At Mayfield Farm the years go by so fast. Our year started on a very grim low, with the death of Mayfield Miracle on 31/12/2013 as a result of injuries sustained in the fire. At least we knew the year could only get better. He is missed everyday. He had a wonderful, playful, outgoing personality and tried to engage people more than any other horses I have known. He was beautiful and talented, on the cusp of a Grand Prix start. He was irreplaceable. He had a kind of cheeky grin that just said 'watch me'. We will never forget him.
We have had a difficult breeding season and lost a beautiful filly and also Miracle's mother. We are hand rearing her filly, who is doing well thanks to the dedication of the Mayfield Farm family who are taking turns at feeding her every two hours during the night. All credit for her wellbeing goes to Kristin White.
Orphan foal (sister to Limelight and Miracle), Brightlights enjoying her milk at one day old
It is those times that we wonder, “Why do we do this? Is it worth the pain?”. Well at the core of it, we do it because it brings meaning and purpose to our lives. The goals we set and work towards, the relationships with our horses and the relationships with the people who share our goals and our values, all bring meaning to our lives. Let's face it, there is very little that really has intrinsic meaning, things only have the meaning that we give to them. If you are interested a great summer read on the meaning of life, Viktor Frankl's book 'Man's Search For Meaning' from 1946, and the Dallai Lama's 'The Meaning of Life' are very worthwhile.
This sport of ours is very demanding emotionally. We all face the highs and lows, we know we are likely to lose some of the animals we love. But we can only avoid the pain of losing them if we don't allow ourselves to love them in the first place. So we take a risk, live dangerously and love these wonderful creatures. It is the same with the people we are close to. To be resilient we have to remain optimistic, enjoy positive feelings, stay close to others for support, and find meaning and purpose in what we do. I plan to write more about resilience next year.
The highs have included the joy of seeing some plain youngsters develop into beautifully muscled, more confident creatures, developing balance and flexibility. I believe that as the horses flourish and that as their bodies develop, they develop character and personality that reflects confidence. We have of course had highs in the competition arena in dressage, jumping (Tori) and showing (Kristin). We were all so excited when Mel (the apprentice at Mayfield) won Champion Show Hunter on Zaphir at her first go at showing. That was a highlight.
Pzazz keeps on improving and enjoying his work and I enjoy him so much. Our low point was at the Nationals when he got his tongue over the bit for the first and only time. We had no canter half pass and an awful score. But we finished in fifth at Equitana and third at the Saddleworld Dressage Festival. Highs and Lows. If the worst thing that happens to you is you ride an awful dressage test then you have a pretty charmed life.
Sustainability is the catch cry of the the 21st century. Our sports must become more financially sustainable. Since the Sydney Olympics we have enjoyed great government support, but this probably won't continue. We must develop diverse income streams. We must attract commercial sponsorship by being more professional and offering a better product. Sponsorship money comes from the advertising and promotions budgets of companies. There is potential to attract financial support on a sound business footing, by firstly getting data on our marketable characteristics, e.g. what do we spend money on, and then making the case that supporting us will lead to profit for companies who we may deal with. As an example, we buy a lot of 4WD vehicles, so if we could attract the manufacturers to support us and then we supported them, we could change the sport. We can also attract sponsorship by making the sport more media friendly. Advertisers want a connection with the bigger audiences through media such as TV. Now there are also new opportunities to reach people through electronic media, live streaming, Facebook etc. We can work together to make equestrian sport a better 'product'. I have been very involved with a market research survey which should come out from Equestrian Australia in the new year. This is a crucial step in gathering the data we need to start making a stronger case to the commercial sector that supporting us is good for them.
So while we look back on the year that was we must look forward to a more secure foundation for our sport.