Mar 07, 2024

Now On Course: Ava Chase is Back in the Saddle with 24-year-old Kingston

By Lindsay Berreth - USEA Staff
Ava Chase with Kingston. (left: photo courtesy of Ava Chase, right: Tina Fitch Photography photo)

Ava Chase wasn’t quite sure what to think as she was handed the lead rope of Kingston, a 21-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred, in 2021.

The gelding’s owner, Molly Agee, had heard of Chase, who runs a boarding barn in San Marcos, California, and knew she provided good care.

Chase agreed to take “Kiwi” for a possible lesson horse as he was stepping down from a long eventing career, and when Agee's mother, Jessica Burch, arrived and was unloading him, she got a call saying her husband was in an accident.

“She got the horse off the trailer and handed him to me. She handed me a bill of sale. I thought he was going to be a feed lease. She was transferring him for a dollar. I knew nothing about this horse. I looked at the contract, was like, ‘Oh, OK,’ handed her the dollar, gave her a hug, and she drove away," she said with a laugh.

While Agee and Burch got back in touch with Chase after the emergency to make sure Kingston was settled, Chase was left not knowing what exactly she would do with the senior horse that she now owned.

A former eventer in Area VI in her youth, Chase had quit riding when she went to college, got a full-time job, then started a family and became a horse show mom with not much time to pursue her own riding.

In 2014, she reconnected with Jordan Chase, who she’d known through the eventing scene when they were teenagers. While she went off to college, he’d moved east to work with Denny Emerson. He’d gotten into real estate development and construction, while she became a nurse practitioner and started a medical education company that does seminars all over the country.

They both married and divorced other people, but 35 years later, Ava found Jordan on Facebook, and they started dating and were soon married.

“It brought up a lot of memories, so I decided to start riding again,” said Ava, now 61. “I started first, then my husband followed after a couple of years. I really missed it, especially after being a show mom for all those years. I didn’t really want to do the hunter/jumper thing anymore, and there was eventing in California.”

Ava and Jordan Chase reconnected after 35 years, married, and started eventing again. Photo courtesy of Ava Chase

As the couple started getting more into horses again, they bought a small property near the beach with a barn and dressage ring. Three years ago, they went all in and bought a boarding facility, Far View Farms Equestrian Center, where they now care for more than 40 horses. While the couple focuses on eventing, they cater to all types of riders and have resident hunter/jumper and dressage trainers. They also host clinics and schooling shows.

Ava found that when she came back to eventing, she was a bit more cautious.

“The physical ability came back pretty quickly,” she said. “I would say I’m more tentative. I was a pretty gutsy rider as a kid. I would ride anything. I don’t feel that way now. I’m a little bit nervous, and I’ve broken a couple of bones.”

But with Kiwi (Star Jo x Aye) standing in her driveway three years ago, Ava could tell he had a kind heart and decided to try riding him herself. He’d competed to Preliminary with a handful of riders during his career and even completed an Intermediate with Tamie Smith.

Most recently he’d been competing at Training level. “I started riding him, and he’s amazing,” she said. “He’s the best horse ever. I’m so lucky. They gave him to me for $1 because they knew I would be a good home, and they thought it would be a great step-down situation for him. He’s still quite ‘up’ but I trust him so much. I found that I needed to develop a partnership with a horse because I was much more nervous of a rider.”

The pair started racking up good results at Beginner Novice in 2021 and went to the 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships in Montana where they finished 14th in the Beginner Novice Rider division.

“He seems like he’s only about 11,” said Ava. “He’s still really young-minded. He’ll spin trying to go out to the cross-country course. Somebody said to me, ‘Don’t look at it as scary; look at it as how much fun he’s having.’ When I changed my viewpoint to that, our partnership changed, and he trusts me, and I trust him. He’ll just do whatever. I’ve never had a refusal on him. He just loves the sport. He’s just an amazing animal.”

Both Ava and Jordan have enjoyed competing together in recent years, and both have become involved as owners. They’re part of the syndicates for two of Boyd Martin’s horses, Barney Rubble and Fedarman B. They also co-own Liz Halliday's Newmarket Cooley.

“It’s been great,” she said. “The people in the syndicates are so much fun. It’s enabled us to meet people at that level of the sport that we probably wouldn’t have ever met.”

This winter, Ava sent Kiwi to South Carolina, where her daughter, Tatiana Parker, runs a hunter/jumper barn. She’s hoping to compete a few more times this year, and then let the gelding enjoy a well-deserved retirement in a grassy field there.

While her own competitive days may be numbered, she’s got a lot to look forward to.

In addition to volunteering at local events, Ava pursued the U.S. Equestrian Federation licensed officials’ program and passed her technical delegate test at the end of 2023. She’s now a USEF eventing TD and recently became a USEF eventing ‘r’ dressage judge too.

“I figured as I got older, I wouldn’t want to compete,” she said. “I love the sport. I was trying to think of ways that I could stay active in the sport but not always be on the back of a horse at a competition. We’ve developed so many friendships and so many connections; I didn’t want that to end when my decision to stop competing ended. I looked into the licensed officials program. It’s quite a journey, but now I’m on the end of it! I’m excited. It’s really important to give back to the sport.”

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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