May 19, 2024

From Kalispell to Kentucky: A Trip East Proves Fruitful for Jen Moody

Jen Moody and Eye of The Storm at the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photo

For eventer Jen Moody, the trek from Montana to compete at this year’s Defender Kentucky Cosequin Lexington CCI4*S was a long, chilly journey, but she had big goals for her kind-hearted Thoroughbred, Eye Of The Storm. With her 4-year-old daughter, Valkyrie, and longtime friend and supporter, Sarah Broussard, by her side, the journey to the Bluegrass State—and beyond—exceeded her expectations.

It might have been Moody’s first opportunity to gallop across the hallowed cross-country course, but it wasn’t the only time the California native had visited the venue. As a horse-crazy kid from a non-horsey family, Moody began eventing in high school with Ginnie Bryant’s Equites Riding Club in San Juan Capistrano and later trained with Beth Temkin Brown and Jil Walton. For several years, Moody mentored under Walton, who represented the United States at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, including grooming for her at the 2011 Kentucky Three-Day Event.

Now, as a professional herself, Moody bases her business out of Broussard’s Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, where she trains from about mid-May to mid-October. During the area’s notoriously frigid winters, she teaches and rides at indoor arenas around the Flathead Valley.

The journey to Kentucky began in early March as Moody, Valkyrie, and Eye Of The Storm (fondly known as ‘Oly’) packed up their trailer in Kalispell and headed for Aspen Farms in Yelm, Washington, for a derby, and then south to compete at Ram Tap in Fresno, California.

“I had been riding at a small indoor arena in Kalispell since December, and when I left it was snowy and 14 degrees,” recalls Moody. “My Show Sheen froze solid!”

Jen Moody's daughter Valkyrie loves spending time with Eye Of The Storm. Photo courtesy of Jen Moody

From Ram Tap, the pair traveled to Twin Rivers on California’s central coast for a clinic with the legendary Ian Stark, and then to Galway Downs in Temecula, California, to compete in the CCI4*S. Moody squeezed in a few lessons with fellow West Coaster (and 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event champion) Tamie Smith before heading back to Twin Rivers for the CCI4*S, which she’d planned to ride as a combined test to prepare for Kentucky. From there, Broussard joined her and Valkyrie on the final leg of their odyssey.

Broussard is more than just a close friend—the longtime eventing supporter is also instrumental in Moody’s partnership with Oly.

Last April, Moody was heading home from Twin Rivers, and was asked by his owner and former rider Kim Liddell if Moody could bring him home to be retired. Oly had incurred an injury during Liddell's last run with him in 2019 before she retired from riding. Matilda Burnham had been tasked with doing his rehab, and once he was better, she competed him at Preliminary and Intermediate a few times in 2022. But when she decided to move East to become a jockey, Oly needed a place to go.

“I was at a crossroads with the horses I had been competing, and during the long drive home I came up with the idea that I should try and ride Oly,” Moody recalls. “When I sat on him, we instantly clicked.”

Moody had never sat on a horse that loves his job on cross-country as much as Oly does. “I know that every time I go out on course, he has my back,” she says of the 15-year-old (Olympio x Message Of Honey). Still, no horse is perfect, and Moody admits that dressage isn’t his forte: “I jokingly refer to him as a giraffe,” she says of his high head carriage. The gelding also struggled with show jumping in the past, but a bit switch to a hackamore (suggested by Stark) led to improved results this season.

Moody wanted to see how far they could get in their partnership, so she made a plan to get to the Fair Hill CCI3*L (Eklton, Maryland) last October. They competed at Aspen, Rebecca Farm, Twin Rivers, and Woodside (Woodside, California) with good results, then headed east to Maryland. Though they weren’t able to complete their final event of the season, withdrawing in the hold box at the final horse inspection, their future held promise of greater things to come.

Jen Moody and Eye Of The Storm completed the Tryon International CCI3*-L in May. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photo

Unbeknownst to her, Broussard had contacted Liddell to purchase Oly to ensure Moody got to keep the ride. “Now Sarah is Oly’s owner in addition to being a friend, co-pilot, nanny, fence setter, and sometimes groom—but only if it’s not too early and Pepsi is promised,” she said.

Though he couldn’t make the full trip across the country, Moody’s husband flew out to Kentucky in time for the event. “He has now been to Rebecca Farm and Kentucky, and I try to explain that not all events are quite like these ones!” said Moody with a laugh.

In Kentucky, the pair tackled Derek di Grazia’s challenging cross-country course with gusto, but picked up a runout at the final element of the coffin complex—a skinny brush that caused issues for 20 riders in the division. On Sunday, Moody and Oly finished with two rails.

Photo courtesy of Jen Moody

“The enormity of just getting to that event was not lost on me, and several times through the weekend I had to take a deep breath, look around, and appreciate how lucky I was to be competing there,” Moody reflected.

Even though their Kentucky experience had ended, their East Coast adventure wasn’t quite over. “Since we were all the way East, Tamie convinced me to stay and compete at Tryon,” says Moody. “So I followed her to Aiken [South Carolina] after Kentucky to get lessons, then up to Tryon [Mill Spring, North Carolina] for the CCI3*L.”

The trip to Tryon would prove to be the culmination of all their hard work. They kicked off their weekend with a 32.0 in dressage—a personal best for them at the level. “I’ve been so fortunate to get some lessons from Tamie Smith this spring, and it shows,” Moody said.

They were up to the challenge of Helen West’s cross-country course, jumping clear and accumulating only time faults. “Oly lost both front shoes but tried his heart out for me,” Moody said after her round. “The ground was pretty mushy with all the rain so it was a little slippy, but not too hard on him. I am so unbelievably lucky to ride this horse—he knows his job so well.”

Jen Moody with daughter Valkyrie and Sarah Broussard at Tryon. Photo courtesy of Jen Moody

On the final day, they wrapped up their weekend with just a single rail and a seventh place finish. And the icing on the cake? They took home the honors as the best dressed of their division at the first horse inspection.

Now, as their journey has reached its fruition, their future is bright. “I would love to keep going with Oly and see what we can accomplish,” said Moody. “We keep getting better with every event.”

Their plans include Rebecca Farm this summer and a CCI4*L this fall, location to be determined as Valkyrie will be starting kindergarten. “It is difficult to compete well at this level from where I live,” said Moody. “But I can’t think of a more supportive place to be. I felt like the state of Montana, and the whole West Coast really, was rooting for my success this spring.”

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