“Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. Then always be a unicorn.”
This is the quote that sparked the creation of the most unique Adult Team Challenge (ATC) theme to date.Team “Then Always Be a Unicorn” was made up of Amanda Chance on Happenstance, Bobby Covington on Halo, Jeanette Bayer on Pandamonium and Sherri Hampton on Rhetabenz. This mythical team took the blue ribbon in the Broadstone Beginner Novice ATC division at the AEC this fall. Nearly as impressive as their win is their theatrical cross-country course walk (gallery right). Team member Amanda Chance shares the story of how this magical team and course walk came to be.
Bobby Covington and I are barn-mates and have been showing together all year. We are also great friends and act kind of ridiculous when we're together. We competed Beginner Novice together all spring. Right before the Horse Trial at Texas Rose in June I decided, very much on a whim, to change my entry to Novice instead. Even though it had been raining for the entire month of May... and even though we'd hardly been able to ride for weeks... and even though the course at Texas Rose isn't really known for being an easy move up. Bobby thought I was crazy, but he said "If anyone is special enough to pull that off, it's probably you," and sent me several memes about being special, one of which featured a unicorn. I sent him a unicorn one back, and that sparked several days’ worth of unicorn themed photos going back and forth. On the day we left for Texas Rose he gave me a present which was a unicorn gift bag with a unicorn t-shirt inside. He was wearing a unicorn t-shirt himself, so we spent all weekend “unicorning” it up as I took on the Novice division.
When we heard about the Adult Team Championship at the AEC, so we decided we should definitely put together a team and try to win. It sounded really fun and the prizes were fantastic. We drafted our other barn-mate, Sherri Hampton, into our team, and offered the fourth spot to a new friend, Jeannette Bayer, who we had met at Corona H.T. in May. We all ride with Amanda Merritt of Anchor Equestrian.
Once we had our team in place, Bobby and I set to work on thinking of a theme and a name. The theme came very easily; It could ONLY be unicorns. Sherri and Jeannette didn't really get a say in that, but luckily they are great sports and liked the theme. The team name was a little bit harder to come up with. We all exchanged emails back and forth for a few days about it but in the end it was a meme that won the day yet again. This one to be precise:
We decided to go with Team Always be a Unicorn, or TABU for short.
Once we had the team name in place we set about acquiring gear and team sponsors. I'm lucky enough to already know a lot of business owners and have some contacts in place, and everyone I talked to was super generous to us. They all loved the idea and wanted to be a part of supporting the team. Riding Warehouse supplied us with shirts, hats, some grooming gear, glittery whips and our team saddle pads. Mango Bay design gave everyone a belt. Uncle Jimmy's horse treats sent us tons of product to have and to give away at AEC. Straight Shot Metal Smashing made us some really cute unicorn bridle charms. Willow Tree Farm, a breeding farm in Midland, TX owned by my friend Michelle, offered to pay for our tack stall so we could have a place to hang all kinds of unicorn stuff. Gypsy Tails sent us some colored tail extensions so we could be extra majestic on cross-country. It was really amazing how so many people were incredibly generous to us and really supportive of our fun theme. All of the extra stuff really helped make us feel more like a team, and more fabulously “unicorny.” Willow Tree Farm also let us borrow their ATV for the week, and we dressed it up like a unicorn, complete with a horn and a tail. We of course called it the ‘Unicart.’
The course walk was my baby. Bobby and I do goofy course walks at every event we go to, but I wanted the AEC one to be particularly good. I got the unicorn masks and outfits together, came up with a storyline idea, and drafted Bobby and Jeannette into playing the roles of the unicorns. Pictured left. We were out there in the afternoon sweating our buns off and looking like total fools (oh the looks people give you when you walk around cross-country with a unicorn mask on), but we had a good time shooting the pictures for the walk. We also threw a party on Thursday night by the tent barns, open to any and all, where we had unicorn races and played Pin the Horn on the Unicorn, giving out Riding Warehouse gift cards and other unicorn stuff as prizes.
The night before dressage day our trainer, Amanda Merritt, foolishly made us a bet that if we won ATC she would wear the unicorn mask in the awards photos. We took that bet very seriously, so when we won I made her come out in the ring and put the mask on. Everyone got a good laugh out of it. Competing is such serious business, especially at the AEC. It was nice to have those moments of levity that our unicorn-related ridiculousness provided.
We named the mask Uni, and her legacy lives on post-AEC. Amanda Merritt took the mask with her to Fair Hill International CCI3*, and had her autographed by/photographed with a bunch of big name riders. These included Jimmy Wofford, Colleen Rutledge and U.S. Chef d’Equipe David O’Connor (Pictured Below). We're going to take her to Rolex Kentucky CCI4* next spring to get more autographs, and then auction her off next summer to benefit a local Eventing facility owner and her special needs daughter. Uni has her own Facebook page and Instagram account full of photos of her adventures, and when she's auctioned off a book of those photos will accompany her to her new home.
Photos Courtesy of Amanda Chance.
Do you have you had a creative Adult Team Challenge Theme? Send it to Shelby.
It’s been 13 years since an American has stood atop the podium at a five-star event, but Boyd Martin broke the dry spell today with the Turner Family’s 15-year-old Anglo European mare On Cue (Cabri D’Elle x On High) as the winners of the first-ever Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill. It was a thrilling down-to-the-wire finish where Martin and On Cue climbed from third to first to take home champion honors with just .01 points between him and second-place finisher and weekend-long leader Oliver Townend.
Following yesterday’s downpour, the temperatures for the final jog this morning were brisk but the CCI5*-L horses remained professional for the last horse inspection leading into show jumping later today. Of the 35 pairs set to move forward with the final phase of competition, only 34 presented to judges Angela Tucker (GBR), Martin Plewa (GER), and Mark Weissbecker after Lisa Marie Fergusson opted not to bring forward her own 15-year-old Welsh/Thoroughbred gelding (Brynarian Brennin x Dream Contessa) Honor Me.
After a jam-packed week, the final day of competition at the Maryland 5 Star is upon us. Riders have shown off their style in the horse inspection, danced their way down the centerline in dressage, and contested some serious obstacles in cross-country up until this point. Now it's time to demonstrate the fitness and accuracy that each horse possesses in the final phase: show jumping.
It was a great day of cross-country riding at the Maryland 5 Star. There were 35 horses who crossed the finish and 11 of those finished double clear. With British, French, New Zealand, Canadian, and American riders coming through the finish flags – it was a true world class competition. The USEA was at the finish to see what the riders thought of the very first Maryland 5 Star cross-country track designed by Ian Stark.