By Mary Elledge
Traveling to the 2015 and 2016 US Dressage Finals from Oregon to Kentucky, with my adult daughter, proved to be a priceless experience.
In 2015, my daughter Rhonda drove with another young woman who was also competing at the show. Rhonda drove the horse trailer, and my husband kept a map on the wall in our home, marking her distance as she drove. We timed it just right, so that when I flew into Lexington, she would meet me at the airport.
I was not the least bit disappointed in the beautiful grounds at the Kentucky Horse Park. Throughout the competition, heated stalls in the morning were a delight. The horses are kept well fed, given special treats continually, and groomed to perfection. I would dare to say we all became second-class citizens to our four legged friends! Getting up a 4:00 a.m. was no problem- the horses needed tending! Making the trip even more memorable, was the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff and those competing. When we had any spare time, we tried to see many of the local sights dedicated to the importance of horses. The history, especially that which dealt with the impact of horses on our lives, was so evident in the horse museums and the statues of famous horses. Watching the Keeneland race horse sales was a compelling and unforgettable experience. Seeing such gorgeous horses walk and trot in the rings seemed surreal. We learned to sit on our hands, as some of these race horses were selling for six figures. There was no waving at anyone when bids were being accepted! We found that the people in Kentucky were friendly and accommodating. We enjoyed the restaurants and met wonderful competitors and trainers.
When we found out Rhonda qualified again in 2016, there was no hesitation about going back to Kentucky. This time, we drove the 5200 miles together. We even brought an extra horse. Three horses to care for only made our trip more challenging, but we knew we could handle it.
Making the trip even more eventful was following along with trainer Brook Voldbaek and her husband, Don. Tom Murry and his horse came with them as well. It was delightful talking to them and stopping at the same truck stops for fill-ups. It was remarkable how they called ahead and made accommodations for the horses at various farms, so the horses could rest after traveling. We would let the farms know when we would be arriving, and there would be clean stalls and bedding waiting for the horses. We stayed in the trailers! It was remarkable how quick 4:30 a.m. came. The horses would then be loaded, and we would be off again. The time went quickly and the miles flew by. Knowing we were together, and sharing this quest, was one of the most memorable experiences a mother and daughter could have. It was truly quality time. It was great sharing our stay with such wonderful friends and fellow horse lovers.
Though we had been there the year before, there was so much we enjoyed seeing, again in 2016. “Knowing the ropes” made things even easier this last year. With three horses, we knew that, for early morning classes, it was too much of a change for the horses to leave a warm stall and return to a 32 degree outside temperature. So, we opted out of the heated stalls this time around. We even had Katie Gustafson and her friends, Honor and Tracy, fly down to visit us at the horse show. And, we still found time to sightsee. One could spend hours and hours in the horse museums, and still find more to see the next time.
Meeting more friends, and renewing friendships, added to the electric atmosphere. The horses did not let us down, nor did anything else. Having an adult for a daughter made the trip less work for me, as the mother, and it was a nice opportunity to see my daughter doing what she loves. Being together with your daughter, doing something she loves, is priceless. I saw the beauty of horses and riders working as one. It was also thrilling to watch the higher levels of dressage, and know the work and difficulty involved to achieve that level. Rhonda and I were inspired at what a horse and rider can accomplish. We hope to go again, together.