By Martie Healy
Entries were in, the schedule was finished (and oh, so pretty), the stabling was done, and all was posted online, with barely a query from competitors. Prizes, ribbons, and radios were shipped. Staffing was complete. My car was packed and bluetoothed to the nines, iPod at the ready, and off I went for what was promising to be a marvelous championship show in Williamston, at the Senator Bob Martin Agricultural Center. I had, naturally, been watching the weather and was feeling pretty good the week before the show. Yes, there was a little bitty tropical storm way down in the islands – but, it wasn’t going to bother North Carolina! And, yes, there was a cold front coming – but it was just going to wet the rings and bring crisp, cool weather for the show…or so I thought, as I merrily drove to the show grounds. Looking back, I marvel at how naïve and innocent I was on that drive.
Once I got to Williamston, on Wednesday, things got real. The little bitty tropical storm had turned into a Category 4 hurricane and was heading our way – just in time to collide with the cold front that didn’t seem to know it was supposed to get out of the way. We went ahead setting up for the show – getting the stalls tagged, setting rings, setting up the office, setting up the worker’s check-in and the awards table… all the while, dithering about the weather.
At first, the big question was simply ‘Should the judges be in gazebos or in vehicles under tents?’ It quickly became apparent that the gazebos were out. So, I jumped on the phone to find marquee tents – tents that would give cover to a vehicle and be able to stand up to rain and wind – with success! Yay! The facility had already sealed the rings. All appeared good, but the weather continued to deteriorate and the governor declared a State of Emergency. Oh, dear.
Competitors started e-mailing, texting, and calling, mostly reminding me about Hurricane Floyd and North Carolina flooding, and asking if the show was going to go on. ‘Oh Yes! We are running!’ said Pollyanna (me).
Then, we entered what I like to think of as the ‘Divination Period’. We looked at every weather forecast we could find, we pored over maps with incomprehensible isobars and computer model lines, we discussed, we wavered, we changed positions. We continued to discuss more, until finally, late on Thursday, we decided that we could not ask our competitors to risk themselves and their horses driving/hauling to and from the competition, and we chose to cancel the show. To our amazement, the facility said we could reschedule in three weeks. A flurry of activity ensued – competitors had to be notified, officials, workers, catering, vendors, EMTs – who was I forgetting? Reschedule, reschedule! I fell into bed Thursday night, only to awaken with a start at one in the morning – oh no, the judges! I didn’t remember getting a confirmation from my two “S” judges who were coming in from the west, and I didn’t want them getting on an airplane in the morning! So there I was, texting at 1 AM, so thankful of the time zone change.
By Friday morning, I had hired two new “S” judges for the new date, posted notices on websites and on Facebook, re-opened the online entries, answered a TON of e-mails/texts, and Olga and I started packing up the show. Keith Whitaker, at the facility, generously offered to store all of our stuff, and there’s a lot of it, for the three weeks. We could even leave the outdoor rings up (assuming they weathered the hurricane). Saturday, I sadly drove back home.
The hotels in Williamston were a bright, shining spot of relief in the whole mess. The hotels learned of the reschedule and moved all the horse show reservations to the new weekend, without even being asked. I had two rooms at the Days Inn as pre-pays, which I figured the show would have to absorb the cost of, but instead, the Days Inn called me and asked if I wanted to move the reservations to the new weekend- unsolicited. I could not have been more thrilled, happy, and appreciative of all the Williamston folks!
Next came the hard part; when competitors started contacting me. “I can’t make the reschedule date!” “I need to make changes.” “I have a new horse to come to the show.” “I can’t come to the new date. Can I get a refund?” That last one was the question I dreaded the most, because there are no refunds after the closing date of a recognized show, for any reason. So many expenses are already a done deal, bought and paid for, that most shows cannot offer refunds. In this scenario, it was especially bad since, with a reschedule, we would have many duplicate expenses. However, in this particular case, the NCDCTA board showed true compassion and determined that those who had to scratch, due to scheduling conflicts with the new date, would get a full refund, minus only their office fee. Thousands of kudos to the board for their generosity!
So, as the new show date fast approached, I quickly got back to work. Redo the schedule, redo the stabling, recreate and reprint the show program, re-staff the show, contact USEF and USDF, talk to judges, vendors, sponsors, and send out e-mail after e-mail. My to-do list seemed quite long! Then, the time came for me drive back up to Williamston, for the second take of this show.
And, what a marvelous show it was! The weather was beautiful, the competitors were all so happy to be there, and most, if not all, achieved personal best scores. We gave away tons of ribbons, prizes, and prize money, and we even awarded double Horse of the Year points. In my opinion, it was the best little show ever!
So many competitors came up to me to thank me for rescheduling. Jeanne Karver (champion of both Open Third Level and Open Fourth Level in the 2015 NCDCTA Championships) said, “We were going to scratch from the show, as we did not want to risk the drive, and there was so much flooding around my farm. We are so happy that you decided to reschedule and we could come after all!” Elizabeth Moore (third place in the Open Intermediate I Level) said, “Thank you for putting the welfare of the horses first.” Briana Atwell (champion of Open Intermediate I) stated, “You made the right decision!” Susie Wiedman, who couldn’t make the rescheduled date, posted on Facebook, “The weather driving to and from the show this weekend would most likely have been very treacherous. A huge thank you to Martie Healy, Olga T. Wagner, Lynn Hickman Kerin, and NCDCTA for looking out for the best interests of horses and riders!”
Despite the chaos that ensued from the weather, their replies are what make it all worthwhile.