Creeping on celebrity riders isn't for the faint of heart–it takes dedication, perseverance and an excellent zoom lens. Gretchen Pelham shows us how it's done.
Last year I went to the Rolex Three Day Event in Kentucky with four teenage girls who had never been. Katherine, Olivia, Kennedy and Michaela were 17, 16, 15 and 14, and all five of us camped in my two horse trailer for long weekend. The girls slept in a pile in the back of the trailer where the horses normally go, and I slept in the gooseneck part that goes over the bed of the truck. I did have the inside of the trailer pressure washed for the girls. Not that the girls would have cared.
My trailer will never be the same after that weekend. Kennedy knows of what I speak. I am certain my horse will never load into my trailer again without wondering just WHAT had happened to his traveling box.
I will admit that I was woefully unprepared for what I was getting into by bringing a pack of horse-crazed teenage girls into that horsey heaven. They are my riding students, but we train for foxhunting not showing. This event was far and beyond anything they had ever envisioned. The girls went into orbit with equine ecstasy. For 60 straight hours they were never quiet, still or without something to munch. I do believe we could have fueled a small city with the energy emanating from those four girls.
This weekend was to be an educational one for the girls about what you can achieve with horses. I also believe in teaching life lessons to my students. Like always take responsibility for your mistakes and never blame your pony. Always return borrowed things in better shape than your received them. Master your emotions, including fear and anger, to be able to handle difficult situations with grace and dignity. I am always on the lookout for more teaching opportunities, and I saw a very important life lesson opportunity at this Rolex.
Lately I have been seeing a very disturbing trend with the teenage girls of today. Over the decades girls have always picked certain celebrities to obsess over, and I have noticed that there is this little guy named Beiber who is getting a lot of attention. Him–really? Have they seen that ridiculous thing he is putting on his head and calling a hat? I am a life-long connoisseur of ball caps, and that thing on Beiber’s head is an offense to all milliners and hatters out there. Someone get Tim Gunn to his rescue, STAT.
I saw it as my feminine duty to properly show these girls how to fan-girl obsess and wipe away any inclination of glassy-eyed stares when they think of the Beiber idiot. I will not have members of my sex disgraced by such misplaced adoration.
In order to first start with a proper obsession you need to pick someone suitable for all the attention and energy that you will give to this endeavor. And once you have picked a proper subject to apply all your crazy-eyed energy too then one must know how to properly stalk. There is an art to celebrity stalking without resulting incarceration that I felt was my duty to teach the girls.
The celebrity needs to start off by being good looking, whose looks must be improved when he smiles and wears tight pants. He must be a world-class at a shared activity that you also enjoy. It is important that he is also athletic and strong but with a tender heart. Accents are always a big plus. Basically I’m talking about Boyd Martin. Now THAT is a male worthy of a sea of girly screams. Oh Boy(d)!
When I saw that SmartPak was having a cross-country course walk with Boyd at the Rolex, I knew that was my opportunity to teach such an important life lesson to the girls. I signed us all up and put my Boydar on high alert. There were a LOT of people waiting for this course walk, but I was not to be deterred. I was on a mission.
Upon his leaving the barns I could tell he was close and started to bounce on my tippy toes. When he was about 100 feet away I could just see him arrive through about a hundred people. The girls were giggling at me, but they were still unaware of to what lengths one must go to properly stalk such a shiny object.
A “Shiny Object” is a code word that Judith, my friend and fellow foxhunter, created. I hesitated to reveal our private code to the girls, but I felt it was important for their education. At the 2010 WEGs Judith and I were on a dual purpose–to watch the amazing Marathon phase of the Combined Driving and to be on the lookout for shiny objects. Think of the movie “UP” and Doug the dog’s distracted, mid-sentence yell of “SQUIRREL!” and you’ll understand the meaning of the phrase.
Picture this: You are talking with your friend about the amazing athletic ability of that horse, wondering about the breeding and such, when all of a sudden there is a very yummy looking European guy standing right next to you. He is so yummy that you are totally distracted from completing your sentence so you call out, “Shiny Object!”
