You’ve had an amazing year with On Cue. Can you recap some of the highlights?
This mare had a sensational year, placing second overall at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event and being short-listed for the Olympics. After winning the Advanced championship at the American Eventing Championships, she was in sizzling form coming in to the Maryland 5-Star in October, and then won the biggest event of her career there.
One of the highlights of my year was the AEC. All I can say is after coming back from the Kentucky Horse Park, I really felt that the sport of eventing is alive and well in America. With over a thousand entries and a waiting list for all levels, the Kentucky Horse Park must be one of the only venues that could hold such a competition. Seeing the kids and adult amateurs in the same stable blocks as the professionals, you see the pros rubbing shoulders with the up-and-comers and it creates great energy. I was of course very pleased to win the Advanced division with On Cue.
I must also give thanks to Christine Turner and her family, who also own my Olympic partner, Tsetserleg TSF. They’ve been truly awesome supporters through all the good and bad times, and I’m thrilled for them to have such a great year with their horses. With the eldest of On Cue’s offspring (via embryo transfer) finally coming of age to start competing, we have lots more to look forward to.
Now and then, you decide to call it a day before you finish a cross-country round. What makes you decide to pull up on cross-country?
There’s no question that three-day eventing is a sport for the brave and courageous. There’s a certain amount of confidence, self-belief and dealing with adversity that you need when at the top level of three-day eventing. You need to have the ability to push on when conditions are rough, kick on when your horse is hesitant, or take a deep breath and calm down when you’re terrified. Saying that, there is a time when you need to pump the brakes. It’s taken me about a decade to learn this. As hungry and desperate as I am to win, I always know there will be another day.
When we’re talking cross-country riding in eventing, the sport is so difficult and high-risk that I truly believe there is a moment, most likely in competition, where you will need to pull your horse back to walk, put your hand up and walk home to give it another crack when the stars are better aligned. The hard part is understanding the emotional side when that point comes. You’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into training, and it can be hard to make the call not to finish, especially in the heat of competition.
Being a very competitive person, I’m always the optimist that I can pull it off, and sometimes I can pull a rabbit out of a hat. Bu if things are off and you or the horse are feeling a lack of confidence, you need to remind yourself that there’s always another day. With every bad accident I’ve had, all the warning signs were there that things were heading south. Had I known how things would turn out, I’d have happily put the hand up and gone back to the drawing board. Believe me, it’s easier to walk off course than spend months in physical therapy!
We’re always dealing with nerves and anxiety when competing in eventing. You’re meant to be nervous and even a little scared, but you should without a doubt have confidence that you’re up to the task. I always see a horse vibrate its skin when it feels a fly; it can also feel a rider that’s unsure if they can do what they’re faced with. If the rider loses confidence and the horse loses confidence, then the wheels start falling off, so to speak.
For me, a horse that’s feeling really unconfident is one of the main reasons I would choose to pull up. On a cross-country course, we’re all likely to have a couple of bad jumps here and there. If you have the feeling the bad jumps were because you had the jump on a bad stride or something like that, by all means keep going. But if the horse feels unsure and hesitant or panicked in the way it’s going, it’s a telltale sign that enough is enough.
Tiredness is a whole different ballgame and with experience, you start to understand when your horse is tired. You might ease up a bit and just get the horse home safely. The hard part of our sport is when the horse is tired and you have a long way to go with some difficult fences, and you have to calculate how much gas you have left in the tank. On modern courses, they often put a real test at the end of the course and with a tired horse, it can be too much of a gamble to keep pressing on.
As riders, we all have egos; we are all taught and trained to get the job done. As I get older, and I have learned that in the moment, you feel like competition is the most important thing in this life. But now that I’ve got a few years under my belt, I realize there’s always another day.
Boyd competing at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Photo by Ruby Tevis