Eventing Nation: Rick Wallace on ‘going viral’

Rick Wallace was hands-down the most famous guy in eventing this week, thanks to this amazing video. He comments on his 15 minutes of fame.

From Rick:

I think we can all say that we have heard the term “going viral.” The phrase relates to a video which seems to capture the attention of many viewers and ends up having tens of thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of views. I know I would see stories on the news or on Facebook about a video going viral, and I would click on the video to see what all the fuss was about! I can definitely say, I never thought I would be the person who had a video go viral.

The video, in case you missed it:

A moment in time is captured on video and then played over and over and over again. My moment was a miscommunication in the stadium round with my new and very talented horse Ultimate Decision (aka Mark). Now most would think that going viral is cool, and for the most part, it is. I have tried to make a positive out of a negative. Going viral is exhausting. The overwhelming messages, texts and phone calls can begin to really wear you out.

You then have to grow some thick skin. Going viral and having the opinions of basically thousands of people can be daunting. The negative comments are where you really have to take a deep breath. I can say that the Facebook comments have all been very positive. On YouTube, on the other hand, even though the positive comments outweigh the negative 25 to 1, some of those negative comments really hurt.

I have the great support of my daughter Elisa and Timothy, my future son-in-law, producer of TW videos, and the director of our marketing and social media. I was in constant contact with Timothy as the video began going viral. I then got a message from him that there were some negative comments, but for the most part, the video was deemed “ReMARKable.”

The best thing I could do was ignore the negative and hold on to the positive. Of course, I knew the inside scoop. I was there. Some of the commenters where upset with me because I did not pat or praise Mark. Several thought I was hurting his neck. Some stated I was selfish and only wanted to win (hmmmmm). One or two commented that my spurs where digging into him as I tried to get back on.

In that moment when I came around the corner and saw the slightly long distance, I thought, “We will have to go with that one.” Mark actually left the ground and in the split second when he began to take off, he slammed his feet back down resulting in this viral video. I remember the exact point of flying in the air and saying to myself, “I am going to fall off.”

Many have asked if I was a gymnast. The answer is yes. In fact, I was in the Peru Circus at 15 and did teeter board, which threw me through the air much like I was doing on Mark at that point. As I looked like Superman, I knew I needed to grab a hold of Mark’s neck. No need to have a belly flop landing on the wet footing. Plus, I had my new Tredstep Ireland Symphony Breeches on, and they were white.

Once I felt the save on the neck, I knew immediately that my feet did not hit the ground. So, with my arms wrapped around Mark, the thought going through my head was, “If I could just pull myself up without touching the ground, I can have an R next to my name, not a RF.” I know. Weird thought, but true. On top of that, as my efforts failed, I thought, “Damn Mark, you must really feel bad because you are just standing here letting me swing all over you.”

Mark’s weakness in this sport is stadium. At home when we hit a rail, I pull up and stand there for several moments letting him think about what he had just done. I am usually sitting on his back though. Well, seems that training held true even if I was hanging there.

I was talking to him the whole time. Little things like, “Geez Mark, what just happened?” And, “Thanks for standing here, buddy.” I managed a quick kiss before I let go and, at that point, we were in the zone of “what the hell just went wrong?” What you were seeing was both of us in our reflection phase, just taking it all in. On top of that, the thought of getting out of the ring was high on the priority list.

Some asked why I didn’t bow or pat Mark. On the bow, it didn’t occur to me. I feel it would not have been appropriate. As for the pat, well Mark and I had our talk and it was best we headed out with the understanding that we had some work to do.

The support, incredibly positive comments and coverage from various websites, the TV show “Right This Minute” and others I don’t know about have been pretty incredible. The exposure for Team Wallace and our sponsors has been off the charts. While I am writing this blog, we have had over 165,000 views (Editor’s note: The count is now up to 184,000!), and it seems to be increasing by about 15,000 every 12 to 18 hours. When this will slow down, I have no idea. I also found out that the views only count if the entire video is watched to the end, so there’s no telling how many have really watched the video.

