“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.
There are many reasons why I love using cavaletti throughout the year, but the main one is that they help you practice seeing your stride without taxing your horse’s legs. Not everyone has the option of jumping several horses a week, so it can be hard to find that balance between being able to practice your jumping enough and not over-jumping your horse.
William Tatton Winter was a British painter who lived from 1855 to 1928. Sue Broughton, Winter’s granddaughter and a Thoroughbred breeder in New Zealand, named one of the foals from her 2000 crop for her grandfather. That foal, sired by the New Zealand Thoroughbred stallion Drums of Time, went on to compete at the upper levels of the sport of eventing with four different riders on two different continents under the name Tatton Winter.
Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.
In a year that saw the phrases “contactless” and “socially distant” embedded in day-to-day conversations, the highly social sport we love prevailed thanks to remarkable community efforts. Equestrians everywhere figured out creative solutions to fill the gap and remain connected despite the new challenges and uncertainties presented by the pandemic.