Mar 31, 2024

Now On Course: An Ode to Theo

Lucy Walter and Theo. Chante Da Silva Media photo

Growing up in the pony hunters, my parents never wanted to buy a horse. They reasoned: "You'll grow out of them," or "They're too expensive." They made good points, not that I understood that at the time...

The lack of a horse to call my own growing up in this competitive sport may have caused others to lose hope or give up. However, I saw this as an opportunity. I was given the option to ride so many different horses. This only helped my passion to grow. Having been in the sport I've watched as so many of my closest friends' passions die out (they were too achievable) and they quit.

As time went on, I passed through many barns and horses. I even dabbled in polo for a minute, helping a friend exercise her polo ponies. It wasn't until my sophomore year of high school that the idea of getting my own horse became something possible. My parents, (being the salesmen/business owners that they are), drafted up a contract so that I agreed to sell my proposed horse to pay for my college education. Not only was I expected to make money off of this horse, but I had to promise to make an effort to give up the habits involved in a major mental/physical ailment I had brought unto myself (Anorexia). 

Having ridden such a variety of horses my whole life, I knew exactly what I wanted: A younger, chestnut Thoroughbred gelding. I was very adamant about this! On my way home from placing second in the state cross-country (running) meet, we stopped in Ocala, Florida, to try a wonderful horse. I was soon devastated when he failed his vetting. We couldn't have this, as my dad said my horse was solely for resale purposes.

Upon finding my current horse Bold Colors (English Channel x All the Colors), I was in love. He was not the fanciest, but he was everything I wanted. "Theo" has taught me so much about not only riding but life too! It was upon purchasing him that my eventing career started, and my life began to turn around. Some people like to hate on him for his (and my) lack of dressage abilities. But, I have developed a stronger sense of determination and perseverance than anyone I know because of it.

Ken Rohling photo

In my last years in high school, I worked diligently to develop my new horse. We gained a connection far greater than any friend I had ever had. He helped me overcome my medical situation. He shifted my focus entirely. My dream school was the University of Florida, but I had a 50/50 shot of getting in. My advisor told me that it was my essay that secured my acceptance. In this essay, I discussed a horse show where Theo and I placed and ribboned for the first time. During the show, I was living out of my trailer and grooming for my coaches. My advisor said that this made a clear distinction between being a privileged kid, compared to a diligent and dedicated athlete. Come time to graduate, I refused to say a word about the contract. Eventually, it became clear that Theo had become too big a part of my life to ever give up. The scholarship helped too. 

Having a horse in college has driven me to realize that riding is not something that I will ever give up. If I can’t be the crazy old lady running around the Prelim course one day, I don’t want it. I’ve realized that to do what I want to do, I must do what I have to do. Meaning, that to have a nice barn full of horses one day I need to excel in my educational career. This can relate to the way in eventing that if you want to run cross-country you have to ride a dressage test.

By pursuing both an education in law and maintaining my riding career, I have learned to become passionate about the journey to reach the destination. Sometimes this means waking up at 5:00 a.m. so that I can make it to the barn to ride before classes and still have time to get to the gym and study for an exam that night.

Somehow, despite the lack of ribbons I have, every show my motivation grows. From my time showing in the hunters, I have bags full of ribbons, but somehow the once-in-a-blue-moon, purple or brown ribbon I get with Theo holds so much more value than any of those ever did. We have competed all over the East Coast. At first, we had ditch problems, where Theo would rear 100' out. My lack of experience in eventing combined with his pony-like stubbornness helped to add many 20s to our record. Nevertheless, we both have fun so long as we get to run.

For our show jump difficulties, I blame more on myself than my horse. I have determined that for a clear round, plain and simple I just cannot miss; it's not fair to him. Dressage has always been a difficulty as we both despise it. I take every chance I get to flat other horses, this way I can learn how to flat on my own and bring my knowledge to my horse. I am a part of the UF dressage team which involves catch-riding horses, this has helped me a ton in overcoming dressage anxiety. Although our progression line may not always be linear, we both continue to learn from our mistakes.

Lucy Walter and Theo. XpressFoto photo courtesy of Lucy Walter

Theo has opened so many doors for me. Freshman year he was there for me when no one else was. Sophomore year, my passion for riding and my horse drove me to run for office on the UF Eventing Team. Now, I am the captain of the team. I can practice the skills I am taught by pursuing my degree on this team. I am working diligently to put us on the map, by creating a positive image and brand. I hope that my work will mark the University of Florida as one of the top-choice colleges for eventers.

Without Theo, I would have never met Michelle Mercier. She is my ultimate role model. She sees what I see in my horse when no one else does. She refuses to give up on him, despite our troubles on the flat. While some would be discouraged by our repetitive issues, it only seems to motivate her to make Theo into the horse I want him to be one day. He is not the easiest or the fanciest, but I have fallen in love with the process, no matter how many tears it makes me shed. Even if we never win, the benefits I have gained by having this horse by my side are insurmountable, and I wouldn't trade him for the world! I believe that everything happens for a reason, and Theo coming into my life truly sparked the day my life started to unfold.

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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Keyser, Caflisch, and Romero Add USEA Classic Series Wins to their Resume at Coconino H.T.

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