The Gleneayre Equestrian Program is proud to be the recipient of a grant from the EQUUS Foundation. Every year in March, the EQUUS Foundation holds a fundraising event, called Fete Cheval, at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida. This year, twelve senior members of the Gleneayre Equestrian Program traveled to Wellington to volunteer at the Fete Cheval event. Although the purpose of this trip was to volunteer for EQUUS, we were able to have many opportunities to meet many world renown riders and trainers who attend the Winter Equestrian Festival.
On Saturday, we traveled to Cloverleaf Farm to tour the facility with owner and jumper rider, Brianne Goutal. Brianne explained her routine for planning each new show season, traveling between shows, and exercising all of her horses. At Cloverleaf, we were able to meet Elizabeth Benson and Sammy Kraus who both compete intercollegiately for NCAA equestrian teams. They stressed the importance of maintaining their grades and academic focus while still balancing their schedule and dedicating time to their riding.
Brianne Goutal introduced the girls to Henri Prudent and Katie Monahan Prudent, former Olympians, who were both at Cloverleaf exercising horses. Katie spoke of the importance of enjoying the time that you spend with your horse regardless of its breed or the discipline of riding, noting that all horses are fun, whether they are a Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, or Warmblood.
We had an amazing opportunity to watch George Morris school a horse while at Cloverleaf. After exercising the horse over increasingly large jumps, George exited the ring and shared a moment with the GEP girls. He offered the advice of remaining true to the basics of horsemanship and riding, stressing the importance of traditional horse care. He held our youth in captivated attention while he emphasized in typical fashion that the turnout of both horse and rider must be paramount.
On Saturday afternoon, we traveled to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center to watch several hunter and jumper classes.
In the evening, we had the unique privilege of walking the Grand Prix course with John Madden. Mr. Madden walked the girls through every obstacle on the course and discussed where he felt the difficult elements of the course would be (including a line beginning with a vertical followed by either 5 or 6 strides to a formidable water jump followed by either 5 or 6 strides to a wide oxer). His advice was to remember that when riding a horse, you are not driving a car and you have to manage the horse’s fluctuations and mannerisms.
On Sunday morning, we had the extreme honor of walking the Maclay equitation course with Stacia Madden of Beacon Hill Show Stables, Inc. who was training several young riders for the class. This equitation course was composed of several tricky elements, including options to take tight turns inside of the WEF obstacle or wider sweeping turns around the WEF obstacle.
While touring the show grounds, we were able to meet Margie Engle who had competed in the Grand Prix on Saturday night aboard Indigo. We also met John Madden who was preparing several of his riders for the Maclay.
On Sunday evening, the EQUUS Foundation’s Fete Cheval fundraising event promised to please with a luxurious dinner to induct new members of the Horse Stars Hall of Fame followed by a Saint Patrick’s Day themed after party. During the event, guests were able to watch a demonstration from the Olympic-level American Vaulting Association Friendship Team. This team, composed of vaulters ages 15-31 years old, came together just days before the event to practice their routine as a team. Each individual must be a silver or gold level vaulter in order to compete as part of this team. Aboard two large Belgian draft horses, these vaulters performed their dazzling choreographed routine often involving two or three vaulters aboard a horse at one time.
During the Fete Cheval event, we had the distinct honor of meeting Bob Cacchione, who helped to form the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. Since many of the GEP youth aspire to ride on college teams, Bob Cacchione was gracious enough to answer many of their questions about applying for college and trying out for an intercollegiate riding team.
This trip proved to be an amazing opportunity for the youth in the Gleneayre Equestrian Program to meet many of the influential people who are involved in the equestrian world. We certainly look forward to volunteering for the EQUUS Foundation at Fete Cheval events in the future.