Mar 11, 2019

Now on Course: A Roller Coaster of a Year

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

Kelly Green has been riding horses her whole life. “I started riding English and taking lessons in southern California in the fourth grade and I rode all the way until I was a senior in high school,” Green recounted. “Then, after I graduated high school, I went to Pierce Junior College and I started doing some rodeo events – mainly barrel racing. A few years later I met my husband, who was a National Finals Rodeo (NFR) team roper already competing professionally, and we got married a couple of years after that. We rodeoed professionally for about 10 years, barrel racing the whole time and always training my own horses.”

Kelly as a young girl. Photo courtesy of Kelly Green.

Green continued to train her own horses and compete in barrel racing and team roping over the course of the next 20 years while she raised her daughter. When her daughter went off to college, Green made the choice to switch back to English. “I always loved English and eventing and I thought, ‘Well, now’s my chance to get back into it,’” Green said. “I had the time and the resources and [my husband] Rickey was all for it.”

Kelly riding in a team roping competition. Photo courtesy of Kelly Green.

While on the hunt for a horse to help her step back into the eventing world, Green happened upon a horse that belonged to a client of her husband. So, they swapped one of their roping horses for the client’s eventing horse, and Green set about looking for an eventing trainer. Luckily, five-star eventer Angela Bowles’ farm was only about an hour away from Green’s home in Morgan Mill, Texas. “I called Angela out of the blue and told her my story and she said, ‘Okay, let’s see how it goes!’ and that was about five years ago,” Green recalled. “Thankfully it’s worked out!”

“I’ve been a horsewoman my whole life but I was a new, amateur eventer,” she continued. “When you haven’t ridden English for that long, it’s almost like starting over. I’ve been riding and roping and running barrels and training horses for myself – [starting to event] just felt like starting completely over. It’s been so fun and I’m just so thankful I did, it’s been the best journey.”

USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

About three years into her eventing journey, Green’s horse, an Irish Sport Horse gelding named Fergus Mac Finn, began to develop kissing spine. So, Bowles and Green went on the hunt for a new horse and found Woodstock Classic Rock. “Theo is a funny horse,” said Green with a smile. “He’s super sweet and laid back but then he also sometimes has a little naughty side to him so you can’t ever completely trust him. He’d been on the track and he’s got a little sassy Thoroughbred in him. You look at him and think he’s the sweetest laid back horse, but he’s got some spunk to him. It keeps me on my toes!”

“I keep him at home and trailer in for lessons a couple of times a week and ride here at home,” she explained. “We have a ranch and lots of property, so I like having him at home instead of at the barn. He really loves being here because he’s pretty much turned out 24-7 and he doesn’t have to be a barn horse. He’s adjusted well to being a farm horse!”

“We had to work through a few confidence issues for both of us,” Green shared. “My horse had developed kissing spine and had started stopping in show jumping and I fell off and broke my ribs, so I kind of had to build back up again. Theo just had a few little confidence issues on cross-country we had to work through. It’s taken us a little while but we’re really starting to develop as a team and we’re getting more solid together.”

Terrie Hatcher Photo courtesy of Kelly Green.

At the start of the 2018 season, Bowles took Theo to a couple of shows, just to shake the rust off, before handing the reins back to Green. From there, Green said he just kept getting better and better. They placed third at the Holly Hill Spring Horse Trials and second at the Texas Rose Horse Park Summer Horse Trials, and from there decided to set their sights on the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC). The pair traveled to Colorado a week early to compete at the Event at Archer, where they took home the win, before going on to finish as the Reserve Champion in the Beginner Novice Amateur division at the AEC.

“As far as the leaderboard points, they weren’t really a goal, they were just kind of in the back of my mind and after AEC and things were going so well I thought let’s just finish the year and see what happens,” said Green.

USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

But that’s when things took a turn. After returning from AEC, still on high from her Reserve Champion finish, Green’s husband was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of leukemia and passed away just a month later. “It just happened so quickly,” said Green. “He told me he wanted me to keep showing, but it was hard, and of course I took some time off.”

“You come home from the AEC and you’re on this great high – you did so well and it was so fun – and then you get this diagnosis and it turns around and its even worse than you thought it was going to be and a month later your life is completely turned around. You never think it’s going to happen to you.”

The time spent riding Theo in the wake of her husband’s passing was very therapeutic for Green, and she began to consider her husband’s advice to continue competing. “I got with Angela and said, ‘Do you think I could be ready for the last two shows?’ and she said, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll get you both ready,’” Green said. “We finished the last two shows and did well at both – finishing first at Holly Hill Farm and third at Texas Rose.” Those last two competitions were enough to catapult Green to the top of the 2018 Beginner Novice Master Rider and Master Amateur of the Year leaderboards.

USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Green and Theo have continued their winning streak so far in 2019 and already have their eyes on competing at the 2019 AEC at the Kentucky Horse Park. The took home the win in their Beginner Novice division at the Ocala I Winter Horse Trials before stepping up to Novice and finishing second at the Rocking Horse Winter II Horse Trials. “I’m already halfway there! “My hard work and Theo and Angela’s hard work getting us prepared and ready to go – Florida was a great experience.”

“Looking back, I tell people it was the worst year and it was the best year, and how those two could come at the same time I’ll never understand.”

Photo courtesy of Kelly Green.

The USEA is made up of over 12,000 members, each with their own special horses and experiences. The USEA's Now on Course series highlights the many unique stories of our membership. Do you and your horse have a tale to tell? Do you know someone who deserves recognition? Submit your story to Jessica Duffy to be featured.

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