2018 was a bit of a whirlwind year for me. I started new partnerships with two incredible horses and had one of the best seasons on my going on five-year partner as well! However, the pinnacle of my year was completing some of my biggest goals on may new partner, Indian Mill aka "Monkee."
I started the year with Monkee at Preliminary, just trying to get to know each other. While we were consistently pretty successful, there were some bumps in the road, and Monkee promptly taught me that he demands a certain level of professionalism and respect when it comes to riding him. While we had some top finishes in the spring, we also had a few mishaps, including a few rider falls. I had started the year with the rough goal of doing a one-star on him, so when the time came for the Virginia Horse Trials and USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship, it made the most sense to enter the CCI*.
This was my first time at the level with this horse and therefore some nerves came with the start of the event. These nerves, however, were taken completely off by being surrounded by my incredible UK Eventing Team. I went into the week with the goal of doing well in the CCI, but with an even bigger goal of winning the "spirit award" at Intercollegiate Championship. Our team had the most fun I think any of us had ever had at an event before at the Virginia Horse Trials and it wasn't due to great results in our divisions (which some of us did have) but it was because we were surrounded by some our best friends, getting to represent our incredible school.
I think there is something to say about an event like the Virginia Horse Trials that can take an often incredibly serious (for good reason) FEI environment and also allow those competitors to compete in something as fun and with so much camaraderie like the Intercollegiate Championship and have it truly be the pinnacle event of so many college kids' year!
For me, I had thought that the Virginia Horse Trials was the best the year would get for both my team and my horse. I didn't think it could get any better for a first season with a new partner after a top-three finish in our first FEI together! But, I was promptly proven wrong when it came time for the fall FEI of the year at the Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event and Intercollegiate Team Challenge at the Kentucky Horse Park.
This event has always had a special place in my heart as I've been competing there since I was going Beginner Novice on my little Welsh pony, Snowflake. Hagyard Midsouth is a huge event for the UK Eventing Team as well, being the last "home" event of the season and a big goal-oriented event for lots of our riders! I went into the event wanting to better my results from Hagyard, but also with a bigger goal of (hopefully) finally completing a CCI on my younger horse, Exmoor Denver aka "Denny" aka "Dumpling," who had a bit of a trying season in 2017 which ended with a rider fall at this same event.
Both of the boys were incredible all weekend, with Monkee really showing his skill and experience and helping me out when my nerves got the best of me. When it came to cross-country day, there is no better feeling than crossing the finish line, knowing I had put down a double clear and to look up from giving Monkee a pat to see members of my amazing UK Eventing Team and even some of my classmates who knew nothing about horses (other than that's what took up all of their friend's weekends traveling) waiting for me in the vet box. It goes without saying that the week could not have gone as well as it did without the incredible support of my teams, my friends, and my wonderful family.
Everything finally came together on the Sunday of show jumping (after a popping off of Monkee in the warmup, when he deemed my ride to the upright vertical "unacceptable") when Monkee and I jumped around to finish on our dressage score for the first time since our first event together earlier that year. Being able to win my first FEI during my first year with my incredible new partner, all while on home turf being supported by the best team around, truly did make my year with Indian Mill spectacular.
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.
All the major contenders passed the eventing final horse inspection at the Tokyo Olympics and will carry on to contest the show jumping phase in a few hours’ time.
The ground jury (Nick Burton, GBR, Christina Klingspor, SWE, and the U.S.A.’s Jane Hamlin) and vets only failed to accept one horse - Fantastic Frieda, ridden by Poland’s Joanna Pawlak, who had completed the cross-country in 41st place with a refusal and 25.2 time-faults.
The FEI has announced that the Swiss horse Jet Set, ridden by Robin Godel has had to be euthanized after pulling up extremely lame on the Sea Forest Cross Country Course during Equestrian Eventing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on August 1, 2021.
In 2002, at the age of 15, I was at my Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Maine while Tremaine Cooper was there building some cross-country jumps. I helped him build a trakehner, not realizing that this day would set the course for my future. A few weeks later he called asking if I could help him at Millbrook Horse Trials. From there I helped Tremaine during most of my school vacations and throughout the summers. After graduating high school I kept at it never looking back. I lived the gypsy lifestyle for about six years going from coast to coast and event to event. In 2013 my wife Kathryn and I settled down in Lexington, Kentucky. These days I spend roughly 60-75 percent of my time on the road preparing events or building private schooling areas. I’ve had the privilege of being involved with some really great events around the states and have cultivated many friendships all over the country. In 2019 I was asked to be a part of Team Evans Olympic cross-country building crew. As I write this I am on my third trip to Tokyo. Here’s a day in Tokyo . . .
The British team cemented their gold medal position at the Tokyo Olympics with three magnificent cross-country performances, all clear inside the time. Added to that, their first rider, Oliver Townend, holds pole position individually after the dressage leader, Germany’s Michael Jung, picked up 11 penalties for triggering a frangible device.