I am heading to the USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds on my 10-year-old thoroughbred Special Reserve (The Visualizer x Deco Jazz). "Chip" is special to me in so many ways but particularly because three years ago he lost total vision in his left eye. I bought him from Chya Johnstone, a jockey from Oklahoma, who knew he was a talented horse that might make a nice jumper or event horse. He was 5 years old and Chya had started to jump him. So when I bought him I started training him in dressage and cross-country.
It had been decades since Barb Nikolajczyk had sat on a horse due to family and career aspirations, but 16 years ago, a stop at her cousin Sharon Church’s farm in Culpeper, Virginia, on the way to the Outer Banks for vacation led to a renewed interest in her passion. Nikolajczyk didn’t have much time to pursue hobbies as she and her husband raised their two sons and while she worked towards a PhD and post doctorate work in the field of diabetes research in the suburbs of Boston, but that first trip to Virginia stuck with her.
“Every horse, at least once in its life, deserves to be loved by a little girl.” The now 19-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Belmont (Boundary x Capiana) has been lucky enough to have been loved by several little girls in his life. For almost three years now, he has been helping his current girl, Adalena Campisi, solidify her love for eventing and make her dreams come true.
Back in 2020, I was casually looking for my next horse to bring along. For years I had been competing my two steady-Eddie Thoroughbred’s Command Approval (With Approval x Takitforgranit) and Diamond Legacy (Unfold x Kiwi Trip) and had been pretty successful with them including being named Training Rider of the Year in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Both of my boys were aging quickly though, and I needed to figure out my future competition ambitions. I had also just lost my long-time trainer, coach, and mentor Packy McGaughan unexpectedly earlier in the spring of 2020. I thought focusing my energy on another horse might be useful during such a difficult time.
Plane Jane affectionately known as “Jane” did not have a glamorous start to her life. After being found in a kill pen as a yearling before being adopted as an older horse’s companion, she began to prove to be too much as an intended companion and as a result, the then 2-year-old mare was posted for sale on Craigslist.
I’m not sure where this story really begins. So, I’ll start in 2016 when I bought Nelson, a grumpy little chestnut OTTB, who I fondly christened the Little Red Dragon. We qualified for the USEA American Eventing Championships when we lived in Washington and the competition was in Kentucky. Several years later, we moved to Lexington, Kentucky, with the Kentucky Horse Park practically in our backyard. In 2021, I retired Nelson at the age of 20 and bought my now 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse, "Global Jedi," fondly known as Obi. We began our partnership with a couple of strong finishes at Novice, and I started setting goals with the hope that my dream of competing at the two-star level would materialize.
Sometimes rare opportunities present themselves and initially you think, there’s no way I can make this happen. But when you have an incredible team behind you pushing you to reach your goals, assuring you that you CAN do it, you realize those opportunities are indeed possible.
It has been a magical dream to gallop across the cross-county course at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Montana with the mountains and big blue sky surrounding me. Every year, when The Event at Rebecca Farm is hosted, my social media is flooded with the most beautiful images of the show. It had always seemed with the distance, finances, work requirements, and life in general that I would never make it there myself. At the end of 2021 I found out this dream could become a reality with the 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds (AEC) at Rebecca Farm and a new horse of a lifetime!
Finding a penny on heads is pretty lucky, but finding a Penny that has a mane, tail, and talent to boot? Now that’s grounds for an eventing prospect. Mix a little luck and a lot of experience with the right opportunity and that’s the exact recipe that Area VII eventer Jacqueline Cameron found herself smack dab in the middle of in April 2021.
I grew up in Denmark and am a mature rider who was a very active horse person from the age of four and into my early 20s. I did not really ride for 30 years after that, but I am now on the road to the USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds (AEC) at Rebecca Farm!
It’s early 2019, and day number “I’ve lost count” in a hospital bed. In the middle of the toughest and most depressing year of my life, I thought to myself: “If I make it out of this, I’m going all out. We are going to the Championships.” I was in desperate need of a goal or a light at the end of the tunnel when the world had gone dark on me. You know horses and riding are your passion when you’re on what certainly feels like your death bed, and even the doctors don’t bother to answer your “will I be able to ride” questions, yet the crazy idea to qualify for a Championship level event pops into your head. As if my uncertain health and future weren’t enough of a challenge, combine that with a tight budget, the lack of trainer or coach, a non-eventing background (I grew up in the Hunter/Jumper/Equitation ring), and a Hunter Princess of a horse. You’ve got yourself a pretty windy and bumpy road ahead.