Friday, January 21, 2011

From the Horse's Mouth

I asked our Irish Village Demo Team and Volunteers to email me some of their favorite moments from WEG. Here's what they shared:

Connie Arthur, Demo Rider of Bridon Beale Street RID:
"The last day of the first slot (Day 4 of WEG) I thought we (Bridon Beale Street, myself and the crowd) were a bit bored by the normal routine, so Fleur and I cooked up a bit of excitement... We got into a bit of a "quarrel" during the performance. She asked me to jump again and I refused! Then she told me to just go back to the barn, so I turned a short circle and jumped out over the arena fence. Very fun! Of course, Fleur then apologized and I jumped back in, over the "Fazolis" sign this time! Other than that we had a great time -- Fleur was a doll, the other owners, riders and helpers were wonderful. The barns were nice and it was an honor to be included."

Jayne Whitton, Demo Rider of Grace's Star IDSH:
"The 1st demo when we had a full crowd , everything worked out & the Meet & Greet was there & really interested. Drew & Buddy trying their hearts out - impressive as Buddy had only been jumping a few weeks. Connie & Liam jumping in & out of arena. Having a beer with Fleur when she told me Pudges story. Getting to watch all the awesome demos - I loved the 2 Dans from OZ. Moira's genorosity sharing dressage seats. Wacky weather - 90's to 40' unbelievable. X/C day - Perfect."

Jess Walker, Booth Volunteer and Board Member as Northwest Region Chair of the IDHSNA: "For me being a booth volunteer, there are two things that stick in my mind as being fantastic. The first is during the first show I saw, Fleur was announcing, she had such an enthusiastic voice, the Picnic table...horses jumping that was such a hoot! The fast pace of the demo, and the air of impulsivity....I walked away from that demo in tears, I was just thrilled at what I had just viewed. With the horses intermingling, yet staying focused on their line of jumps. I was proud to be an Irish horse owner and view them at their best. The second thing was the team work from day to day. As many, many problems, coordination needs, and unexpected events, between Fleur, Debbie, Sarah, and the riders, ideas flowed quickly and solutions came fast. The only reason this all worked was the team. Knowing the extreme stress on all of you, and granted, all the volunteers to help put team plans into play, I am just amazed that you all lived through it. Though I have rarely ever been that tired day after day after day, I so looked forward to each and every day up before dawn and not back in bed until 1-3 am. Wow what a ride! The memory of WEG will be with me as long as I live. What I saw at WEG, is what the IDHSNA should be.......I'll leave that right there."

Wouther van Voorthyesan, Demo Volunteer via Holland:
"It was one big moment."

Cheryl Stephens, mother of Demo rider, Gaby Stephens on Glenlord's Laralie RIDSH:
"My WEG moment was the first day of Gaby’s and Lara’s demo. Seeing my 13 year old daughter come galloping into the demo arena on her her dream horse RIDSH Glenlord’s Laralie to the sound of exciting music as Fleur announced her and the audience clapping and cheering.What a proud day and a proud moment for this horse mom! I cried tears of happiness and joy all the way back to the barn!"

Keith Douglas, owner of Demo horse Steeped in Luck RID via wife, Elizabeth:
"I just want to go back to the WEGS and just live there forever. It was a happy time."

Top 20 Moments at WEG: #1 - Fleur Bryan

For those who have not had the pleasure of meeting Fleur yet, she is truly one of a kind. She was by far the heart and soul of the Irish effort at WEG. She was also our MC for the Demos, along with overseeing practically everything else. It began as an idea in Ireland, and after over two years, became a reality. Throughout, Fleur’s Irish brogue and heavy wit helped us all get through each day. We could write a book full of her colorful sayings, which we referred to as "Fleurisms." A true lover of horses, especially Irish ones, and a friend to everyone who meets her. Thank you, Fleur, for dragging me kicking and screaming into this unforgettable experience. And a special thanks to her other half, Debbie, for keeping our whole contingency fed, full of caffeine, and holding down the fort for 16+ days (she already deserves a medal for putting up with Fleur!).

Top 20 Moments at WEG: #2 - Steeped in Luck & Tom Dvorak

This duo brought the house down the four days they performed their musical dressage freestyle. There wasn’t even standing room during their performances, and folks could be heard talking about them all throughout the park. We were honored to have an Olympian and Pan Am competitor in Tom Dvorak performing on a purebred Irish Draught stallion to spotlight the caliber and versatility of the breed. Tom’s wife, Ellen, and Steeped in Luck’s owners, Elizabeth and Keith Douglas, were also a total delight and loads of fun. (Photo credit: Alison Wolff Photography)We were also thrilled to have FEI Dressage rider Leslie Bean and FEI World Champion Driver Sterling Graburn of Gayla Driving Center as part of our Demo team.

Top 20 Moments at WEG: #3 - Gina Miles

While not competing at WEG, Gina Miles (Olympic silver medalist on Irish Sport Horse, McKinlaigh) made a point to come by during our second demo block. Fleur was able to bring her into the ring, where she said hi to the crowd and shared her love for the Irish breed with the crowd. Gina stuck around to sign autographs and say hi to the demo team as well. What a delightful person, superb athlete, and a special treat it was to have her come by.

Photos: Fleur Bryan (top) and Sarah Hooper (bottom) with Gina Miles and her silver medal

Top 20 Moments at WEG: #4 - Dr. Pearse Lyons

For those who don’t know, Mr. Lyons is the founder and President of Alltech, the title sponsor for WEG 2010. Mr. Lyons is also from Ireland. So, needless to say we were thrilled and delighted when he pulled up to our stalls one day in his Rolls Royce golf cart to drop off some of our volunteers he’d given a lift to after seeing them with an Irish flag. He stayed for a few minutes to visit with us and congratulated us on a good job promoting the Irish horses and Ireland.

Top 20 Moments at WEG: #5 - Meet & Greet

Organizing the demonstrations was quite an undertaking, and every day brought new challenges and problems. Amidst the chaos, I would find peace each day when the demo’s were over and our team headed into the “Meet & Greet” corral. I would stand at the rail and watch as hoards of kids and adults alike came to the fence to pet our horses and talk with the riders. So many people don’t know about the Irish horse breed, and this was an unbeatable chance for them to not only see, but interact, with the horses and really appreciate their versatility, athleticism, and temperament. It was a moment of great pride for me, for the breed and my demo team, and made me remember each day why we took on this bear of an event.

Top 20 Moments at WEG: #6 - Relay Race

Fleur finally convinced us in the third block to do a relay race at the end of the demo. Three Connemaras versus three Irish Draught/Sport Horses, doing a line of jumps with a baton and passing it to the next. This turned out to be a huge crowd pleaser and exciting part of the demo. The ponies and horses were neck in neck! But, my favorite moment came when our farthest traveling volunteer, Wouter van Voorthuysen from Holland, grabbed the microphone and told the crowd, “I am Wouter. I am from Holland. We cannot lose! Go horses!”