When you think of the ideal sport horse, it’s usually not a 16.3 hand Shire Thoroughbred cross with feet the size of dinner plates and a head that barely fits into oversized bridles. But that didn’t stop my 17-year-old self from falling in love with a big, uncoordinated, gangly, barely-4-year-old mare named Willow.
Coming off of a high school break up, my parents agreed to let me buy her in the hope that it would mend my broken heart. Boy, were they right. I poured my heart and soul into training her, and together we began our eventing partnership, starting out with unrecognized cross-rail levels and working our way up from there.
I had only competed my previous horse up through the Beginner Novice level, so it was definitely a learning process for us both. