I remember meeting you in London." While watching eventing at the Olympic Games. Where there were actually very few Americans.
And I'm nobody in this sport. I'm a cheerful amateur who competes a limited schedule. It's true that my two trainers, with whom I ride in Ocala, and who I will refer to in this blog as Angelica and Betty, because those pseudonyms amuse the living snot out of me, are rather big deals. They've ridden at the international level; they've been part of the sport for decades. If I gave their real names, any eventer would recognize them.
But it's such a small sport really. One of the problems with horse sports in the United States is that they're extremely subdivided. First you've got English and Western--and Western, what with pleasure, halter, reining, roping, penning, etc., is huge. Then for English you've got Hunt Seat and Saddle Seat, more or less. Take Hunt Seat and peel off the massive hunter division--probably the single biggest form of horse showing in the country--and you're left with the three Olympic disciplines, pure showjumping, pure dressage, and eventing, a sort of triathlon for horses. (I'm not even touching upon the other world championship sports of endurance, carriage driving, and vaulting, nor paradressage, polo, foxhunting--you get the picture.) As I understand it, synchronized swimming is simply synchronized swimming. Judo is judo. 'Equestrian sports' is a big umbrella.
Still, there are over twelve thousand registered eventers in the United States. Sounds like a lot--right?
I also knit. I knit pretty compulsively, and I study knitting, and I read about it. A famous knitting blogger (no, I'm not making that up) holds a Sock Summit every two years, in Portland, Oregon. It's a weekend dedicated to classes, lectures, and information about knitting socks. Only socks.
Online signups for the inaugural Sock Summit began on a particular day at a particular time. Fifteen minutes later, the mainframe Sock Summit computer crashed, because thirty thousand knitters were logging on at once. Yes, that's right. Thirty thousand people were fighting to be allowed to fly to Oregon to learn more about knitting socks, all at the same time, while twelve thousand people will event in the United States sometime this year.
We are small, but we are mighty. More on that to come.