Code words allow you to properly obsess and talk endlessly about your shiny object without fear of harassment charges since even if he notices you he doesn’t know what you are talking about.
The European guy at the WEGs that Judith and I followed from obstacle to obstacle and snagged a clandestine photo when he wasn’t paying attention to us probably thought we were going on about some jewelry. Or he maybe not; he did hide behind a mounted police officer at one point and started to babble on about middle-aged, crazy American women that were pawing at his hair. Go figure. He did have really nice hair, though.
An aunt of one of my girls was at the course walk with us when Boyd showed up. Her reply was all I needed in reassuring myself that I had picked a suitable victim, er, celebrity for my life lesson to the girls. Beth said, “Ooooh. NOW I understand. He looks like Robert Redford!”
Yes, honey, a young Bobby Redford with an Aussie accent who once cried on a TV interview when talking about charging into a burning barn to save his beloved horse and who just happens to look plain delicious from behind in those riding breeches. If there ever was a shiny object–Oh Boy(d)! That Beiber idiot should go hide his head in shame (and burn that stupid thing on his head).
When the walk started, I went into overdrive. I am a small, short woman so I could slip in between people at about Mach 2 speed to get to the front. The girls were shocked–they had never seen me move so fast out the saddle. To those fellow walkers who were bumped into by a woman followed by a line of girls huffing and puffing to keep up I do apologize for knocking into you. But it was in the service of providing important education to our youth, you see.
When Boyd took off his jacket to tuck in his shirt (oh my!), the girls had to grab a hold of my hair braid to keep me from bolting under the ropes onto the course with him.
Olivia mentioned that Boyd was married. Yeah, yeah he is married to a gorgeous woman who has more riding ability in her little pinky than I ever will. Yes, yes, yes, but wifie-schmifie. I dismissed such an unimportant piece of information with a wave of the hand. Katherine then reminded me about the man named Bert who she claimed lived at my house. “Bert? Bert who?” I replied with my eyes fixed on Boyd's smile.
Never let unimportant distractions keep you from your due diligence of fan-girl stalking your shiny object.
At one of the jumps Mary King was out walking her course, and I did notice for a moment the British legend through the thick fog emanating from my shiny object, but only for just a moment because Boyd was talking in that Aussie accent again. It sounded perfect.
There was some other woman on the course walk with my Boyd who annoyingly kept taking the attention away from him. Allison… something? Whatever. Yeah, lady–you’re one of the top eventers in the world but hush up and move over. I need me some more Boyd time with that accent.
It only took a few minutes for the girls to realize that I was serious about this stalking mission. So in an effort to hold me back they took turns grabbing my hair braid or the strap of my back pack as we ran through the crowd to keep Boyd in sight. I overheard their plans of who would tackle me first if I escaped their clutches and managed to reach Boyd. Their confidence in their delusional belief that they could actually stop me was cute.
At one glorious point during the course walk I was in step with Boyd as he was walking from the coffin jump to the Normandy Bank. I was even with him about three feet away and separated only by that annoying rope. But the girls had a hold of both my arms to keep me on the public side of the rope and away from him. I almost went head first into the post that held the cross walk flag because my focus was lasered to my right as I walked ahead, but the girls saved me with an inch to spare.
Another lesson when stalking up close your shiny object–never face plant into urban construction or you will cause undo attention to your mission. That mission being to admire your object from as close a distance as you can without getting arrested. Sometimes that is a tricky line to walk.
The next day was cross-country day, and I was very nonchalant about when Boyd was scheduled to ride. But believe me, my Boydar was on high alert after lunch. When Michaela said that he was scheduled to start in 10 minutes I gave a little girl squeal and started to skip towards the Curved Brushes. It was raining at the time and the going was uphill. I must say that it took quite a bit of effort to propel my middle-aged bones into an uphill skip, but the physical effort was worth the lesson to the kids to show just what is required to properly fan-girl stalk a worthy shiny object.
