It started as a dream – cliche, I know, but it really did. Like most little girls, my Aunt Marianne always dreamed of owning her own horse and riding every day and showing across the country. However, throughout life, her dream kept being put on the back burner and now at age 50 is as close to impossible as it can be. That’s when a fortunate chain of events happened, and one thing led to another and now suddenly Marianne’s dream has become a reality, albeit not in the way she expected it to.
Ever since I started leasing my own horse, I have wanted to be an eventer. Dora was a spitfire; an off-the-track Thoroughbred that was a little much for a 13-year-old to handle. We struggled for three years before I had finally improved enough as a rider to start preparing for my first eventing derby. However, my dream of becoming an eventer was crushed when our vet diagnosed Dora with cancer. At the time we discovered it, it was already becoming too late - her lungs were quickly filling up with the destructive cells. One hard decision and many tears later, we did the inevitable and put an end to her suffering before it could cause her any more pain.
With a heavy heart, I wasted no time in getting back in the saddle. A relatively new lesson horse was up for lease – Bailey. She was a sweetheart with an eventing background and the perfect horse to propel me back into riding and showing. After a few months of practice and quite a few cross-country lessons later, Bailey and I were finally able to begin eventing. Once again, I faced another roadblock in my path to be a true eventer. Bailey, who was another quick OTTB, would refuse every first jump. Regardless of how balanced and forward I came into a fence, she would throw on the brakes at the last second and come to a sliding halt. Now, once she had gotten that stop out of her system – and it always seemed to happen in the show ring – she would go back to being the sweetest little mare in the world. For a couple of years we were able to get by like this, but last summer we reached a breaking point. Our once love/love relationship was quickly declining to a hate/hate relationship. I wanted to move on to bigger fences and she wanted to move back down to cross-rails. Something had to change.
It was the summer of my high school senior year and although I was excited to move on to riding at college in the fall, I was less than excited about a summer of fighting with my mare. An unexpected visit from an old friend and role model from my younger years led to the horse that I ride now. Ashlyn, who moved down south a few years after I started riding at Fox Run, had come back into town to ask for a favor. After several years of showing around the country with her horse, Conner, she was ready to start college. However, she would not be able to take Conner with her, and she needed a place where he could go and be well taken care of. My trainer and barn owner agreed, and Conner was brought to our barn to stay for the next however many years. I immediately took a liking to him – he was everything I had ever wanted in a horse (minus his dressage skills, or lack thereof). Things have a funny way of working out sometimes, and I was the only big kid at our barn that had both the skill-set and time to work with him.
I was honored and humbled. Conner is easily one of the most capable horses I have ever known. Having shown jumpers consistently at 1.15m and with a passion for galloping (as quite a few OTTBs do) Conner was brave, willing, confident, and a loveable goofball that had all the potential to be an eventer. A little bit of hard work and time getting to know each other and Conner and I would be ready to compete. Finally, my dream of becoming an eventer was coming to be a reality with a horse that I could only describe as perfect.
Throughout my journey to become the rider and eventer that I am today, I have had one person cheering me on no matter what the circumstances. My Aunt Marianne has always been there. She took me to my first ever riding lesson when I was 5 years old and got me hooked on “everything horses.” Passion for horses is the link that she and I share - and no one else in my family does. Now that I was finally able to realize my dream of eventing, I couldn’t stop thinking of her. She was there to comfort me when Dora died. She was there for every up-and-down struggle with Bailey. Every roadblock, every high point, every ride – she was always there. So naturally, Marianne was the first person I talked to about attending a recognized USEA horse trials. She gave me the confidence I needed to work with this incredible horse that knew way more than I did.
Marianne’s dream had become my reality. All that she had ever wished for as a young horse-loving girl she is now living through me. In honor of her and all of the support she has given along the way, I made Conner’s show name “Marianne’s Dream.” Whenever I show, practice, or even just ride, it is not only for me and my goals, but also for Marianne.
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.
The USEA Annual Meeting & Convention is an event that many USEA members look forward to year after year to catch up with their fellow eventing enthusiasts and stay up to date on all the latest work happening on the USEA Committees and Task Forces, but there’s so much more to explore. The educational opportunities offered at this year’s Convention, which takes place on Dec. 7-10 at the Marriott St. Louis Grand hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, are endless and afford members with the opportunity to expand their horizons through a full schedule of seminars and events. Plus, each day of the Convention counts as one ECP Continuing Education credit for those in attendance!
Each year every member of the USEA receives a nomination ballot to submit nominees to the Board of Governors and during the Annual Meeting of Members, all members are invited to vote for those individuals nominated to serve. All members receive a proxy to vote for their chosen representatives for those unable to attend the Annual Meeting of Members. The only restriction for Board membership is that they must be USEA members. There are 10 positions representing each Area of the country and 11 at-large positions with no other restrictions.
Effective Dec. 1, 2023, USEF rule EV145.8 will require, whenever possible, new cross-country obstacles (for which frangible devices are appropriate) to be constructed with FEI approved frangible technology for the Training level and above (previously it was Modified and above).
The Ram Tap Horse Park Horse Trials hosted the final USEA Classic Series Event of the year this past weekend in Fresno, California. The event offered three traditional long-format divisions at the Beginner Novice, Novice, and Training levels. Meet the final USEA Classic Series champions of 2024 below.