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.
Nestled in the heart of St. Louis County is Queeny Park, the former estate of the late Mr. and Mrs. Edgar M. Queeny. This gorgeous public park features trails, playgrounds, tennis courts, a dog park, and so much more. On any given day you can find cyclists, walkers, families, and more enjoying the sprawling grounds of Queeny Park, but once a year eventers take over as the park hosts the Queeny Park Horse Trials. It is not uncommon for park visitors to watch from a safe distance as horses gallop across the grounds at Queeny Park, making it an event that truly anyone in the community can enjoy. This family-friendly staple in the St. Louis equestrian community has run for over 40 years, offering eventers in Area IV and beyond the opportunity to enjoy the park's ample space and terrain during the weekend-long event.
Where can you find fierce competition at every level, an overwhelming team atmosphere, and tons of spirit? The USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships of course! The 2022 Championships get underway tonight at 6:00 p.m. EST with the Opening Ceremony and Senior Awards Presentation, and official competition kicks off first thing Saturday morning. A total of 87 championship competitors will be representing 12 schools and make up 22 championship teams which will compete over the course of the weekend at the Chattahoochee Hills Horse Trials.
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.
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) is pleased to welcome back longtime sponsor, FITS Riding, Ltd. for 2022. They are returning as a ‘Bronze Sponsor of the USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds (AEC)’, a ‘Contributing Sponsor of the USEA Adult Team Championships (ATC)’, a ‘Contributing Sponsor of the USEA Classic Series’, and a ‘Contributing Sponsor of the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships.’ As a sponsor of these USEA programs, FITS will generously provide gift certificates as prizes for the Intercollegiate championship competitors, AEC and ATC competitors, and Classic Series winners.