This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Eventing USA magazine.
This year the USEA is following 23-year-old Savannah Fulton as she spends the season training and competing in Europe. Fulton was the recipient of the 2018 USEA Foundation Wilton Fair Grant and is using the funds to bring her CCI5*-L mount, Captain Jack, to Europe.
As the days tick down to my departure, I am taking note of many things. Mainly the abundance of half-packed suitcases and tack trunks scattered around the barn and the mud piling up onto every pair of boots I mean to pack. But what has stood out to me most is Maryland’s weather and its clear attempt is to prepare me for my upcoming travels with an onslaught of rain and chilling temperatures. It must know this is the first winter I’m not spending in Florida in quite some time. For the last six years I was lucky enough to work for Buck Davidson, and every October the trailers and horses were packed up and moved to the Sunshine State for the winter and spring competition season. While I am certainly missing the warmer weather and Ocala’s hospitality, I am glad to have this gentle transition period into chillier weather, so that the first step off of the plane in Germany is less of a shock.
While the chilly weather will hopefully be the greatest worry I face on this journey, I am preparing for all possibilities. Though daunting, this next chapter in my life is certainly an exciting one. In early February, two of my steeds and I will be traveling to Germany to train and compete during the upcoming competition season. This trip is made possible due to my fortunate reception of the Wilton Fair Grant. Provided by Mr. David Lenaburg, this grant will allow me to embark on a journey I would not have been able to do otherwise. To capitalize on this opportunity, I will be bringing Captain Jack, a 16-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Numerous x Lady Malone) bred by Gordon Reeder, owned by the members of the Full Moon Farm Syndicate, and Midnight Illusion, a 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Future Illusion x Midnight Blue) bred by Sharon White and owned by Jackalope Enterprises LLC to train and compete. While in Germany, my horses and I will be able to receive world-class training and competition experience in order to become better well-rounded pairs. While this trip is planned for the duration of 2019, I’m sure that what I gain from this year will benefit myself and the horses I ride for many years to come.
Though this trip was not planned too long ago, the preparation for this next year began long before I began reorganizing trunks and booking plane tickets. The foundation for this trip started being laid when I was growing up on my family’s Full Moon Farm in Finksburg, Md. As a little kid I rode every chance I had, and my family was extremely supportive and fostered my dreams of being able to grow into the best rider I could be. With many kids my age, lots of ponies, and a team-based competitive environment, it was the best scenario I could imagine growing up in. It was truly a family affair with my dad as a farrier, my mom teaching lessons at our farm, and my accomplished rider and best friend of a sister Grace all being in the same location. I was very fortunate to have my mom as my excellent trainer who gave me a solid foundation throughout my younger days. She was my primary trainer until I graduated high school early and moved to Team BDJ at the age of 16. Though I have been lucky to have been more independent over the last few years, I am grateful to know I always have the support of my family when making decisions for my future.
From my arrival into Buck’s barn as a wide-eyed 16-year-old with big dreams, Buck’s program was instrumental in shaping me into the rider and person I am today. Being based there for so long definitely brought ups and downs, but they were all life lessons in the making. While I was there, I was able to learn on every type of horse, from unruly babies to seasoned four-star competitors. I also gained valuable experience in barn management and how to truly work hard. At my first event in Florida with Buck, I completed my first Intermediate. By the time I departed Buck’s program, I had jumped clear around three CCI4* cross-country tracks. The amazing competitions I was able to attend aside, the friends and connections I made there will last me a lifetime. I had a front row seat to the trials and tribulations of one of America’s best riders, and that’s an experience I would recommend everyone try to get.
This trip has been made possible by the extreme generosity of so many people. The Wilton Fair Grant will help to cover the travel and competition expenses while I’m overseas, and that will be hugely beneficial. I’d also like to thank my sponsors, World Equestrian Brands, Nunn Finer Products, Eponia, and Free Jump USA. The list of supporters behind every rider is astonishing, and though I might be a bit biased, the amount of support and love I have received on my journey has been humbling and second to none. I’m extremely lucky to have great people to lean on when times are hard and the same people are the first to want to celebrate the little victories. This support is so important in the daunting world of horses where the highs are far and few between and the risk to reward ratio is quite low. The more I learn about the industry, the more I realize how much left I have to learn. While this journey has been daunting, it’s also empowering to be working hard every day towards my own riding and business goals.
Alongside my amazing family, sponsors, and supporters, I’d like to thank everyone and anyone who I haven’t personally been able to thank over the years. Whether a ring steward, jump judge, follower on Facebook, or the brave soul catching a loose horse after a fall, thank you. This sport and any success I intend to have wouldn’t have been possible without you. Please continue to follow along as I do my best to keep everyone updated on the many adventures to come.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of Eventing USA magazine.
Hello to everyone back home! This report is coming in from Radesforder Hof, located in Heidmuhlen, Germany. Captain Jack and I have been over here a little under a month and we’ve quickly found our groove thanks to everyone here being so friendly and supportive.
