I want to share a story about someone who inspires me and I believe deserves the recognition. I returned to riding four years ago after about a decade out of the saddle; moonlighting as a busy professional adult instead of the horse crazy child I really am internally. I returned to eventing this year, my first horse trials in 25 years, placing fourth at the Introductory level at the Maryland Horse Trials Starter Trials this October. It was my first horse trials since the Virginia Horse Trials in 1995. Throughout it all, Diane Grove McCool has been at my side; telling me to breathe, to sit up, and to lift my eyes and my collar bones. This is not my story. Rather it is Diane’s story through my eyes. Because as much time as I’ve spent in the ring with Diane, I’ve also watched her from the rail.
I’ve watched Diane plan and prepare and put in the hours with her various students in support of their goals. I’ve watched her work tired, in heat, cold, and rain without complaint. I’ve watched her school her student’s horses and give them a good solid base for their various riders. But mostly I’ve watched Diane grow as a trainer, rider, and as an individual these past few years.
You see, Diane has this horse named Nate. Nate’s a good solid citizen with a great heart, but Nate can be a bit sensitive at times and he requires a kind and compassionate ride to help him through the rough patches. This isn’t an easy ask when things aren’t going your way and even less easy in a world seemingly committed to instant gratification. They’ve had their rough patches and their doubters but because of her patience, Diane has come to trust Nate and Nate has come to trust Diane.
The cool thing about mutual trust is then you can start to stretch and grow together. Both Nate and Diane were brave recently at the Virginia Horse Trials and finished fourth in their very first CCI*-L. Diane was quick to recognize Nate for his part in this result and as expected, she downplayed her role. I have no doubt that the hours and hours of work she put into her relationship with him allowed for the result.
I’m sure lots of other professionals have lots of fancy ribbons hanging in their tack rooms, but this ribbon is special. Because it’s not just another ribbon; another result. It’s not about the finish or the event or any of that stuff. It’s about a rider/trainer, her bond with her trusted partner, and how that kind of heart inspires everyone else around her. It’s a heart ribbon. Congratulations Diane, I hope to one day ride with the kind of heart, patience, and care that you share with Nate and all of us.
The USEA is made up of over 12,000 members, each with their own special horses and experiences. The USEA's Now on Course series highlights the many unique stories of our membership. Do you and your horse have a tale to tell? Do you know someone who deserves recognition? Submit your story to Jessica Duffy at [email protected] to be featured.
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