I came into eventing by a circuitous route. Like many young girls, I was “horse mad” as they say back in my home country, England. As a teen in the 1980s, I failed to convince my parents that buying a pony was a good idea. Instead, I had to be content with following the likes of Lucinda Prior Palmer (now Green), Ginny Holgate (now Leng), and Richard Meade, on television, as they braved the elements and the ginormous fences of Badminton and Burghley. In time, I grew up, I emigrated to Northern California and I forgot all about eventing.
My dreams of riding and owning a horse were set aside for three decades until in my late 40s, my teenage son informed me that he not only wanted to ride but had set his sights on eventing. I decided that rather than cheer from the sidelines, I would prefer to support his endeavors from horseback and suddenly found myself buying a just-backed, three-year-old Morgan mare in 2017, Merriewold Quintessa (Dragonfire Kirin x Canequin Reach for the Stars).
We were every trainer’s worst nightmare: green on green, yet we have found our way over the past few years, building a strong partnership, experimenting, and learning as we go. The first time Quintessa, or Tessa as she’s known at home, went cross-country schooling, was my first time cross-country schooling. Her first ditch, her first water feature, her first bank… mine too. You get the picture.
The beauty of being naive and inexperienced is that you actually don’t know how hard you’re making your life until you get a little way down the road. I’ve had my fair share of spills, as she favored going long and big for every fence for about a year, and I lacked the right saddle and balance to stay in my stirrups. That wasn’t the fun period.
Now with the right trainer (David Adamo in Northern California), and a well-balanced saddle, my mare has become brave, adventurous, and independent, particularly on cross-country. No question, it’s our favorite element and neither of us wants to live without the adrenaline rush that comes from a double clear round narrowly avoiding speeding penalties. And in a wonderful twist of fate that brought me right back to my childhood longings, last year I joined Lucinda Green’s Online XC Academy. I have learned an immeasurable amount about correct and safe riding techniques “across the country” which have saved me on more than a few occasions.
Due to injury, and a lack of proper jump training, Tessa and I spent longer than we should have at Intro level, but over the last 12 months, she became a solid Beginner Novice packer, earning a place at the USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds and Area VI championships last season. We were Reserve Champions at Ram Tap’s Three-Day Classic in November 2021 which was a thrill, not least because she was pronounced the most fit horse by the vets across all the divisions competing. We secured our USEA Silver Medal for 2021, and I won Area VI's Rookie of the Year award. I’ve been so proud of her accomplishments. She was also the second-highest scoring Morgan in the USEA rankings last year. No question, our dressage needs work and that is what’s holding us back from securing an elusive blue ribbon.
At the start of the 2022 season, we moved up to Novice and finished on our dressage score to place 4th in our first competition at the level at Ram Tap February. An unpleasing ‘disobedience’ in the dressage and an unlucky rail in the show jumping kept us out of the ribbons at Twin Rivers Horse Trials in April, so we are looking forward to Woodside Spring Horse Trials at the end of May, determined to better our scores.
Our sights are set on running Novice at Rebecca Farm this summer, and I’d love to do another three-day event sometime this year. I’m already finding myself eyeing the Training jumps as I course-walk and I’ve no doubt she has the scope and appetite for that level. Beyond that, who knows? At 15 hands, and without the blood of a Thoroughbred, it will be heart not breeding that dictates where we go next, but I know she will never be in short supply of bravery and willingness.
I never imagined that at this age, I would be wanting to move up the levels of eventing, but as we all know, this is a sport of true partnership, and when your partner is game, it changes everything. I was recently lucky enough to go to Badminton and had the pleasure of exchanging a few words with William Fox-Pitt. At 53, he said he questioned why he was going out on cross-country day, but with two great horses up for the task in hand, he couldn’t say no. I feel you, William. I really do.
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 Meagan DeLisle to be featured.
Kate Boggan describes her younger self as your typical horse-crazy kid. “As soon as I saw a horse, I was obsessed,” the born and raised Texan recalled. “It was the most expensive mistake my parents ever made taking me to my first rodeo as a toddler.”
As most eventers know, the key to success in the show ring often lies in the preparation done beforehand. For the cross-country phase, memorizing your course and having a plan is a given, but another key factor to consider is choosing the appropriate studs for your horse. If you're new to the sport, the concept of studs might seem a little overwhelming, but former USEA President and current co-chair of the USEA Grooms Committee Max Corcoran broke down all of the basics that you need to know when putting together your stud kit for the first time or before packing up for your first show of the 2024 season.
The USEA is saddened to report that Canadian eventer Holly Jacks-Smither's five-star horse More Inspiration died on Feb. 19. He was 18. Bred in Canada by Display Farm, the Thoroughbred gelding (Inspired Prospect x Gentle Buck) started 28 times at the track and had four wins.
We might be a few months into the new year, but there is still so much to come in the 2024 U.S. eventing season. USEA Podcast Host Nicole Brown sits down with USEA CEO Rob Burk, USEA President Lou Leslie, and EquiRatings' Managing Director and Co-Founder Diarm Byrne to make predictions, dive into team selections, and just share what they are most looking forward to this year in this week's episode of the USEA Podcast.