Our community is full of amazing equestrians and one of the highlights of starting this magazine is finding people like Ellen Doughty Hume-taking on events that I dreamed of just attending as a child much less ride in. The first issue of The Northeast Texas Equine was just released when Rolex weekend came around April 29th-May 1st. I was like a fan girl watching Ellen and her horse Sir Oberon, aka Obie, compete throughout the weekend and even more thrilled that they are from Rockwall.
As soon as Ellen got home to Rockwall from Lexington, Kentucky, she was right back at it with lessons and preparing for shows. I caught up with Ellen via email for her thoughts on her second trip to the prestigious Rolex Three Day Event, the only 4-star event in the United States.
For those of us who couldn’t be in Kentucky, we were able to watch it on the USEF Network online. Every three-day event starts out with “the jog.” This is when riders jog their horses in front of the judges to ensure that the horses are sound and fit for competition. Eventing is a very intense three-day competition, particularly at this level. It’s vital that the horses are sound and ready for the work to come.
Q: Are you ever nervous in the jog? It seems like it would be exciting but nerve-wracking at the same time!
A: Ever since Rolex 2014, where Obie and I were spun at the first jog, I do get nervous in the jog! I breathe a sigh of relief when I hear “Sir Oberon, accepted!” You just wonder if they see something that I don’t see. I would never present a horse I thought was not fit or sound enough to do the job at hand, but what if they’re a bit stiff or the ground is a bit hard. There’s a million things that can go wrong with horses!
Q: Your dressage test looked great! What were your thoughts and would you have done anything different?
A: I thought Obie was super relaxed this year in the dressage at Rolex, especially in the big atmosphere. I was pretty happy with everything except our last flying change. He changed early behind. Something that many people don’t know about Obie is that he broke his pelvis as a baby. As a result, he is very asymmetrical and the more collection required, the more uneven he looks behind in the trot work. I think the judges definitely saw this in the trot work and it affected our score. I am working with my vets and farrier on some different shoeing methods to help with this and we work every day on getting him stronger and more even behind.
Q: The cross country was so wet. It rained again this year. You were one of the first few on the course early that day. How was the footing?
A: The footing was pretty good, a bit greasy, but was holding up well despite the rain. I ran last year in the pouring rain and when it started to rain this year, I was like, “Seriously! Again!?” Luckily, I had the experience from running in the rain last year and knew I needed to be bolder and kick on instead of riding timidly, as I did last year. I also had my farrier drill a 3rd stud hole in my hind shoes, which helped with grip on the course.
Q: I tuned in right as you were in a bit of a predicament at fence 7a, but you held fast, let your horse do his thing and stuck the landing. What goes through your head in a moment like that?
A: Honestly, I didn’t know he hung a leg at fence 7a until I saw the pictures and video. I just thought we had a big landing off the big drop in. I just sat up, kept my eye on the B element, as did Obie, and we flew over it like nothing had happened. I think he saw the water at the last second and just dropped his left shoulder. Fortunately, he is very quick on his feet and got the leg snapped up and landed on the one leg on the other side! I thank that “fifth leg training”!
Q: I saw you credited CrossFit Rockwall on Facebook for why you were able to stick that jump. How has Cross Fit helped you prepare for eventing in general as well as Rolex?
A: My husband and I started working out at CrossFit Rockwall in December, less than 6 months ago, and I’m addicted! I can’t wait to see what I can do a few years from now after doing CrossFit all that time. I really enjoy CrossFit because they can tailor the program for anyone. Every workout can be scaled and it’s something different every day. I grew up doing athletics. I rode horses, but I was also Varsity Captain of my softball and swim teams in high school. I have lifted weights and done cardio my whole life. I like CrossFit, because it is challenging, but never boring. There is something different to do daily. I LOVE the Rockwall location. They are like a second family. They even sent me to Rolex with a huge goodie bag filled with healthy snacks, reading material and a neck pillow! It is an awesome group of people. My only regret – why didn’t I start doing this years ago?! I have always been a big advocate of being fit to be able to compete in event. You can’t expect your horse to be fit and carry you around cross country if you are not equally as fit. I thought I was fit before CrossFit, now I see that I can be so much better.
Q: What did you think of the cross country course overall? I know there’s a lot of “discussion” in the eventing community about the safety of the courses. Do you think that Rolex is generally a safe course? How do you prepare for those types of questions at home?
A: I thought the cross country course rode great. I felt like my horse and I came off the course more confident and knowledgeable than when we left the box and I think that is all you can ask of a course designer. I don’t think cross country courses will ever be “safe.” Sports in general are not “safe,” especially when it involves a 1200 pound animal. I think we need to do our best to minimize risk and educate riders, but at the end of the day, accidents do happen. Humans make mistakes, as do horses, and when you’re jumping solid objects, the results could be catastrophic. I know the risks and I love the sport. I do my best to minimize the risk by making sure I am educating my horses and not taking them beyond their skill or education level. I also try to do my part as a coach in educating other riders to be as safe as possible and teaching them all the basics so that they have a proper foundation.
Q: You were spectacular in the show jumping. One rail down is not bad at all! It looked like Obie handled all of the jumps quite well and you could see he was very responsive to you on the course. What happened at the triple combination?
A: Thank you! I am still kicking myself for that rail. Obie jumped out of his skin and the triple combination was all my fault. He had the C element down because I didn’t sit up and balance him back enough before it. I had thought it was going to ride more forward, oxer to oxer, but I opened up his stride too much and got him long to the C element. Had I just sat up and held for a split second, we would have been double clear. Oh well, that’s how we learn! I was overjoyed with him and how he jumped though, especially considering how tired many of the other horses were and the course we had run in the rain the day before!
Q: What do the next few days look like from a train perspective for Obie after an event like this?
A: He had three weeks off and he was ready to go back to work! We have been hard at work on our dressage and are gearing up for Rebecca Farm in Montana next. Then I am aiming for a three star (or possibly four star – I have applied for an overseas grant), so we’ll see what happens!
Q: What were your overall thoughts on this year’s Rolex? Do you have plans for next year?
A: I thought we improved great from our performance from 2015 and hope we will just continue to keep improving. The more experience Obie and I get at this level, the better we will be! I thought he was super in each phase and I look forward to tacking the course next year. My goal is to be in the Top 10!
Ellen and Sir Oberon finished Rolex 2016 in the Top 30 with a placing of 26. Sir Oberon is a bay Holstein/Thoroughbred cross gelding. Ellen is the owner of Pegasus Eventing at Rockwall Hills. Ellen is originally from Michigan and was first introduced to horses at Girl Scout camp. During her last semester of college at Michigan State University, she participated in a study abroad program in Northern Ireland where she took courses in equine nutrition, equine sports medicine, dressage equitation, and jumping equitation. When she returned from Ireland in 2006, she landed a job in Texas, teaching lessons and training horses for two years before branching out on her own and starting Pegasus Eventing. Ellen found Obie as a 5-year-old in 2008 and knew he was something special. Look at them now!