When Jeannette Lussi took a break from horses for more than 30 years to raise a family and pursue other athletic interests, she never expected that when she returned in her 50s she’d be eventing.
Lussi, now 60, rode when she was growing up in Washington D.C., but never had formal lessons, and mostly just foxhunted with her family. Her father, Malcolm Matheson, was MFH of Orange County Hunt in Virginia.
Seven years ago, after her three children were grown and out of the house, Lussi got the urge to start riding again, although she joked that she doesn’t know what possessed her to get a horse.
She’d always been an athlete, completing several Ironman competitions, marathons, and starting an ice hockey team. She went through a few horses before she found her perfect match, Rock’N Ranger, a 16-year-old pony of unknown origins who she decided to call a Highland Pony because of her Scottish heritage.
“Nobody really trained me, so I had to go from scratch just learning what a lead change was or if I was on the wrong lead or get your horse on the bit,” Lussi said. “I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And dressage, having someone tell me that to do dressage you had to learn circles and patterns and I’m thinking, ‘Are you cracked? I’m never going to learn how to do that!’ It becomes second nature, not that I could remember two tests—I have to literally forget one and relearn another one if I’m doing say, Beginner Novice A to Beginner Novice B. I have to wash it out! As a kid if you were taught that it would probably be second nature. I never knew about stadium jumping with strides and where your line is. I never learned about any of that until three years ago. It is a learning curve. You have to have a lot of trust in a horse, and thankfully I’m fairly athletic! I’ll go over anything somebody tells me to.”
Lussi started eventing four years ago after a few people suggested she try it because of her goal-oriented nature, and it proved to be the right choice. She’s competed at Beginner Novice with Rock’N’Ranger for the past few seasons. The gelding came from an Amish family in Indiana and was being used as a trail horse before Brendan and Melanie Wise bought him. Lussi bought him from the them after he’d had a bit more training. She now trains with Janice Binkley at Dodon Farm in Davidsonville, Maryland. She also hunts “Ranger” with Marlborough Hunt (Maryland).
“Ranger’s really been my heart [horse.] I’ve had so much fun with him,” said Lussi. “People say, ‘You’re aging—’ yes, I’m 60, but I do a lot of athletics. I love sports. I always have. It’s not like I haven’t stopped doing sports, but I think in the horse world, I now know that you have to find a partnership. When you see those pros doing the stuff they do—I do not want to do that ever—but I’m OK at Novice and Training level. I just want to have fun, and it is so fun for me. It’s a great sport, and the people I’ve met—it’s a different sport because Ironman you’re solo. At least out there you have fun with other riders, and you have this partnership.”
Last year, Lussi and Ranger completed the Beginner Novice Classic Three-Day at Waredaca (Laytonsville, Maryland). This year she’s hoping to go to the USEA American Eventing Championships (Lexington, Kentucky).
“I think at 60 if you can have fun doing something completely new and with an animal partner, it’s pretty cool,” she said. “Everyone is like, ‘Jeannette, you two are like two peas in a pod now.’ And I get it now when you say, ‘heart horse.’”
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