It’s not every day that you see siblings competing against each other in any sport, but twins Jack and Sam Curtis have been doing just that in eventing since they were both about 12 years old. Horses run in their blood as their mother grew up riding, and she wanted her sons to learn as well. “We began taking lessons at the age of 6 at a barn right down the street from our house,” they shared. “At the time, we had no idea that equestrians had any specific disciplines and this barn was primarily an eventing barn, so we have always stuck to eventing.”
Growing up outside of Boston, Jack and Sam learned the ropes of eventing on their Connemara ponies: Turk Everlasting and My Saint Patrick. Jack, who rode Turk Everlasting, and Sam, who rode My Saint Patrick, explained that they started out leasing the ponies from their barn over one summer before purchasing them. “We both did our first events and had a year of Beginner Novice with them before we moved on to the next step,” they explained. Competing at venues like GMHA and Course Brook Farm, Jack and Sam got their first taste of eventing, and even brought home some ribbons!
In 2016, Jack and Sam switched barns and began searching for their next equine partners. Sam bought Cruising On, an Irish Sport Horse gelding who has competed through the Training level with Meghan O’Donoghue, and Jack leased In Flight N Out of Sight, an Anglo Arab gelding owned by Jessye Ebzery who had competed through the Preliminary level. “These horses moved us up to Novice and started to make us understand the true basics of eventing,” they explained. “Unfortunately, Sam’s horse was challenging to keep sound, so he is now retired, and Jack’s horse went back to his owner when the lease was over.”
Both horseless and ready to move up to Training level, Jack and Sam started to horse-hunt once again in the summer of 2017. Jack found a suitable match in Lucky Strike, an off-the-track Thoroughbred who raced under the name Hunter’s Charm. Jack and Lucky Strike competed several Novice level events together in the summer and fall of 2017 before Lucky Strike passed away suddenly over the winter.
Sam continued to search for the right match for the rest of 2017 and into the spring of 2018 when he found Cooley Cut Copy, who was running Preliminary with Dom Schramm at the time. The pair hit it off, winning their second event together at the Novice level before stepping up to Training in the summer of 2018. Jack, meanwhile, imported a young Holsteiner gelding named Playmate III from England, and the pair spent the rest of the 2018 season getting to know each other at the Training level.
It was around this time that Jack and Sam began working with five-star eventer Caitlin Silliman, who is based in Cochranville, Pennsylvania. The twins’ uncle’s college roommate is also from the Cochranville area and had known Silliman for years, and so he put their mom in touch with Silliman. “One of our close friends Morgan McCue, who owns Caitlin’s Advanced mare Ally KGO, also recommended Caitlin to us,” the twins elaborated. “We absolutely love being under the guidance of Caitlin because she makes every day fun, professional, and educational.”
In the winter of 2019, Jack and Sam had the opportunity to travel to Silliman’s winter base in Aiken, South Carolina to do some competing in Area III. Jack, aboard Playmate III, and Sam, aboard Cooley Cut Copy, both completed their first Preliminary level event at Sporting Days Farm, finishing fourth and seventh, respectively. “Both of these horses have truly taught us how to ride correctly and accurately,” they said. Both continued to compete at the Preliminary level throughout the spring and summer, with Jack and Playmate III even completing their first CCI2*-S at the Horse Park of New Jersey, where they were sixth.
“At this point in our career, we both were looking for the horse that would take us around our first Advanced,” the twins said. So, in the winter of 2020, Sam made the decision to sell Cooley Cut Copy on “to his dream home, where he couldn’t be happier!” The search for a horse for Sam began again, and in no time at all he found Blyth’s Centurion FE, a German Sport Horse gelding who had been competing at the Intermediate/CCI3* level with Canadian April Simmonds. While Jack still has Playmate III, he was also able to acquire Luska Candy Clover, an Irish Sport Horse gelding, from Daniel Clasing, who had competed him through the Preliminary/CCI2* level. Jack and Sam were each able to squeeze in a Training level event down in Georgia with their new mounts before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the competition season to a screeching halt.
Now that the competition season has gotten back underway, Jack and Sam have been out with their horses at some local Area II events, with Sam and Blyth’s Centurion FE bringing home a first and second place at Plantation Field in June and Horse Park of New Jersey in July and Jack finishing first and third in the Junior/Young Rider Open Preliminary division at Horse Park of New Jersey. “We are looking forward to the remainder of the 2020 season with these outstanding horses!” they said.
Jack and Sam said that despite the fact that they compete in the same divisions frequently, they don’t get very competitive towards one another. “We both enjoy competing against each other,” they said, “but at the end of the day we are happy for each other. Growing up, eventing is all we have ever wanted to do, and to be able to do it with each other is invaluable. We can always discuss what we’re thinking about a specific combination on course or how many strides we might do in a show jumping line. At times we can be competitive, but it’s pretty even between us. Every other event goes differently, sometimes one of us beats the other, or it goes the other way around! It’s all part of the game.”
As the Curtis twins look to the future, they say careers as eventing professionals are definitely goals they have in mind. “Hopefully we’ll compete at the North American Youth Championships on the three-star team next year, and we’d like to compete in the Under 25 division at Bramham,” they said. “We would both love to pursue eventing as a profession in the future and to compete at the highest level!”
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.
My name is Tayah Fuller and I’m 14 years old. “On course” to me is a phrase that makes my heart pump fast and my excitement go wild. There is no better feeling than galloping through a field or flying over cross-country jumps with my heart thrumming along, especially when it is with my best friend. You see, I was born with a congenital heart murmur. While it has never really affected my athletic abilities, the one time that I notice it is when I am riding through a cross-country course with my horse.
Please always remain vigilant when it comes to sending any personal communications via email or text. Every year we receive reports of members and leaders of our sport receiving phishing attempts both online and by phone. These are often communications disguised as being sent from USEA staff or other leaders. As the years go on, the phishing attempts appear to be more directed and tailored.
Tack cleaning is one of those barn chores that might not be our favorite but is certainly necessary for keeping our equipment in top shape. Aside from caring for your tack so it lasts for years to come, regular tack maintenance is important for safety. The last thing you want is the potential for a stitch, zipper, or buckle breaking while you're out on course.
Following feedback from our membership to the rule change proposal for the USEF Rules For Eventing: Appendix 3 – Participation In Horse Trials, the United States Eventing Association (USEA) Board of Governors voted to modify the rule change proposal, but still to recommend the establishment of rider licenses and increase Minimum Eligibility Requirements (MERs) to the regulating authority of the sport US Equestrian (USEF).