I had it all planned out to get the maximum number of photographs of him: catch him at the Curved Brushes, then run to the Coffin and finally crossing over the galloping lane to get him at the Goose Pond on his way home.
While we waited at the Curved Brushes the girls got out their blanket and settled down as if for a nap. I cautioned the girls that I would not wait for them as I planned to run to the Coffin as soon as he was through the Brushes. I was not going to let their laziness stop me from seeing him jump. A lady was also standing there at the brushes and overheard me. She started to laugh and asked the obvious question using only two words, “Boyd Martin?” Of course!
After he was through the Brushes, I did as I had warned the girls I would do. I ran as fast as my more-than-slightly overweight, arthritic, still-sore-from-a-foxhunting-crash body would go. I went down to the ditch to bully my way through the crowd at the Coffin. And after he was through there (brilliantly, I might add) we then hurried on to the Goose Pond to wait for him there. The girls were dragging their blanket trying to keep up. They were obviously not taking this shiny object mission as seriously as I was.
What is wrong with the youth of today? I was concerned by their lack of enthusiasm.
Later I heard it announced that Boyd had pulled up his horse, Trading Aces, not long after jumping that goose because his horse was tired and fading fast. So instead of feeding his ego with a shot of fame and glory by completing the four-star course, Boyd put his pony first and retired three jumps from home. How much shinier can a man get?
After all the riders had gone through the course, we headed back to the horse trailer at camp. The girls were lying in the back of the trailer with the big doors open, looking at their photos they had taken. I was sitting in the cab of the truck charging my phone when I heard Michaela holler, “Oh, Miss Gretchen?”
I gave a tired mumble, “Yeah?”
“Miss Gretchen, Olivia got a picture of Boyd’s butt!”
If there is an Olympic sport of jumping out of a truck cab to run at top speed to the back of the attached horse trailer I would have won it that day. As I careened around the end of the trailer, amidst the girls’ screams of surprise, I dove head first into the trailer to belly flop on top of their piles of sleeping bags and pillows to gaze at the screen that showed the very shiny derriere.
If one is to fan-girl stalk properly then one must be ready to leap into action at a moment’s notice. No matter how many muscles you pull in the process.
We did try to see him at the meet and greets at the Purina booth, but we were unsuccessful. The first one was canceled while we were waiting in line and the second one wasn’t announced in time for me to get there. The girls, however, were nearby when he was signing autographs on Sunday. Olivia asked the other girls if they should wait in line to save me a spot, but they didn’t wait. What ungrateful children who now have hours and hours of no-stirrup, cross-country riding in their future.
So while the weekend ended with me NOT getting my picture taken with Boyd or even making eye contact with him, I still feel that I was able to pass on a valuable life lesson to my girls. It is possible to pick a WORTHY shiny object to fan-girl obsess over while not having a restraining order taken out on you by said object’s wife.
My birthday is coming up and the girls asked me what I wanted. After telling Katherine under no uncertain terms was she to put my exact age in icing on several dozen cookies again, I said I wanted a cake. But no ordinary cake; I wanted that picture of his very shiny derriere printed on my cake.
Katherine asked incredulously, “So… You want to eat his, his… um, what?” There is still so much to teach these girls. I will just have to start going to all the events that Boyd is competing at in order to pass on these very important life lessons to them.
Anyone know of a good lawyer? I might need one soon, but think of the fun I will have! Oh Boy(d)!
Gretchen is one of the five Joint Masters of the Tennessee Valley Hunt. She is a photographer and always hunts with her large 20D Canon camera and zoom lens shoved down the front of the her hunt coat (including this day she fell). Sometimes she even remembers to put the digital card in the camera. She is known as the Naked Foxhunter from a series of articles she has written for The Chronicle of the Horse. Her other hunt pony Ziggy writes a blog for the foxhunting magazine Covertside. Occasionally Gretchen manages to finish a hunt without falling off, but that is not as often as she would like.
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