Mar 27, 2018

Road to Rebecca Farm: Meet Charlotte, the Eventing Clydesdale

Photo courtesy of Cortney McDaniel.

My name is Cortney McDaniel, I am a 28-year-old 911 dispatcher for the North King County area in Washington state. We dispatch for six police agencies and 14 fire departments (56 fire stations). On average, we take about 700 calls a day. I started this career as a stepping stone to eventually become a police officer in the Seattle area and then becoming an officer on the equestrian mounted patrol division. After finding out that the Seattle mounted patrol is no longer, I decided to remain as a dispatcher at NORCOM.

Based on the shifts available, I chose to work 1:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Monday through Thursday so that I could have weekends off to compete. Just one of the many sacrifices I make on a weekly basis to support my hobby and eventing career! Being a 911 dispatcher is a 24/7 job and commitment. We staff the phones and radios 24/7 including all holidays, weekends, night shift, birthdays, and anniversaries.

My favorite part of the job is helping my community. Every call, no matter how small or large, is an emergency to that person. Each call is different and will be treated differently depending on the circumstances. I strive to deliver excellent service to the public and to our first responders. I am that voice on the phone helping you through CPR instructions or the helping the father deliver his child because mom has gone into early labor. We also take reports when your house has been broken into or your purse stolen from your car in the mall parking garage. We help with everything from loose horses and dogs trapped in cars to that angry beaver in the middle of the road pounding his tail on the ground at cars. I absolutely love the variety of my day; I can count on the fact that not every day will be the same.

I have also been on the other end of those tragic, heartbreaking calls, or on the other end of the radio during an emergency incident of a first responder who needs help. These are one of the many reasons I continue to ride horses. It means the world to me to have the option of unplugging and driving out to the barn to just relax on a horse, forget about everything else, and focus on a new goal. They are my therapy sessions.

Charlotte the Eventing Clydesdale! Photo courtesy of Cortney McDaniel.

I purchased Charlotte five years ago to continue setting up my vaulting team. She was the perfect petite and athletic full bred Clydesdale for the job! Unfortunately, she continued to jump out of her pasture every day, which I believed was a sign we should try jumping. I had never jumped before owning Charlotte, so this was all new to me and I didn’t know where to start. Thankfully I found an outstanding and caring trainer in Monroe, Washington. Jenny Holbrook not only believes in my jumping Clydesdale, she also encourages and pushes us to be the best we can be. Jenny is one of the first people that supported our dreams of becoming the first full bred Clydesdale to compete in the long format three-day event at Rebecca Farm. I am truly grateful for the love and support of the team that is standing behind us through this adventure.

As many know, owning a horse and being successful in competition throughout the year is a full time job in itself. Add in the fact that I also work a full time job on top of that, how does one accomplish that? Dedication and commitment. I work all night 1:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and then head straight to the barn to work with Charlotte then straight home to walk my dogs and be with family before trying to sleep during the day and start all over at 11:00 p.m. Some days are more difficult than others of course, but in order to pay for Charlotte I need to work. I usually try to at least work an additional 20 hours of overtime a month during show season, which helps with most of the show fees. Sometimes it feels like a third job just trying to juggle my life! One of my many helpful tips is to make lists and itineraries. I will create itineraries to the hour of each day and add in drive time along with breaks to ensure I get everything accomplished. Everyone on the Lodestar Team with Jenny Holbrook loves my itineraries and lists. I even created a team newsletter to keep everyone informed and up to date! Including packing lists!

Photo courtesy of Cortney McDaniel.

Working full time means packing ahead of time in between the weekdays. A typical show week would consist of working Thursday 1:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. then off to the barn to load up the horses and double check everything is ready to go. I normally stay up until everything is accomplished and Charlotte has been ridden then try to get to sleep by 9:00 p.m. so I can be awake early in the morning for the first day of the event. I'll show all weekend and then go back to work Monday morning at 1:00 a.m. I’m extremely lucky to have a coach and team that assist so I can try to nap on the Sunday before heading back to unload horses and head back to work so early in the morning. But as we all know shows tend to run longer some days, and Charlotte is my top priority so sometimes a nap is not an option.

We recently attended the Hawley Bennett clinic. I had been looking forward to this clinic since I first watched her teach my trainer a few months back. I had to work that night for a fellow coworker from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., which is a common occurrence for me. By the time I got off work I had about an hour nap before driving to the clinic to ride at noon. I was awake until about 9:00 p.m. slept until 6:30 a.m. until I was up again for day two of the clinic. I stayed to watch and fill my head with more knowledge before leaving and heading home. That night, like many to come during show season, I had about four hours of sleep before heading off to work.

Cortney and Charlotte in the Hawley Bennett Clinic. Photo courtesy of Cortney McDaniel.

I know that sleep and healthy habits are very important, along with healthy eating habits and exercise. Don't get me wrong, It is very challenging to juggle full time work and a full time Eventing Clydesdale, but I would not change it for the world. I enjoy every moment and live every day to the fullest as best I can. The best advice I can give to someone struggling to juggle life as an eventer is to always stay positive. If you are determined to set goals and fulfill your dreams, than nothing will stand in your way!

Can’t wait for the next installment? Follow along with Charlotte and Cortney on their blog!

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