Where I’m from In Maine, there isn’t a tremendously large eventing presence and if riders wish to further their education, they usually have to travel to a neighboring state to do so. So, when I got a message asking if I’d be willing to photograph the inaugural New England Spring Symposium (NESS) featuring Tik Maynard and Sinead Halpin during a global pandemic, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Before we get to the actual event that was held May 15-16, 2021, let's back up a bit to its’ origin. Created by Chelsea Canedy at her Unexpected Farm in Wales, Maine, the NESS sprung out of an apparent need for deeper equestrian education and connections in the state. “I used to live in Virginia,” Canedy explained, “basically within 3 - 5 hours of every major event in the southeastern US, and then I moved to Maine. There was one rated event here when I moved, and it has since stopped running. There’s not a lot going on in the way of upper-level eventing in this area.
“I know there are people here who want to connect with that world,” she continued. “I want to bring that level of education and professionalism to this area. I strive to do that with my farm each day, and especially with the clinicians, I bring here. We get a slow start to the show season in Maine since we basically can’t ride outside until April (if we’re lucky)! I wanted to create something that people look forward to each year as they emerge from the long winters and dust off their show clothes. I want it to be something that helps them step out on the right foot for the season. . . Inspired and confident, with new ideas and tools to apply. I want the Symposium to be an event that people from all over New England look forward to every year, not just if they have a horse to ride in it, but also to just come and be a part of. I want it to be something that breathes life into the horse industry and community in Maine, and shows people that what we have to offer isn’t all that far away, and is so worth the drive!”
When I arrived on Saturday, the farm was abuzz with vendors, auditors, and riders alike, and of course at the center of it all, Clinicians Tik Maynard and Sinead Halpin. Though I was focused on my glass most of the weekend, I was able to pick up several tidbits of useful information from the sessions I was photographing. I was incredibly impressed with the duo’s ability to meld themselves to the different levels of instruction needed and approach each subject with a fresh, logical viewpoint. Throughout the weekend auditors were immersed in in-depth sessions involving riding, groundwork, trailer loading, grid work, cross-country schooling, show jumping, and everything in between. The riders were all visibly eager to show up and learn for each session, and though the horses were ready for peppermints and a day off at the end of the weekend, they seemed happy in their work, too.
Each tidbit of knowledge I picked up has been helpful to me as I headed home and put them to practice with my own horse, and I heard several remarks across Saturday and Sunday from spectators who felt the same. There was one lesson in particular that stood out to me, and it’s helped me in not only my horse work but my personal and professional work as well.
The tip? Slow. Down. Tik and Sinead were not incredibly repetitive as they had a lot of informative things to share, but this was one concept that made an appearance several times throughout the weekend, and really stuck with me. It also transformed more than a horse and rider or two, or all, participating in the Symposium. The proof was in the pudding, as they say. It’s pretty simple really, but something we all need to hear from time to time. We move so fast, and often times we think getting through it quickly with our horses will help speed up the process and get us on our way. BUT, why do we need to get on our way so quickly? Sometimes, and usually, the best way to go about riding, training, living, is slowly and steadily.
And with that, my biggest takeaway from the New England Spring Symposium was It was something I already knew. That’s the beauty of these educational events. Sometimes hearing the things you may already know about in unique ways can be transformative. . . and slightly unexpected!
It’s obvious that the inaugural New England Spring Symposium was a hit, but don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what several of the auditors and participants had to say:
“The format was excellent. Every session felt like a building block to the next. Auditing sessions I wasn’t in were incredibly helpful as well. The exercises were good. The facilities and footing were excellent. Both Sinead and Tik had beat interesting of horses and riders in mind at every step. Their instruction was engaging and fun for 2 days straight. What a dynamic duo! And on top of it all, everything was well organized and ran like clockwork. Kudos to everyone involved!” -DM
“The clinic was very beneficial. I loved the interaction between rider, clinician, and auditors. There was some horse psychology, which I loved. Making both horses and riders comfortable in their lessons was impressive. This was a great symposium. The time and energy put into making this happen were more than apparent. The organization was Supreme! Kudos to the team for all the hard work, it paid off in so many ways. It was so wonderful to have this opportunity in our backyard. We are so overdue here in Central Maine. Thank you, everyone, for putting on such a fun day for us all.” - DO
“Thanks for the opportunity to provide feedback. The Symposium was all and even more than I expected. Tik and Sinead were perfect clinicians for this experience. As I rider, I got so much out of riding and truly enjoyed watching the sessions and listening to the talks. It was excellent, well run and all the special touches - swag bag, vendor booths - breakfast... All of that made this feel like a top-level educational event. 5 stars for this.” - SA
“Tik and Sinead were incredible to watch in person. I've followed them both for years, but I was really blown away by their ability to teach groups of all levels and abilities, to distill concepts down to their simplest form, and to keep it fun and interactive for both riders and auditors alike. It was also really neat to have 2 arenas going at once, so there was always something different to watch and learn from. It was really great to receive the follow-up email and recommendations from Tik and Sinead- sometimes 'big names' can feel unapproachable, but these two are just so down to earth and generous with their time and knowledge.” - VS
“I loved that the topics being taught were focused on the horse's comfort and relaxation/understanding. I didn't see any riders being aggressive or careless with their partnership which was a breath of fresh air. I also liked that the topics were different... I didn't feel like I was watching a clinic I had seen before. Tik and Sinead were great at engaging the audience as well, clarifying on questions, and making sure everyone understood the example.” -AR
“I loved the comment from Tik, that the best riders make plenty of mistakes, they just fix them fast. It was really helpful.” - TR
As they hiked through the Galway Irish countryside, Shelley Bridges and John Whelpley soon found themselves amid a herd of curious Irish Draught mares grazing calmly around them. Bridges, an endurance rider extraordinaire with a well-known, educated eye for all things horse, noticed one of the mares in particular and said, “What about that one?” and our unlikely story began.
With the holiday spirit in full swing and the New Year just around the corner, it’s time to get ready for the 2024 eventing season. From paperwork to packing, there’s quite a bit to do before you’re ready to get out there and enjoy the season with your horse. Check out these tips from the team at STRIDER, and get your 2024 season kicked off in the most organized way possible.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation is pleased to announce the Eventing Pathway Program Lists for 2024, including the Elite, Pre-Elite, Development, and Emerging Programs. In addition to these Eventing Pathway Program updates, several opportunities will be available in 2024 for both Program and non-Program athletes.
The United States Eventing Associations’ (USEA) Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) is pleased to announce the dates and location of the upcoming 2024 ECP Symposium. The annual ECP Symposium, which is held in the southeast to accommodate the migration of eventers for the winter season, will be hosted at the Florida Horse Park in Ocala, Florida, on Jan. 30 – Feb. 1, 2024. This three-day immersive educational experience is recommended for anyone who is interested in learning more about eventing coaching, including current coaches, riders, parents, owners or avid supporters. Click here to download the registration form today!