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.
"No matter how old you are, be open to all disciplines, learn how to ride a dressage horse, a gaited horse, a show jumper. Go fox hunting and point-to-pointing and horse showing. You’ll learn from all of them and when you do decide which discipline you want to do, you’ll be better at it anyway.”
The University of Findlay’s Three-Day Eventing Team was established in 2013, the same year USEA voted and approved the USEA intercollegiate program. The UF team has over 30 members encompassing a variety of majors at the university. The team has access to two indoor arenas, a large outdoor arena, and 70 acres of on-site cross-country fences.
Bellamy, an Oldenburg/Thoroughbred gelding of unknown breeding, came to Tamra Smith’s farm in Southern California with his mane half-way down his neck and filled with burrs. Bellamy had been sitting in a field for a little over a year after unseating several riders in a row and Smith, known for being good with tricky horses, agreed to take him on.