We would like to take the opportunity to present our members for the IAEJ community of journalists and photographers during these trying times of a global pandemic. Next to go is one of our journalist members from the U.S : Pamela Burton
Questions & Answers
Q: Where exactly are you based?
A: I am now based outside of Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
Q: Do you live with any partners, family and/or pets?
A: I happily live and travel with my husband of over 33 years. Unhappily I don’t have a horse at the moment.
Q: Do you work independently or are you affiliated with a particular news organization?
A: After writing for many national and international equestrian events, newspapers and magazines, in 2006 I began my own online publication with the brand name, https://www.Horsereporter.com.
Q: How long have you been an equestrian journalist?
A: Part time since 1996, then full time after 2007.
Q: What was your path to becoming an equestrian journalist?
A: First, the love of horses was a natural façon d’entrée. I began riding at a wonderful farm in Maryland at Pony Club level when I was about 8 years old. After that, I was almost never without a horse to ride in some discipline, which included jumping, dressage and endurance and a bit of International adventure in the form of a few equestrian randonnés in France and South Africa.
I worked for several hard news radio stations but did not enjoy the blood and guts of it. When the US Endurance team was invited to participate in the 1998, 160 km International World’s Most Preferred Endurance Championship at Seih Al Salam in Dubai, an area I had only read about, I paid my own way to attend.
There were thousands of sports press that had been invited from all over the world, and not one tenth of them understood much about the sport of endurance, and the race organizers did not know much more.
Endurance in the desert at this level was new, and the race organizers had been given a huge task to do in a short time. The venue was not fully completed, there were no roads through the sand to the still-being-prepared desert track, and drivers and crew
spent many interesting moments digging out and sluicing sand from under their tires as they tried to negotiate the soft dunes. We all learned together. Valerie Kanavy led the US team to a win, and I went home with a story.
I began receiving invitations to cover FEI endurance events and returned often to Dubai and then to Abu Dhabi. Over time, I learned to appreciate the many great international equestrians that supported these programs. I was then introduced to Arabian horse racing in an area that had some fabulous breeding and was in rapid expansion mode.
My husband, a marina development expert, was hired by the Abu Dhabi government to give some shape to the many marina projects being developed in AD, one of which was Yas Island Marina. We enjoyed living in Abu Dhabi and had some great adventures learning the intrigues of working as expats amid totally different expectations, and in the process, making many life-long friends.
Q: What sports and types of competition do you cover?
A: Everything that I’ve been asked to do and more – from articles on Western horses to the entire spectrum of disciplines. A thrill was covering the World Equestrian Games 2010 in Lexington, Kentucky. For now, I am mainly focused on athletic and Sport-horse International Arabian events.
Q: What new skills did you pick up during quarantine? How has the Covid-19 pandemic effected your life?
A: That’s a very good question. I think this hiatus in travel has given us all a chance to take a breath, tune up our talents and develop new skills. I have taken and continue to take Zoom classes on many subjects, some produced through online college courses. I am now fine-tuning new photographic techniques and technologies such as making videos, perfecting photo editing skills and design work.
Q: What’s your all-time favourite moment in equestrian sport?
A: There are many, but one that was more than a moment that easily come to mind is following the US Endurance team to cover the World Endurance Championship at Terengganu, Malaysia, in Southeast Asia in 2008.
Terengganu is reached from the capital of Kuala Lumpur on the western side of the country via a short hop by air over the forests and jungle to the South China Sea.
It was 7 November, and it was monsoon season. The heat and humidity were both in the 90’s when a stellar contingent of International riders, along with the King of Malaysia, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, an avid endurance rider, headed out to an all-night 160 km competition starting at 5:30 pm.
A storm cell brought torrential rain about four hours into the ride, making ponds out of parts of the trail and the vet gates, accompanied by a great display of low and thunderous lighting that lit up the trails and fried electric cables and communications.
Lightning struck a tree just as Jan Worthington, riding the aptly named Golden Lightning, and Meg Sleeper on Syrocco Reveille of the US team came through nearby water on the trail. The water transmitted the shock from the strike and both horses leapt into the air and fell, rolling over and over, dumping riders and gear. Luckily, both horses and riders were uninjured, although all were shocked and dazed. Riders and horses made it back okay into the vet check, the only fatality being a pair of eye glasses. More of that story here.
Q: Talk about your most memorable adventure while covering equestrian sport.
A: I would have to say that working for the press organizer for the entire World Equestrian Games in 2010 in Kentucky was a stand-out experience. There were many dignitaries of the equestrian world present, the very best riders competing in each sport, and also bit of Royalty. It was thrilling to be able to see some of each discipline’s action up close behind a camera and to meet some of the press that I knew from their bylines. Then there was the closing, attended by the GOAT – Greatest Of All Time boxer, Mohammed Ali.
Q: What is your favourite competition venue and why?
A: I think I must say, “I love the one I’m with,” however, for the last few years I have enjoyed covering some of the top horse races in the world. There is so much enthusiasm belted into the few minutes of each race, and the energy from the crowd, the participants, and the horses is exhilarating. The last big race I covered was the February 2020, two-day Saudi Cup in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Q: What is the last book / latest streamed series / favourite podcast you read/ watched /enjoyed?
A: I am an avid reader, and one of the books I have recently enjoyed, Sea Stories, My Life in Special Operations by Ret. Admiral William H McRaven.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: First, I admire my parents for showing their children the love of travel and an adventurous and non-judgmental curiosity of the world. I am intrigued and inspired by authors such as Dorothy Parker for her dark humor, Hunter S. Thompson for his eloquent cynicism and mind-bending journalism style, and photographer Annie Leibovitz for her artistic view of life.
Q: How do you spend your time when you’re not working?
A: Riding horses is my favorite thing to do. I also love to cook, especially using many of the wonderful spices I’ve learned to use from my travels.
Q: What is some of your work of which you’re the proudest of?
A: Most recently covering the first Saudi Cup 2020. It was my first visit to Saudi Arabia and I again met and mingled with some of the top racing and press people in the business.
Meet Pamela Burton through her work
Article: Tallaab Al Khalediah Shows Heels to Field in Obaiya Arabian Cup:
Photo link: https://psaintjohn.smugmug.com/2020-Horse-Racing/Saudi-Cup-2020/i-TXJk97q
Ali Al Amri – Horse Whisperer – Shawati magazine, Abu Dhabi Tourism
See you on the rail. Pamela