Jun 30, 2019

Memories from the Vet Box with Dorothy Crowell

By Claire Kelley - USEA Staff
Crowell and Molokai at the 1994 World Equestrian Games. USEA Archives Photo.

“The chance to fly” is what Dorothy Crowell misses most about the long format of eventing. “I always looked forward to those wonderful four minutes where you could just put your hands down and let your horse fly. It was a large adrenaline rush for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Crowell. The four minutes of steeplechase was considered phase B in the long format of eventing. Now, the Hylofit USEA Classic Series is the only program to offer a steeplechase track at the Beginner Novice through Preliminary levels. Step back 20 years and steeplechase was a staple to the long format three-day event at the highest levels. A silver medal, a rider weigh-in, and a Thoroughbred who made history, Dorothy Crowell was familiar with the long format and everything that came with it.

“We did 14-minute courses, which took an incredible amount of fitness and goes back to the need to be very careful when preparing for the event. If you talk to any good coach or any horse trainer, they will tell you if there’s something you’re trying to aim for - the Olympics, WEG, or a classic three-day - you want to have the horse ‘peak’ as close to the competition as possible,” said Crowell.

A cross-country course that reached the double digits, Crowell remembers the breather minutes on course. “It was wonderful to do the highly technical questions and then have a full minute of just galloping. It was an opportunity to just take a breath, think about what you just did, and what you’re about to do. To me, that’s the biggest difference in eventing and that horses and riders don’t get that breather anymore. I think the modern three-day eventing at the highest level is every bit as physically and emotionally taxing it’s just in a different way. Even though the courses are significantly shorter, it’s very similar as far as mental fitness.”

Crowell and Molokai at the 1997 Badminton Three-Day Event. USEA Archives Photo.

Crowell looks back at the ‘good old days’ with one horse in mind, Molokai, the 1983 Thoroughbred gelding that took the eventing world by storm with Crowell. Crowell and Molokai earned the individual silver medal at the 1994 FEI World Equestrian Games, finished 15th at the 1997 Badminton Three-Day Event, finished twice within the top 10 at the Burghley Three-Day Event, and finished second on their home turf at the 1998 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Remembered as one of the world’s best cross-country horses, Molokai passed away in 2013 at the age of 30 in his home state of Kentucky. An event horse never to be forgotten, Molokai was inducted into the USEA’s Eventing Hall of Fame in 2015.

A story of patience, perseverance, bravery, and heart, Crowell first met Molokai (Mo for short) as a 3-year-old in 1986. “Molokai came into my life as a young off-the-track Thoroughbred who had scars on his fetlocks because he walked circles in his stall, and he was so narrow that he would whack himself on the inside of each ankle. He was plain bay, ewe necked, and incredibly overreactive. But as soon as I got on him, I loved the conversation. Fast forward many years of trials and tribulations, and that horse taught me more about horsemanship than any other horse or human.”

Crowell and Molokai at the 1998 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. USEA Archives Photo.

“Heat, deep sand footing, and a Thoroughbred who fought until the very end,” is what Crowell remembers most of the 1994 FEI World Equestrian Games in The Hague where she took home the individual silver medal. “He was amazing there,” said Crowell.

After traveling the world and gaining international success, Mo, the Kentucky-bred Thoroughbred, and Crowell, a hometown girl born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, came back to compete in their home state. “My all-time favorite memory with Molokai would be our final Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in 1998. Every step of the way of the 14-minute cross-country course, there were people on the ropes cheering, and not just at the jumps but the whole course. Not only that, it was probably the most perfectly ridden course I’ve ever done. All 14 minutes, every single fence was right there. It was lovely.” The perfectly ridden course earned them a second-place finish which would be their final four-star event together.

Crowell and Molokai on their way to earn 2nd place at the 1998 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. USEA Archives Photo.

An ever-evolving sport, Crowell remembers the FEI horse trials before they were designated with stars. “I’m pre-star which means I remember when a one-star was called a Preliminary Three-Day, two-star an Intermediate Three-Day, and three-star an Advanced Three-Day.”

It was a time where the names of the events were different and so were the rules. In an attempt to level the playing field, a rider weigh-in was done before phase A and after phase C. This rule was enforced up until January 1, 1998. “The required weight was 165 pounds. I’m nearly six feet tall so I was lucky. If I weighed about 150 pounds and with my tack, I would usually be right on the money. But you could grab anything the horse was carrying to bring to the weigh-in – the bridle, the boots, the saddle pad. A lot of the times the saddle pads would pull the horses sweat so they would weigh more. You wanted to start five pounds up because you would often lose five pounds of water weight on course. So, if you started at 165 pounds, you could potentially be eliminated if you came in underweight after phase C.”

“Imagine the tragedy of finishing the course, getting everything done, and then coming to the finish to get eliminated because you were half a pound off of 165.”

Crowell and Molokai at the 1997 Badminton Three-Day Event. USEA Archives Photo.

“We were forced to be good horse people with the long format of eventing. We would gear up for two major three-days - one in the spring and one in the fall. So, you had to set up a progressive schedule. You did three or four horse trials leading up to the major three-day. You always started out with something that was straight forward and galloping. The next course had the technical questions but wasn’t up to height. Then, you had one that was technical with height. After that course, you either went onto the three-day or if you had a horse that needed more confidence you took him back to something that was large but straight forward with just a few technical questions.”

“In order to be successful, you had to learn about horse care, nutrition, and be aware of how your horse was feeling on a daily basis. You had to learn how to make a daily schedule, yearly schedule, and show schedule. You had to do all of that, otherwise you didn’t make it through the three-day events. I think the Hylofit USEA Classic Series is important because it brings out good horsemanship. To successfully compete at a Novice Three-Day or Training Three-Day, you learn more about everything mentioned above than when you’re just competing at a regular horse trial.”

An education in horsemanship, a chance to relive the good old days of eventing, and the opportunity to fly - the question of entering a Hylofit USEA Classic Series event is not why, but when. Check out the 2019 calendar here.

Crowell and Molokai at the 1993 Burghley Three-Day Event. USEA Archives Photo.

About the Hylofit USEA Classic Series

The Hylofit USEA Classic Series keeps the spirit of the classic long ­format three­-day events alive for Beginner Novice through the Preliminary levels. Competitors can experience the rush of endurance day, including roads and tracks, steeplechase, the vet box, and cross­-country, as well as participate in formal veterinary inspections and educational activities with experts on the ins and outs of competing in a long ­format three-­day event. Riders who compete in a Hylofit USEA Classic Series event during the year will have the chance to win a variety of prizes at the events from USEA sponsors. Click here to learn more about the Hylofit USEA Classic Series.

The USEA would like to thank Hylofit, FLAIR, FITS, SmartPak Equine, Stackhouse & Ellis Saddles, and Parker Equine Insurance for sponsoring the Hylofit USEA Classic Series.

About Hylofit

Now available to purchase, the Hylofit system hit the marketplace in 2018. The Hylofit system is the only equine wearable to offer in-ride feedback for horse and rider. Hylofit’s state-of-the-art product is designed to maximize communication between horse and rider, improve training results, and promote the overall health and well-being of the horse. Hylofit unique features include real-time feedback, post-ride insights, rider insights, overall well-being of the horse and rider, zone training, sharing features, video features, weather impact features, and more. The Hylofit system that tracks both horse and rider’s heart rate is comprised of four hardware components, an app for iOS or Android, and an optional app for the iWatch.

Hylofit is generously providing a 10 percent discount for Hylofit products to all USEA Classic Series competitors! Hylofit will also provide 11 Hylofit systems to the high scorers of each USEA Classic Series event at the 2019 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention.

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