No It ‘Tissant, Lynn Symansky’s longtime partner was laid to rest in January at the age of 28. “Fergus” was an off-the-track Thoroughbred by Admiral’s Flag and out of Yes Tis who had 24 starts on the track as a 2 and 3-year-old, winning three times and earning $16,675. Fergus was introduced to eventing by Julie Gomena, and Symansky purchased Fergus when he was 5 years old and she was just 14. They learned the ropes of eventing together and climbed from Novice to Advanced in just four years.
In 2003 Symansky and Fergus earned a spot on the USEF Winter Training List and finished in 10th place at the 2003 Pan American Games. The pair made their Rolex Kentucky CCI4* (now CCI5*) debut in 2007, finishing in 19th place. They returned the next year with another top-20 finish and Fergus was named the best-conditioned horse.
“Fergus was never lacking in personality and had the strongest opinions of any horse I’ll know,” said Symansky. “His emotions were never hard to read, and his dramatic hatred of dressage and discipline was only rivaled by his obsessive love for cross-country and dirt. We would likely never win a single thing in the modern-day sport, but I can’t think of a better horse to have learned from.”
It was on Fergus that Symansky earned her Pony Club ‘A’ rating. Other highlights of Fergus’ career included first place at the 2000 Morven Park Intermediate, seventh place at the 2000 Radnor Three-Day CCI2*, second place at the 2002 Plantation Field Advanced, first place at the 2004 Virginia Horse Trials Intermediate, seventh place at the 2005 Fair Hill International Advanced, fifth place at the 2005 Plantation Field Advanced, and 10th place at the 2007 Fork CIC3*.
“Fergus was a tried-and-true long format horse—he taught me the importance of showing up and kicking on no matter how far down the leaderboard we found ourselves on the first day. What he lacked in classic technique over fences he made up for in scope and heart. As a kid I had little understanding of his exceptional bravery and power, but it was that feel which instilled a confidence in me nearly impossible to teach without the right partner. It’s what most of us work our lives towards cultivating,” continued Symansky.
“For every bit of success he helped me realize, we saw even more disappointment. He taught me lifelong lessons in patience, a strong work ethic, compromise, respect, and friendship. I learned that a horse’s most frustrating flaw can also be their best attribute. Whether bruising my mom’s arms in the ‘D’ box as his heart rate rose in direct proportion to the excitement still out on course, or scaring away the barn help from the only place that tolerated him, he would gladly push anyone around in pursuit of his own self-interest. Even in full retirement he would gladly plow one over to escape his stall or the perceived threat of a bath. He acted like this up until the day I had to say goodbye.”
Fergus retired from upper level competition in 2008 and went on to compete at the Preliminary level with two of Symansky’s students – first Retsy Holliday who won the JYOP at Virginia with him in 2010, and then with Cara Goode who campaigned him in 2012. Fergus was retired from eventing after the 2012 season and spent his remaining eight years “being the king of Handlen Farm.”
“Fergus, thank you for giving me my foundation, keeping me humble, and solidifying my love for OTTBs and eventing. He was my best friend from my early teens, helped me survive college and adulthood, gave me a taste of breaking into the top, and granted me the joy of paying it forward as I watched him teach (and terrorize) others. He was my most frustrating rival, my best professor, and responsible for changing the course of my life.”
Marley Bridges lived and breathed gymnastics. “I started at the age of 5,” said Bridges. “You always had to have the time and the mindset for gymnastics. You had to allow yourself to commit to it. You had to commit to working out four hours a day, five days a week, doing cardio every single day, train every single day. You had to stay committed to yourself, the team, and the sport.”
If you’re like most riders you’ve probably heard someone say something like, “Your last mistake is your best teacher,” or “if you’re doing everything right you’re doing something wrong because you’re in your comfort zone.” While I agree whole-heartedly with these sentiments, I actually prefer, “Equestrians don’t make mistakes. Mistakes make equestrians.” They make us bolder, braver, and brighter; but only when we develop a positive relationship with our mistakes and respond to them in productive ways.
Up-and-coming eventing athlete Tommy Greengard of Malibu, California, was named the recipient of the United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation’s Amanda Pirie Warrington Grant for 2024. A current competitor on the U.S. Equestrian Federation's (USEF) Eventing Emerging Program List, Greengard has aspirations of representing the United States internationally.
Bethany Hutchins-Kristen headed into 2023 with hopes of earning the SmartPak USEA Stallion of the Year award for a second year in a row on her homebred Geluk HVF, and after a stellar season, including a top-10 finish at the TerraNova CCI2*-L (Myakka City, Florida), she took home the top prize with an 18-point lead.