Each issue, MSEDA will highlight a member who is active in the organization to give other members a peek into their horse-loving lives. Interested in being featured? Email Sarah at email@example.com
By Sarah E Coleman
Vanessa Coleman, Director of Competition for Equestrian Events Inc. (EEI), the entity that hosts the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, has been passionate about horses since she first moved to the Bluegrass at 4 years old. After dabbling in the hunters as a child, she began eventing, and has been enjoying it ever since. The ability to combine her passion for the sport with her unique role at EEI has made Vanessa even more appreciative of everything that goes into producing the only four-star event in North America.
MSEDA: Where are you from? If you're not from KY, what brought you here?
VC: I was born in St. Louis, MO and my father’s work brought us to Lexington. I moved away during college, but returned to the area in 2008.
MSEDA: When did you begin riding?
VC: When I was 4, after we moved to Georgetown.
MSEDA: How long have you been competing?
VC: I started competing a bit in hunters, then switched to eventing when I was about 11 or 12.
MSEDA: When did you get your first horse?
VC: The first horse I owned was a Welsh Pony named Clancy, whom I got when I was 11.
MSEDA: What horses do you own now?
VC: I own Lily, a 19-year-old OTTB that is retired and Rooster (Arcturus) a 9-year-old OTTB that I would like to event more if I could find the time!
MSEDA: How did you get Rooster?
VC: I was casually looking for a new horse and a client of Jim Graham’s had a few for sale—Rooster being one of them. She had gotten him directly off the track a few months prior to our introduction.
MSEDA: Where do you ride?
VC: Rooster lives at Antebellum Farm. It is super convenient to work and home, and I really enjoy everyone there.
MSEDA: Do you and Rooster compete?
VC: I have only managed to compete him a few times, but I hope that changes soon!
MSEDA: What is your goal this year?
VC: To ride as much as possible!
MSEDA: What is your favorite show? Why?
VC: Rolex Kentucky is my favorite show!
MSEDA: Do you have any good luck rituals? If so, what are they?
VC: I used to have lucky boot socks but I lost them!
MSEDA: What are your horse's quirks?
VC: He is a goofball and loves attention. When I got him, he was indifferent to everything and everyone, and did not really engage. Now, he has more personality than he probably needs and is a joy to work with. He knows I keep a treat or two in my pocket, so he is always checking it out. One odd thing he does is in the wash rack he loves to have me spray the concrete while he licks it! Ironically, it seems that almost every picture I take of Rooster his tongue is sticking out!
MSEDA: What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome with your horse?
VC: His tension.
MSEDA: What are your horse's favorite treats?
VC: Carrots and Mrs. Pastures Cookies.
MSEDA: How long have you been a MSEDA member?
VC: I became a member right after moving back to Kentucky in 2008/2009.
MSEDA: You work with EEI, the entity that hosts Rolex. How long have you been with this organization?
I was a volunteer from the mid-1980s until 2008. In late 2008, Jane Atkinson asked me to help out in the office through the event and I have been here ever since. I have held a few different positions: Director of Ticketing, Director of Development and now Director of Competition.
MSEDA: What does that entail?
As Director of Competition, I am responsible for and oversee everything related to the competition including: the budget; hiring all officials, veterinarians, contractors, announcers and seasonal staff; oversight of all competition pieces, including the horse inspection, dressage, cross-country, show jumping, awards, etc.; all paperwork with governing bodies; processing all entries; coordinating international entries and isolation barn; all competition items in the official event program; all volunteers; scheduling, scoring and results; credentialing; necessary equipment; and lots more!
There is a lot to my job, but there is no way I could do it without the AMAZING team of staff and volunteers who do their parts so very well and with unending dedication! It is next to impossible to truly express how much EEI and I appreciate what they give to this event!
MSEDA: What changes have you seen as Rolex has evolved?
VC: There have been so many changes over the years! The most obvious are not just Rolex Kentucky-related. The sport has changed and is still changing; WEG 2010 brought a tremendous change to and awareness of the Kentucky Horse Park. With technological advancements and social media, we now have the ability to engage a vast number of people for a fraction of the cost for more-traditional advertising.
MSEDA: What is your favorite part of your job?
VC: I enjoy almost every aspect of my job, but there is no feeling that can compare to the first horse starting and finishing on cross-country--and then the excitement on Sunday when the last horse jumps and the winner is known!
MSEDA: What is the hardest part of your job?
VC: Staying organized!
MSEDA: Is it hard to balance your role with EEI and riding?
VC: It is quite difficult from January through mid-May. There aren’t enough hours in the day to answer all of the emails and keep up with the daily tasks, and then have time to ride. I suppose there would be time if I didn’t sleep at all!
MSEDA: Do you have kids? Do they ride?
VC: I have a 21-year-old daughter named Alexa. She rode some when she was younger, but doesn’t anymore, which is too bad--she has a real natural talent!
MSEDA: What other animals do you own?
VC: Lily the 19-year-old OTTB; Sammy, a 14-year-old Jack Russell; and Abby, a 9- or 10-year-old Black Lab. I just recently lost Scotty, who was my daughter’s pony--he was somewhere in his 30s and we had him for 15 years. I also lost Karalaika, retired event horse Thoroughbred/Trakehner who was one month shy of 31 when he died--I had him for almost 28 years.