Mar 10, 2021

Now on Course: Marianne's Dream

Sami and Conner. Judy Gray Photo.

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.

Sami and Conner show jumping at the Cobblestone Farms Horse Trials. Lumineer Photography Photo courtesy of Sami Scigouski.

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.

Sami and Conner on cross-country at the Cobblestone Farms Horse Trials. Lumineer Photography Photo courtesy of Sami Scigouski.

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.

Apr 11, 2021 Competitions

Cinzano Keeps Twin Rivers CCI4*-L Top Spot Secure

At the second-to-last of 40 efforts, "I thought, 'This is actually happening,'" said Amber Levine of a faultless finish with Cellar Farm's Cinzano today to stay on their 31.5 lead going into show jumping tomorrow morning in the Twin Rivers Spring International CCI4*-L. The Jeffs Hot Tub Waves complex at 19 a/b was the awkward exception to a Hugh Lochore-designed course that otherwise "rode great" for the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Classe VDL x Walta) in his long-delayed debut at the level. An entirely new portion of the course around the racetrack featured a series of bright-white painted obstacles, but nothing distracted Cinzano's "tunnel vision for those flags." Levine expects a similar game attitude tomorrow and has a rail to spare.

Apr 10, 2021 Competitions

Cinzano Captures Inaugural Twin Rivers CCI4*-L Dressage Lead

Black stallion antics after the CCI4*-L jog inspection yesterday were not a preview of Cinzano's dressage test today. "When you are riding and working him, he's all into what you are doing," says Amber Levine, who owns the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Classe VDL x Walta) through her Cellar Farm. A 31.5 dressage test puts them atop a field of four, three of which, including Cinzano, are first-timers in the division in Paso Robles, California.

Apr 09, 2021 Competitions

Weekend Quick Links: April 8-11

Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.

Apr 09, 2021 Competitions

Fast Facts: 2021 Chattahoochee Hills H.T.

The Chattahoochee Hills H.T. is hosting one of three CCI4*-S divisions this weekend across the country and with 34 entries they have the largest turnout as riders prepare for their spring CCI4*-L and CCI5*-L goals. The facility in Fairburn, Georgia is running seven events in 2021, but their April event is the only one offering a CCI4*-S.

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