Sep 25, 2017

Now on Course: Army Wives Take On the AEC

Lisa Banister and Cannoneer (left) and Briana Stolley and Balmullo's Catfish (right) competing at the AEC. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

The USEA is made up of over 12,000 members, each with their own special horses and experiences. Now on Course 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.

Briana Stolley and Lisa Banister both competed at the 2017 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Land Rover and Nutrena. However, they share a greater connection than that. Both of these dedicated eventers are army wives and have known each other for years through their connection both to the military and to the eventing community.

This year, they both made the journey to compete at the AEC and were members of the Champion and Reserve Champion Beginner Novice ATC teams: “Catfish and the Redheads” and “50 Shades of Neigh.” Receiving their team ribbons together in the George Morris Arena was a special moment for both of these riders that was truly decades in the making.

Lisa Banister (left) and Briana Stolley (right) posing with their team ribbons in the George Morris Arena. Sportfot Photo.

From Briana:

My husband, Oliver, is a Logistics Major in the United States Army currently stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia in the 3rd Infantry Division, where we have been for the past 2 years. I grew up eventing in Area VIII and, at the time of my marriage to Oliver in April 2003 (immediately before Oliver was deployed to Iraq), I was competing at the Preliminary level.

Over the years, the constant Army moves (five of them), six deployments, and having kids (Sophia, age nine, and Sam, age seven), it was difficult to continue competition. Until this year, my last event was over 10 years ago.

Regardless of my time off, horses have always been a part of my Army journey. One highlight was meeting Lisa through my daughter's first riding instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Another highlight was a move to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where I was blessed to foxhunt with Fort Leavenworth Hunt, the only remaining military-affiliated fox hunt club, and earned my colors on a wonderful borrowed Irish Sport Horse thanks to the generosity of another (retired) Army wife.

Throughout my Army life experience, I always had a goal of getting back to my roots in eventing. Finally, with my latest move to Georgia, and the kids having hit school age (and riding themselves), the time seemed right to buy my Connemara Pony, Balmullo's Catfish, who is 14.2 hands and was purchased with the intention of being made up to be my daughter's next pony. She also competes at the Starter level in USEA events on her 12.3 hand Welsh pony, Bit O' Honey. Catfish had a few bumps in his road, but we were finally able to enter a few shows this year and he's been a little superstar.

One thing Army life has taught us is that there are fabulous, kind and generous horse people all over the country. Some places you have to look a little harder than others, but when you find that Army-horse connection, like Lisa and I have, it’s a pretty neat bond! It was really special to stand in the George Morris Arena at the Tryon International Equestrian Center and have our picture taken together donning our ribbons!

My family is scheduled for yet another Army move next spring. We have no idea where, but you can bet Sophia and I will be eventing. Who knows, maybe we'll be out west and we'll make it to AEC again!

From Lisa:

I am an Army wife of 25 years, married to Col. Tracy Banister. We have a daughter, Emily, and a son, Doug. We have moved 11 times, have been through three deployments and were even stationed in South Korea. I am a show hunter rider of 40 years and I have ridden at every duty station we have lived and have moved horse and ponies to each one, except Korea. I met Briana when we were stationed together at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where my husband was the Chief of Staff. Our latest move was from Oklahoma to Northern Virginia where the closest farm was Richmark Farm where Prestige Training is based and Jim Moore is the trainer.

When my daughter went off to college last year I was left with her hunter horse, Cannoneer, known in the barn as “Gus”. I did not like the idea of going to the hunter shows by myself so Jim talked me into doing a few horse trials. I qualified for AEC with a fourth place finish and a win at my first two horse trials. I'm having a blast and enjoying myself. I will eventually return to the hunter ring but for the time being having fun learning my way in the eventing world.

When Briana and I learned we were both going to AEC were excited to see each other. Who would have thought we would have been on the first and second place teams! What is the chance of that happening? We are both proud Army wives and have had challenges remaining competitive in our horse worlds but neither of use would trade it for the world.

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