Wednesday, February 21, 2024

my weekend at Ram Tap

Over the years, I've worked to diversify my involvement and activities in eventing. Mostly because I'm really interested in learning more about the administration of the sport itself, and everything that goes into it. 

Also because... Let's be real, I'm not super likely to reach the pinnacle of the sport as a rider -- but I definitely want to stay involved in other ways.  

welcome to a very special place
So a few years ago, I started getting involved in more formal certification programs. And it has been an incredible (and humbling) experience ever since! 

The program renewal came due last year, tho, with the seminar located far enough away that costs were prohibitive. So I deferred. Then this year... Well. Same story. Except, kinda worse.

tucked neatly between a power line field and railway line, this little plot of land has been fostering west coast eventing for decades and decades and decades
It had been so long since I'd even competed myself... with no clear path toward change any time soon... It felt a bit ridiculous to lay out a big investment in renewing my certification when I'd honestly much prefer to spend that capital on my own riding. 

Gotta keep the main thing, the main thing -- right??

our esteemed panelists discussing the big impact from simple treatments like paint and plants
So.... I did what "normal" people do lol: I let my association know my license would be lapsing, and bought a young horse instead (hi, Doozy!). Because... Let's be real, I need to keep gaining experience in the saddle, right?

yea, there's geometry involved. but eh, it kinda just makes sense
But Lo! I'd applied somewhat haphazardly to the Broussard Charitable Foundation grant program for the "r" training program, never believing in a million years I'd be awarded-- but I was! 

Holy moly and THANK YOU to the generosity of families and sponsors supporting and developing the officiating pipeline!

spent time walking and evaluating courses solo
And thus we arrive on the West Coast in February, among a great group of  seminar participants, warmly embraced by the Ram Tap family at the Fresno Horse Park. 

very pretty fish!!
And these seminars are incredible, guys. The topics covered are wide and varied, relating to fence construction, use of terrain, the impact of decorating, risk mitigation, and the biophysics of how horses perceive color and contrast. 

color matters! consider the red corner B element on the left side....
Much of this feels at least passingly familiar to the intrepid eventer -- and it should! But it also bears repeating, and often. 

just bc it's an older style of fence doesn't mean we can't make it work!
Probably my favorite aspect of this seminar, vs when I was originally certified down in Aiken, was that we actually got to see the competition in action over the weekend. 

ground lines, yo!
Like, we walked the courses first, evaluating them from a variety of perspectives (ie, design, construction, decoration, safety, etc.), assessed what we liked or how we might adjust or do differently... Then watched the riders go, and mapped actual footprints against our expectations afterward. 

Especially when it comes to conversations about fence profiles, terrain and distances in combinations, this was an extremely useful exercise. 

checking out takeoff + landing footprints afterward
The most interesting bits for me included how different the ground is on the West Coast from my usual haunts in Area II. 

footprints aren't always where you'd expect!
The travelling lanes on Ram Tap's courses are impeccably maintained -- scraped of grass, harrowed, aerated, watered, etc. It's almost like jumping on arena footing, except with terrain!

beautiful execution of the P sunken road by Elsa Warble on FE Unlimited
Not that the horse park has a whole lot of terrain, let's be real, but they definitely put to use the roughly ~15m of elevation gain they have! (Compared to the roughly ~30-35m of elevation change you might expect to see at the Fair Hills or Plantations of the world).

blue line delineates the far-out landing zone from the sunken road, with human for scale
Another interesting observation, at least imho, was the notably high quality of both the riders and horses at this event. Not that we don't have extremely talented riders and lovely horses here in Area II (obviously we do). But the uniformity was kinda amazing. 

plotting hypothetical future combinations
Maybe bc the format of events in Area VI is just so different -- all levels at this event ran across 3 full days, with each phase on a different day whether you rode at Intermediate or BN. Most riders shipped in with big programs from 4+ hours away (and often much farther distances). 

behold, my hypothetical training combination -- raised log to angled palisade
It was an expensive event for these riders who need to be highly committed to their performance. Compared to here in Area II, when you might be a bit more reasonably casual about entering a one-day event an hour up the road to show out of your trailer all day and still make your dinner plans that night. 

and my prelim combo -- drop to angled shoulder brush, set a bit farther back from water's edge
Just a very different level of accessibility for showing, ya know? Which maybe makes for a broader range of execution performance. Or maybe it was just an early season event where everybody was riding well within their comfort zone? Who knows haha, just an observation!

organizers were so kind to us, we got to attend the Area VI awards banquet!
Anyway, it was a very cool event. Apparently they've been running horse trials here for decades. Seemed like everybody had a fun story or memory of competing at the Fresno Horse Park as kids over the years, and they have a super dedicated core group of organizers, builders and volunteers. 

again, this is a very special place, here's to many more decades of eventing at Ram Tap!
I always love going to new venues -- esp in such a different geographic region from my own home base! 

The seminar itself was also super valuable and inspiring. It's exciting to see the USEA continue to develop and formalize curricula for future officials -- especially considering many eventing stalwarts are aging out and retiring. Thanks again to the Broussard Charitable Foundation Trust's Going Forward Grant for supporting this pursuit by offsetting the costs of registration and travel!

