The Road to AEC is a series of articles contributed by our members about their journeys to compete in the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds at The Colorad Horse Park in Parker, Colorado, August 30-September 2, 2018.
I am an eventing trainer and instructor in Fort Collins, Colorado. But, I also do a lot of work with Mustangs, and with other dedicated individuals have also recently started a non-profit group benefiting mustangs on and off the range. I have competed multiple times in the Extreme Mustang Makeover and was a top 10 finalist twice.
In 2016, I competed in the Fort Collins Extreme Mustang Makeover. Trainers are given an untouched horse at random, and my pick was a 6-year-old small bay mare. I have worked with many untouched Mustangs, both before and after her, but I can still say she was the most difficult horse I’ve had. I named her Atalanta after a woman in Greek mythology known for her speed and determination.
Cayla working with Atalanta in her first few weeks of training. Photo courtesy of Cayla Stone.
It took four weeks of patience and hours of sitting in her pen before I could touch her, another four weeks more (and a bad concussion) before she was rideable. With only one month left before the competition, no one believed we would make it. But, she proved them wrong and made the top 10 finals and we placed fifth overall.
I had not planned to buy her back after the competition because I did not have room for another horse. But, I told myself if she sold for less than $1,500 I’d buy her back (I really wanted to keep her but couldn’t afford much). She sold to me for $1,400 and since then has been the best partner I could ask for and an amazing ambassador for the Mustang breed.
Cayla and Atalanta in the dressage ring. Photo courtesy of Cayla Stone.
That first year, I knew she had a talent for jumping and we continued practicing, competing in Beginner Novice level events successfully. In 2017, we moved up to Novice, my goal being to qualify for the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC). She proved herself yet again and in three events was qualified with ease.
This year, we have continued showing at Novice and participating in almost every clinic in our area, hoping to show everyone what Mustangs can do as well as learn all we can from top riders in the sport. Our plan is to move up to Training level soon and my long-term goal is for her to be my daughter’s event horse in the future.
In addition to Atta, I have an amazing group of students and Mustangs starting their eventing careers, proving that these horses can be safe, willing partners for any age and ability.
Photo courtesy of Cayla Stone.
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