Feb 25, 2024

Now On Course: A Blue Ribbon Birthday for Bridges as She Tries Her Hand at Eventing

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Marley Bridges and Triple Magic competing in their first event at Majestic Oaks. Lisa Madren photo

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.”

When Bridges turned 12, she suffered a serious injury that required her to make some very mature decisions at a very young age.

“I tore my labrum in my left hip, and my doctor said to me, ‘I don’t like doing this surgery on gymnasts because they go back, and they undo everything I did. It might be best if you quit.’ And I said, 'You know what? I will because I don’t want to live my life continuing to have multiple surgeries in one year,' ” she recalled.

Letting go of the one thing she had dedicated almost the entirety of her life to was, and still is, challenging for Bridges.

“I still haven’t let go of it to this day,” she shared. “It took a lot for me to go into the gym and tell everyone that I was quitting. It was so difficult.”

Melissa Carpio, Bridges’ mother, hoped that she could help her daughter find some relief from that mental and emotional hardship.

“My daughter was in pain,” Carpio reflected, “and that was killing me. I knew how much she loved her gymnastics, but I also knew it was time to walk away. I couldn’t make that choice. I had to let her make that decision. She was a very good gymnast—very talented. The coaches had high hopes for her, but her body had other plans.”

So Carpio, who is an adult amateur eventer, offered up the idea that Bridges could ride her Thoroughbred gelding Triple Magic (Bernardini x Triple O’Five), or "Ronan," in the meantime. Bridges had done a little bit of riding as a young child, but her loyalty to her craft had kept her busy for many years.

“I am a kid that has to have something to do, and I thought it could be fun,” noted Bridges, so Carpio signed her up for a once-a-week group lesson after her six-month recovery from surgery. She never thought she would fall in love with the sport the way she has.

“It is amazing,” she shared. “Even though horses don’t speak, they can talk. They talk to you with their body language the way they look at you and the way they react to what you are asking them to do. [Ronan] is always a very excited horse. You go over a jump, and he does a little happy dance. You can just tell he is happy, and I absolutely love it!”

Marley Bridges gets to share her love for the sport with her mother, Melissa Carpio (right). Bobbi Boyd Photography photo

That once-a-week lesson has grown now into Carpio having to share the ride on Ronan a few more times a week, but she doesn’t mind. She loves seeing her daughter thrive in this new environment.

“Some days we share him, some days he is Marley’s horse, and some days he's mine,” said Carpio. “It is pretty cool that a mom and daughter get to do something together like this.”

While scanning through the show calendar for the year, Carpio noticed that Majestic Oaks in Reddick, Florida, was offering a USEA Starter division on the weekend of Jan. 13-14, which just so happened to be Bridges’ 14th birthday weekend. After putting in the practice at home, it was decided that Bridges could get her first-ever taste for eventing at Majestic Oaks that weekend as a special birthday treat.

Carpio and Bridges went in with no expectations. After all, Ronan is only 5 years old, and this would be Bridges’ first competition.

But after a great performance in the dressage, Bridges and Ronan were sitting in second. After putting in a double-clear stadium round, the duo moved up to first. Thankfully, after many years competing at the highest level of gymnastics, Bridges is well adapted to handling pressure.

“I had gotten so used to performing on a 4” beam in front of a judge and hundreds of people surrounding you in the bleachers that the pressure didn’t affect me as much as I thought it would,” said Bridges. “After show jumping, I just thought to myself, 'It’s your birthday, we have a lot of people from the barn, and your math teacher is here to watch; this is your first-ever event, and you are in first place right now—you gotta find a way to keep it there!”

Ronan had her back. They sailed around the cross-country track incurring no additional penalties to finish in first on their dressage score of 35.7.

“I had an extreme adrenaline rush after I crossed the finish,” she said. “I couldn’t believe we had just done that.”

Photo courtesy of Melissa Carpio

A blue ribbon for your birthday—not a half-bad way to kick off one’s eventing career. Bridges now has a new goal to work towards: finalizing her qualification for the 2024 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds (Lexington, Kentucky). Luckily, she has a supportive mother in Carpio who is willing to give up the ride on her horse to help make this dream possible.

So it's back to the barn for Bridges as she continues to hone her skills for her new sport. She knows it won’t always be this smooth, but she has a great mentality to help her move forward in her eventing pursuits.

“No matter what, you can’t be negative in this sport," she said. "If you are negative, your horse is going to act just like you, and that will prevent you from having a good ride. You really have to be positive and understanding, even when you are not in the best mood. You have to show your horse that it is OK and that you are going to have a fun time together.”

Do you know a horse or rider with a cool story? Email Lindsay at [email protected] for a chance to be featured.

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The Event at Rebecca Farm (Kalispell, Montana) is renowned amongst members of the eventing community for its exceptional competition venue, genuine hospitality, and stunning backdrops. The Broussard Family Charitable Foundation and USEA Foundation are excited to share that travel grants to this iconic venue are returning once again for 2024 to assist riders traveling to Montana to compete in the CCI3* and CCI4* divisions at this year’s competition which takes place July 17-21.

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The United States Eventing Association (USEA) is pleased to announce the athletes selected for the 2024 USEA Emerging Athlete U21 Program (EA21). USEA Young Rider program members aged 21 and under are eligible for the program. The purpose of the USEA EA21 Program is to identify and provide consistent quality instruction to the next generation of elite event riders.

Apr 11, 2024 News

Weekend Quick Links: April 13-14

Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.

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