Three dynamic speakers brought laughter and tears during the Area 1 Annual Meeting keynote address. We were so fortunate to have Arial Grald, Jane Hamlin, and Jessica Halliday, all hailing from Area 1, to share their trials and triumphs from 2019. Ariel thrilled us with her year of successful 5* competitions, placing at both Kentucky and Burghley. Jane gave us insight into judging at Badminton, the Pan Am games, and the test event for the Tokyo Olympics. Jess spoke of smiling through a challenging year filled with medical issues and the loss of dear friends, thanks to the support of the community and a positive outlook.
Arial Grald grew up riding at Hitching Post, a barn rat who enjoyed the comradery of other horse-crazy girls. Like many of us, she never outgrew the horse phase and continued to ride and compete in Area 1 through her teens, and, in 2004, rode in the last of the long format Young Rider championships in Illinois. Arial balanced college, horses, and two jobs, graduating with a microbiology degree from UVM, and then worked for a year in a research lab before returning to horses full-time, eventually finding her Area 1 roots working for Annie Eldridge. Arial credits the Area 1 community for the connections that allowed this partnership to happen, and the Young Rider and other development programs like the U25 training for helping her through the transition from young adult to professional. As a part of the Developing Rider list, she is striving to make the Elite list next as she aspires to ride for the US team. Her message to young riders is that hard work, determination and grit are all essential elements to success. Keep an open mind and keep at it – you learn from every horse you ride, even if they aren’t fancy.
Jane Hamlin has viewed many USEA Areas from the judge’s box and feels Area 1 has the best comradery around. Starting her journey at the NEDA USDF judges training program, Jane has transitioned from a national judge to a 5* FEI Eventing judge, and spent the last year judging at some of the top events in the world. At Badminton in England, she was referred to as the cranky American judge, and was impressed by the crowds and the public interest in eventing. According to Jane, “You should all put Badminton on your bucket list” – a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with as I was fortunate enough to have been in the stands as Jane judged last year. Chaotic Lima, Peru was the location of the Pan Am Games, where Jane was president of the ground jury. While a lower-level event than 5* Badminton, it was a very challenging 3* with beautiful, almost over-decorated and themed jumps. From there, Jane traveled to calm and structured Tokyo for the Olympic test event prior to the Summer Olympics, where Jane will also be judging. Golf carts were used to simulate cross-country issues such as refusals and horses overheating on course, and Jane enjoyed the air-conditioned judge’s booth during the extremely humid and hot conditions. Cross-country will be run an hour away from the main equestrian venue, on a reclaimed trash island, and the course will be shortened to eight minutes due to the anticipated heat. We look forward to asking Jane for a full report upon her return from the Olympics later this year!
Jessica Halliday grew up riding in Massachusetts with parents who didn’t share her love of horses but supported her as she evolved from her horse-crazy phase into a horse industry career. After leasing barns for years, she purchased her current farm in Sutton, MA; shortly afterwards, she received news of a cancer diagnosis. Jess laughs about thinking stage four seemed pretty good before she realized the scale ended there, not at ten as she assumed. After enduring thirteen surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy, and countless medications, Jess continues to smile and help others, both through her non-profit Buck Off Cancer, raising money for the Cam Neely Foundation, and through her business as she matches riders with sale horses, teaches all ages from up-downers to prelim eventers, and enthusiastically greets fellow eventers at horse shows around the area. How does she stay positive after dealing not only with her own health issues, but with countless other challenges that would drop most people to their knees? I have to admit, the tears in my eyes were making it hard to take notes at this point, as I was blown away by Jess’s candor and composure. When it comes to dealing with the tough things in life, Jess chooses to face them with a smile on her face. There are countless reasons to fight, and many life lessons that Jess has learned on the back of a horse. She has a lot of aspirations for the upcoming year – running/walking/crawling the Boston Marathon, writing a book, continuing to raise money for the Cam Neeley Foundation, and, most importantly, spending time with horses and riders. And if she can’t do something, it’s OK – she knows that if she needs help, there’s a village behind her.
Huge thanks to all three of our keynote speakers. You have all inspired us as you shared your stories, and we look forward to following along and cheering you on in 2020.