So. Overall it was a fun trip to California, and a weekend well spent with the experts! Curious if anyone else has also explored these sorts of seminars or certification programs, and what your experience has been. Or maybe you're interested for the future? 


  1. What an awesome opportunity and trip. The pictures of the corner skeeze me out a bit because I already hate corners. Definitely do not want to make the dang things less visible to the horse (AND ME!). Also very interesting on the whole track being manicured essentially. Obviously can see why that's needed with the footing and environment there, but would change things a bit - maybe Ben and Charlie wouldn't need their good ol' studs.

    1. yea the footing situation was super interesting! like it looks really pretty right now bc they've had a ton of rain and there is actually grass... but generally there isn't much grass but there are a TON of ground squirrels. so all the footing maintenance is actually related to ensuring horses aren't stepping into deep burrows. like all the riders know to stay on the prepared paths and not wander across the other areas bc there could be holes. and yep -- exactly zero of these horses wore studs, crazy!!

      relating to that corner combo, i was super curious to see how it would ride -- and it went super smoothly! was set on a pretty open stride going slightly downhill late in course, and everyone just cruised on thru!

  2. I'm obviously not an eventer, but having ridden with an eventing trainer on the west coast for a few years, the distance thing is a big part of why she's moving to Pennsylvania. Horse trials in our area don't start till May, there's only one recognized trial in our state, all the others are at least 2hrs away, and most of them run on a 3 day format. Before deciding to move, my trainer was planning on doing Galway two weeks before Ram Tap (an 18hr drive), leaving her horse, truck, and trailer in CA with a friend, doing Ram Tap (flying in), doing Twin Rivers (flying in), and finishing with Galway again before driving home. It's insane how hard it is for eventers on the west coast.

    1. good lord, "insane" is absolutely the right word for that! i mean, "dedicated" too, but sheesh. it'll be an entirely different experience in PA -- just about every single weekend during the season (March to November-ish), you can get to either a recognized or unrecognized HT (not even counting all the other varieties of competitions, dressage, sj, h/j, etc) within usually a 2hr drive -- mayyyyybe 2.5hr if you're going down to VA from PA...

  3. Amazing! I can chime in with my limited knowledge, that yes, I think you're right about the standard of riding vs opportunity. I have a few eventing friends in California right now and with the logistics of making that happen realistically for a non pro I think you'd have to expect to be competitive and very driven to better your training in order to commit to it. When I was boarding those of us with jobs and BN aspirations stayed home in BC all winter ;)

    1. yea for sure.... i'm also betting that there are a lot fewer DIYers or privateers (which, let's be real, i kinda fall into these categories) traveling those distances solo. seemed like everybody was part of a big program. which makes sense, right? you want a bigger safer trailer for traveling those distances (vs my dinky little fiberglass bumper pull), and it's a lot easier to share costs across a bigger group. and presumably being part of that bigger program means a lot more hands-on coaching and preparation with pros who aren't likely to release you out onto a cross course you aren't ready for.... compared to some of us around here kinda yolo-ing our way around events lol.......

    2. Totally. Although I read your blogs and love the idea of just being able to casually go out and school or compete without it having to be a big thing with the barn and coach

    3. ha yea, for sure we are super lucky here to have much lower barriers to access just by sheer geographic proximity. i'm really grateful to have my trailer and my independence... tho ya know, i'm also grateful to have a horse that can get me back into at least a slightly more formal training program LOL

  4. Another west coaster here and yeah, the opportunities are not as widely available, especially for rated shows. Plus we JUST lost a major facility that hosted rated dressage shows when it sold. It's staying horsey, but so far hasn't committed to the same schedule that was previously set. Land is at such a premium that it gets snapped up easily by developers and pays more to sell than maintain as a show grounds.

    1. But also, this sounds like SUCH a cool symposium! I was really impressed by the education I received just when jump judging for WEG in 2018 so I can imagine this would be even better. Most of my educational endeavors are work focused at the moment, but this seems like such a cool extra thing to do, if only I had time hahaha

    2. volunteering is definitely a good way to learn a lot more about this stuff too!! that's kinda how i started to get interested in pursuing more of these seminars and certifications, after spending so much time volunteering in warm up rings and as a jump judge, etc. there's a lot of information to learn and it's exciting to see the USEA start to formalize the educational content!

  5. What a great opportunity! I don't event, so don't know a lot about certifications and whatnot. What were you certified for before? And when you say small r is that the same as hunter/jumper land? For judging?
    Sounds like a really educational trip, and even better that you got a grant to get to go!

    1. it was a very cool seminar! participants for this particular program are mostly pursuing "r" licenses for being a technical delegate, member of the ground jury, or course designer. personally, i'm actually less focused on the "r" at this point, bc i've had the lower level certification for the last few years that lets me do what i want to do (course design) at levels within my skillset. this seminar was sufficient to renew that certification, while also opening the door to the "r" down the road should i be so inclined. they keep changing the prerequisites for that license too, so who really knows lol, but i'm super grateful for the grant to at least get the certification renewed so i can at least keep going with what i've been doing!

  6. What an awesome opportunity and a beautiful venue!


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