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.
After not running in 2020 and 2021, the MARS Bromont CCI Three-Day Event returned to the Bromont Olympic Equestrian Center in Quebec, Canada, in 2022. America's Jennie Saville (née Brannigan) and Twilightslastgleam won the CCI4*-L, as the chestnut Thoroughbred gelding (National Anthem x Royal Child) bred and owned by Nina Gardner moved up from eighth after dressage into the lead after cross-country with the fastest round on wet ground over the tracks designed by Derek di Grazia. Canada's Lindsay Traisnel and Bacyrouge, a bay Selle Français gelding (Mylord Carthago x Lelia) owned by Patricia Pearce, finished second, and they are among four from the top-10 in the CCI4*-L in 2022 that return in 2023.
Hannah Sue Hollberg of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, was on a winning streak at the Essex Horse Trials on Sunday, claiming victory in both the $10,000 Open Intermediate and Open Preliminary divisions with two horses that are fairly new to her. Some difficulty on cross-country did not stop her mount Hachi from claiming victory in the Open Intermediate with a score of 101.6, while Open Preliminary partner Rockster finished on his dressage score of 27.3.
The great football coach Vince Lombardi said, “We win our games in practice.” With the goal of having the most effective practices possible for horses, their riders, and their coaches, Cathy Wieschhoff explains some signs that can indicate when horse and rider should repeat an exercise, switch it up, or be done with that activity. Wieschhoff brings perspective as a five-star rider that has competed at the Kentucky Three-Day Event and Burghley Horse Trials, a USEF “R” Course Designer for eventing cross-country and show jumping, a former Area VIII chair and member of the USEA Board of Governors, and a Level V USEA ECP Certified Coach based out of Carriage Station Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.
The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) is pleased to announce the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team for the FEI Eventing Nations Cup Poland CCIO4*-NC-S at the Strzegom Horse Trials (Poland) from June 21-25, 2023. The team will be under the direction of USEF Eventing Emerging and Development Coach Leslie Law.