One of the impacts of the ice storm was the postponement of the Aiken Olympic Gala – an evening of fundraising for the USEF High Performance Eventing Team. Initially it was intended to be held at Stable View Farm, but was rescheduled for the following week at the beautiful Willcox Hotel in town.
It was a great excuse to get a bit dressed up and head out for a night of rubbing shoulders with all the big names in the business. Riders, owners, vets, coaches and team officials were just a few of the people on the guest list. I was quite mortified to realise at the last minute that I couldn’t find a dress in amongst all my breeches and thermals – a cocktail party benefiting the Olympic Team wasn’t quite what I’d imagined when I was packing my bags! I think the biggest challenge of the evening was us 5 girls trying to get ready in one small bathroom after a long day of riding – but somehow we were only just a little fashionably late.
The silent auction table – just a small selection of what was on offer
It was a really fun night and the fundraising was a big success, with plenty of great items up for grabs in the silent auction. Riding lessons with Phillip and grooming lessons with Emma Ford were just a couple of examples, and I found myself thinking I was incredibly fortunate to have access to those opportunities every day!
With the free drinks flowing freely, it wasn’t long before the night got a bit fuzzy, and a few of us kept the party going and headed out into town. There were more than a couple of sore heads the next morning, but it was certainly one of the most memorable evenings of my trip.
No night out is complete without some bathroom photos…
I was lucky enough to be invited along to some of the USEF High Performance Training Sessions this week. They’re held at Stable View Farm, which is an amazing facility on the other side of Aiken. It’s well worth having a look at their website, although the property really is much more impressive in person.
The Training Sessions are run by David O’Connor, and are used to assess how the squad members and their horses have progressed over the off season and where they’re up to in their training and fitness. Each horse also undergoes a thorough health assessment with the team vets, again just to see where they’re at, to investigate any issues that may have occurred in the past and to make plans on how to avoid any problems in the future.
Phillip took Mr Medicott, and it was really exciting and informative to be able to watch them have a jump lesson with David. The arena was packed with other people also watching, even though it was bitterly freezing – it seemed that no one wanted to miss out on seeing them jump. They really are a celebrity pair around here. I’m feeling very privileged to be so involved in all of this behind-the-scenes action!