Make the dream come true at Fylicia Barr Eventing

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Sep 14, 2022

Make the dream come true at Fylicia Barr Eventing

Pictures of Diana Rowland

“Teamwork makes the dream work” has become a popular social media caption for athletes across all disciplines. This phrase seems especially relevant to those in the world of eventing. Although the spotlight may be on a single horse and rider combination during the heat of competition, every event rider understands that his is a fundamentally team sport, dependent on the efforts and skill of grooms, event managers stable, coaches, working students and often a wide range of friends and family, without whom the stresses of competition, training and travel would not be sustainable. But what exactly is in the “work” that keeps a team going for the long haul?

The very real fact of burnout and the challenges of maintaining a cohesive staff in many barns indicates that the ideal of cooperation for mutual benefit is far more elusive than celebratory hashtags might suggest.

One coach who seems to have cracked the code for building a cohesive and enduring team is Fylicia Barr. Over the past few years, Barr’s career has skyrocketed as she and her mare, Galloway Sunrise, have added one achievement after another to their impressive resume. These include a first place finish in the CCI4*L at Jersey Fresh in 2019; a first place finish in the Advanced division at the Maryland Horse Trials in 2020; be named to the USEF Eventing 25 Emerging Athlete program and the USEF Future Team Challenge in 2020; and a successful debut at the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event in 2021. Barr’s first syndicate horse, Quantum Cooley, is currently the highest ranked 4-year-old in the nation as he heads to the Young Event Horse Championships at Fair Hill this fall.

Pictures of Diana Rowland

While these accomplishments have earned her significant accolades as a rider, it’s clear from every aspect of Barr’s farm in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania that teamwork is central to her business. The management team consists of Barr, his assistant Melanie Schaefer and Dawn Nelson, who until recently served as full-time stable manager and still contribute to all aspects of the business. . Together they oversee a stable of approximately 20-25 horses in the heart of Zone 2. Barr’s clients range from those just starting their competitive careers to higher level riders. Many have been with her for over five years and consider her family. At any given competition, it’s clear to see the FBE team in action that their unity and mutual support is unwavering. Reflecting on the qualities and practices that have made their unit such a strong unit for so long, Barr, Schaefer and Nelson emphasized three key elements: respect; work ethic; and communicate.

For Barr, one of the most important aspects of building a strong team is respect. “There’s a way to run your business and be nice while getting the best out of people,” Barr says. “You can set boundaries, but also make a conscious effort to treat people with the respect they deserve.” To cultivate respect, there is a skill set that many might overlook: emotional self-regulation. Just as a good rider does not let emotions get in the way of a ride, the ability to control one’s own responses and reactions to any given event is essential to maintaining a respectful and efficient barn environment. “There’s no stinging,” Nelson says. “No one should be afraid of a backlash if someone is having a bad day.” Barr herself exemplifies this positivity, and she quietly expects the same from those who ride with her. “I understand that everyone has bad days; people and horses,” Barr says. “But it’s important not to cling to it.” If she senses someone has the day off, she might suggest that person do a hack to dispel the negative energy. “Fylicia always finds something positive in every situation,” Nelson adds. This positive energy is crucial to creating an atmosphere of respect and is maintained through practices like group discussions which provide a forum for everyone at the barn to support each other and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. “We set it up to make everyone feel competitive but not against each other,” Barr says.

A shared work ethic is another key element of Barr’s team. “Everyone does everything here,” says Schaefer.

Pictures of Diana Rowland

“No one expects to come and ride a horse that has been groomed perfectly for them.” For Barr, hard work and “the desire to put that little bit extra” is the biggest proof that runners want to be there. “Everyone rides when it’s hot; we ride in the pouring rain,” says Schaefer. “At trade shows, everyone rides, prepares, encourages, helps and supports each other.” The expectation at Barr’s Barn is that every member of the team will do their best and support each other. “When other people see that, it sets an example,” Schaefer points out.

Finally, clear and consistent communication is essential to the proper functioning of the farm. Each morning begins with a team meeting so that the management team can coordinate trips and lesson times as well as resolve any issues that arise. The meeting not only serves as a logistical necessity, but sets a positive tone for the rest of the day and reaffirms the underlying values ​​of respect and shared hard work. “Nobody barks orders,” Schaefer says. “It’s still an ongoing conversation.”

These qualities of respect, shared work ethic and communication were put to the test in the winter of 2021 when the FBE team took advantage of the schools coming online to spend the winter season in Aiken. For two and a half months, a group of 12 people shared a 5-bedroom house which also served as an online classroom for the young runners in the group. “The only way to work for us going to Aiken was for us all to be a team and work together,” Schaefer said. Despite the cramped quarters, the season was a success with no drama ever disturbing the band. In addition to training and competing together, the team took advantage of the situation to strengthen their bonds as an extended family. “Everyone helped with the chores. We had weekly game nights. We would take turns cooking dinner,” Nelson recalls. “We finished the season with the best competitive results we have ever had.”

Barr points out that hers is a barn filled with different personalities — riders and horses — but everyone shares the same goals. Ultimately, all of the hard work that goes into building a resilient team goes into keeping those goals front and center for all of its clients and students.

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