How did we get here? The “incident,” as I will call it, occurred at the Chattahoochee Hills Summer Series on July 7. It was Mark’s second time going Training, and he is fresh off winning the Area 3 Novice Horse Championships in May. The story of Mark is fascinating in itself. What he is doing today, in my opinion, is amazing. So to truly understand that moment in time that went viral, let me tell you Mark’s story.

Last August, I got a call from Eugene Abello, a dressage trainer I knew from Live Oak, Fla. He told me he had a horse that he felt I needed to have, and that I was the perfect person to take him on. It was his horse, Genesis (Mark’s registered name), a 7-year-old Trakehner/Dutch gelding that he had bred and raised by the late stallion, Beaujolais, and out of a Dutch mare, Glimmer, owned by Eugene.

Eugene told me that the horse was difficult under saddle and had the tendency to buck people off. In fact, he would even lay down with people if he did not want to work that day. Eugene really had a close connection with the horse and thought he was super talented, but could not find the right person for him. I told him that I would find some time to look at him and see if he would fit into my program.

It so happened that I was on my way back from a hunter/jumper show in Jacksonville when he called, and I stopped by his farm. There was Mark, fat and standing in his stall. I wasn’t that impressed, but we put him on the lunge line and I watched him trot and at that point, try to canter. In my head I was thinking, “I do not think this one will work for me.” We put him up and I told Eugene we could talk later about the horse.

Time went by, I had a busy fall season with Ultimate Victory, and so I kept putting Eugene off. Then in November, he called and asked one more time if I wanted to try the horse out. I gave in and said, “Let me take him for a couple of weeks and see what happens.”

I got Mark home and saddled him up. I put on a neck strap and was prepared for whatever may happen. Up I went and we started out in my jump field. I walked and seemed secure, trotted and thought to myself, “Holy %&*^, this horse has a trot.” Still nothing and, in fact, he was a bit sluggish. I then tried the canter. Mark had some trouble maintaining the canter, so I kicked him and, well, he took the bit and off we went. Bucking across the jump field, there was no way to stop really, and so I did what I so often tell others to do: just hold on and ride it out.

As we began to regain some communication together, I got Mark to connect in the bridle and then kicked him again. Let’s just gallop some more is what I was thinking. Well, a light bulb must have gone off in Mark’s head and he all of a sudden became light in the bridle and managed the best canter he could produce at that time.

We have not looked back since. Mark has a 10 trot and a great walk, and his canter is getting better as we progress through our training. He had never jumped before, so once I saw he could, I called Eugene and bought Mark. The rest is now history, at least so far.

Mark began competing at Novice in January 2013 and has scored in the 20s in all his outings except for two. Those scores were 30 and 32 (the 32 at Chatt last week). He is so brave in cross country that I have to be careful. He, of course, jumps better out there while galloping. In the stadium is where his canter weakness comes out. He also has a high threshold for pain, which can be a problem. Hitting poles doesn’t bother him like it should.

I have been working diligently on the canter and the stadium phase. Finding the right bit and coordinating his great jumping ability with his strong way of just taking the bit has been the challenge. It has been only six months since he began competing and only eight months of jumping, but I believe we will make a pretty awesome force as we get this worked out.

As for our mishap at Chatt Hills, well, I went home, rethought the biting issue, and I am hoping for a better outcome this coming weekend. There is no desire to go viral again, at least the way we went viral last weekend. What I am hoping for is to continue my amazing journey with all my horses — Ultimate Victory, Ultimate Decision and Ultimate Timing. All of them are my teammates. All of them are my trusted partners. All of them have my full attention, and all of them have my commitment to always do the right thing beside them.

As for going viral, let’s just chalk it up to an “AHA! moment.” I am here, and I am hoping that the future holds the best for my horses, my children, my family and my students. Thanks for taking this journey with me, and I hope to share many more with you in the future.



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