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.
In less than a month, eventers will wrap up the year at the Sheraton Boston Hotel for the 2019 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention on Dec. 12-15. Sixty years ago, the USCTA (now known as the USEA) was formed after a meeting that took place at the 1959 Pan American Games in Chicago. From 1959, the USEA has grown from a small 20-member organization to an organization with thousands of members across the country of all levels and ages. History will come to life at the 2019 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention as the USEA will honor 60 years of the sport that we all know and love.
Start teaching your horse to jump by working over cavallettis first at the walk and then by trotting over them slowly. Then school him over a variety of small fences at the trot. Schooling over low fences will build the horse's confidence. Then do the same thing at a slow canter. Remember, never force your horse over high fences as he will lose his confidence.
The St. Johns Horse Trials takes place at the St. Johns Equestrian Center in Saint Johns, Arizona (Area X) in April of each year, offering Pre-Comp through Preliminary/Training levels in addition to a derby class meant as an introduction to the sport for new horses and riders.
This year the Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event forgot that it was set in sunny Florida - the 2019 event had a cold and drizzly backdrop for the 153 horses and riders who competed across four days.