Ponies have been “my thing” for about 15 years now. I went through my teenage angst years riding Thoroughbreds, but upon settling into my mid-20s I realized that at my short stature (also known as fun-sized), a smaller horse just feels better to me and as a result I’m a far more confident rider. I successfully ran Preliminary for seven years on a 14.2 hand Morgan/Arabian cross named Milo who is now retired in my backyard and teaching my newest pony the ropes of being, well, amazing. Speaking of this new pony, meet Eli (aka Even More Impressive), a 14 hand Hanoverian/Welsh whom I purchased from Wine Country Sport Ponies in Orland, California as an unbroken, coming 3-year-old.
As an amateur rider, I’ve done most of my training on all four ponies I’ve competed over the past 15 years, but Eli was the first pony I got that was quite literally just halter broken. I am so lucky to have the most amazing support team of trainers, Raydiance Eventing and M.Young Equestrian, to help me bring my young horses along properly. Bringing Eli along has been such a blast and a great feeling of accomplishment. I didn’t plan to buy a pony that was just barely 14 hands, but I couldn’t turn this little guy down when I saw him with his amazing trot and Justin Bieber-esque forelock.
Our first year together was about teaching him the basics; how to wear clothes, how to get in a trailer, and how to be in public. He passed all those tests with flying colors and in May of 2018, as a 4-year-old, he competed in his first event at the Introductory level at The Horse Park at Woodside, finishing in third place. The year 2018 also happened to be the year I got married so my show schedule was limited to just that one show. However, we came into 2019 with guns-a-blazing, competing in Beginner Novice where he is currently the 10th ranked pony in the country and I am tied at the top of the leaderboard in the USEA Adult Amateur Beginner Novice rankings. I’ve never had my name mentioned on the national leaderboard before, so it feels pretty incredible!
The thing about knowing your pony (or horse) as well as I know Eli is that you can really win those tie-breakers! For instance, during the Spring Event at Woodside this year, we were in a very competitive Beginner Novice division with 25 entries where I was tied for second place with a well-respected professional rider. I went into cross-country with my minute markers in mind, crossing the finish flags exactly at optimum time. The other rider with whom I was tied finished merely one second under optimum which meant I won the tie by the slimmest of margins and took home the red ribbon!
Fast forward to the Summer Event at Woodside a few months later where I was in yet another large and competitive Open Beginner Novice division. This time I was tied for FIRST place with another well-respected trainer. I thought to myself that maybe my tiebreaker luck had run out last time, or maybe that was a fluke, but either way, I was going to give it everything I had. This time I crossed the finish line at one second under optimum time, as did the other rider! I was informed that the tie-breaker would be determined by optimum time in stadium (who knew?) Well it turns out because I was riding a PONY, with his smaller, slower strides, we were closer to optimum time! We drove back home with our fancy blue ribbon hanging from the rear-view mirror along with a nice bag of prizes. My takeaway is that it takes some luck, some skill, and one heck of an awesome pony!
I love cheering on my fellow pony riders in Area VI where there are more and more adult amateurs on ponies! The amazing thing about the eventing community is that everyone can choose the best horse (or pony) for them regardless of size, breed, or color, and no matter what, we all support each other. Oh, and one last bonus item about being a pony owner: you can totally get away with being an adult using blue sparkle yarn in your braids at shows! So I look forward to seeing you all at the future shows and clinics. I’ll just be living my best pony-loving life and channeling my inner 9-year-old!
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 at [email protected] to be featured.
On May 1, 2022, Max Corcoran was appointed as the Eventing Elite Program and Team Facilitator. In her role, Corcoran will support the areas of communication, logistics, and management of the teams for the Eventing Programs to deliver sustained success at World and Olympic Games level. As the Facilitator, she will work closely with the interim Chef d’Equipe/Team Manager, Bobby Costello, and eventing staff to build solid lines of communication with athletes, grooms, owners, coaches, veterinarians, and all stakeholders linked to the athletes and develop the structures around the Elite Program and senior U.S. Eventing Team.
Imagine: you are at the biggest sporting event of your life. The stakes are high, and you have spent countless hours preparing for it. However, you are expected to just show up and immediately perform. You cannot stretch or take a practice swing. You have no time to loosen up or sharpen your eye. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Just like us, our horses need adequate time to warm up each day. A warmup is any preparation for work, and it is often the leading edge of that work. It is the small aid response that becomes the more advanced aid response.
This year a new class will be joining the 47 eventing legends currently in the United States Eventing Association (USEA) Eventing Hall of Fame. Induction into the Hall of Fame is the highest honor awarded within the sport of eventing in the United States. Those invited to join the USEA's Eventing Hall of Fame have truly made a difference in the sport of eventing. Hall of Fame members have included past Association presidents, volunteers, riders, founding fathers, course designers, officials, organizers, horses, horse owners, and coaches
Preparing for your first horse trial and not sure what is expected of you at each level? Over the course of the next few Rule Refreshers, we will be diving into each level and the performance expectations of each phase. Want to better prepare yourself or your students for their first competition or a move-up? The USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels is a free resource to all USEA members that outlines clear and consistent guidelines for riders and trainers to refer to when navigating their way through the competition levels.