As they say about the best-made plans – we had a dramatic and stressful time leading up to our departure date keeping us thinking fast on our feet. Originally it was supposed to be both Captain Jack and Midnight Illusion coming on this adventure, but sadly right before we were due to ship out, we found out Midnight Illusion had developed a rare and incurable bone disease. We ended up taking “Puck” to Penn Medicine’s New Bolton Center for a bone scan which is how he came to be diagnosed with Bone Islands Disease. With no known cause or cure it was certainly a scary diagnosis for both myself and for Puck’s incredibly supportive owner, Jackalope Enterprises. The staff at New Bolton were excellent and helped us formulate a plan so that Puck can live as humane a life as possible, however he will never be a riding horse again. New Bolton will continue to monitor his progress to hopefully gain some added insight into this disease. I was reminded how close-knit the eventing community can be, with so many people reaching out and offering their condolences on the loss of what was sure to be an exciting competitor for the future.
On a Wednesday morning, we loaded up and headed to JFK Airport. My dad, boyfriend, and I had to draw straws to see who would be unfortunate enough to have to drive our four-horse trailer through Manhattan . . . my dad and I lucked out. With relative ease we arrived at The Ark stabling area at JFK where we met with a representative from the Dutta Corporation who would be transporting Captain and myself. Their staff makes flying horses as stress-free as can be and I always know we will be in good hands as they have the best staff on call 24/7. We had to wait at The Ark until it was ultimately time to load Captain into his box a couple hours later. Funnily enough, he was the only horse on the flight so now he thinks we bought him his own plane! Lord knows he deserves it, though I’m sure he would still make cheap jokes at how bad the airline food is! It was smooth sailing in the air, landing in Amsterdam eight hours after taking off. From there we traveled to Guido Klatte’s lovely facility in Lastrup Germany to spend the night. I have no idea how long we were actually traveling, but I do know Captain was almost as happy to have a roll in his stall as I was to have a hot shower. Early the next morning we got back in the truck and made our way to Radesforder Hof, home of Dirk Schrade Eventing and Christian Hess Show Jumping.
The facility here at Radesforder Hof is amazing. There are two indoors, one for flatting and the other jumping, as well as two outdoor dressage arenas and one massive outdoor jumping ring. With two lunging areas, turn out, a great forest for hacking, a walker, treadmill, and lovely stables; it is set up and run as a world-class facility. There have got to be close to 90 horses stabled here and it is amazing to see how everyone shares and cares for the place. Facilities aside, it is a great place to be based in terms of learning from others. In addition to Dirk and Christian, there are several other eventers and professional dressage riders that call this home. No matter which ring you are riding in, there is guaranteed to be someone better than you also training. The immersion into this level of riding across various disciplines is so cool and while overwhelming at first, I’m excited to capitalize on all the learning opportunities while I’m here. From a horse management point of view, it is interesting to see how all these different professionals try to maintain fit, healthy, winning horses.
Captain and I are both adapting to how the Germans do things but so far the new program has been really useful for both of us with a larger emphasis on the dressage. It is weird not being down in Florida competing already; I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous for my upcoming competitions with such a short segue going into them. But as with anything new, you must give it a try and really commit to the new program. The Europeans have certainly proven time and time again their system works, and I’m here to learn and study from the best. I’m eager to see how the other horses and riders from the barn come out with their first competitions in March versus the beginning of competitions at home starting in January.
Residing at a latitude shared with most of Canada and parts of Alaska, I’ve been assured that this has been a fairly mild winter – that might be, but this sun loving girl is still a popsicle here. The footing being sandy allows for plenty of trots out in the woods and even a few gallops. With March right around the corner, it feels like the season is about to start with the first signs of spring . . . finally! I’m in the process of navigating new memberships, new entry forms, applying for visas, and all the lovely fees that come with all that.
I’m feeling so lucky and fortunate to be able to have this experience and have everyone back at home supporting me along the way. It is certainly not easy moving across the ocean and away from everything you know; but once I got over a few tough realizations - Amazon Prime Pantry couldn’t deliver here, my favorite Netflix shows aren’t available, and going grocery shopping is a bit of a guessing game as to what I’ve purchased – it has been smooth sailing. Luckily horses are a fairly universal language, I am just learning it with a German accent now.
The fundamental mission of the USEA Foundation is to protect and preserve the sport of eventing for future generations and to provide support for the core educational, safety, and equine welfare programs of the USEA. In addition, the Foundation administers educational grants for riders with the intent of preparing them to reach their goals. Learn more about the USEA Foundation at www.useafoundation.org.
Did you enjoy these articles? Want to read the next installment of Savannah Fulton’s Year in the Life? Join the USEA today to receive the next issue of Eventing USA to read all about Savannah’s weekend at Badminton.
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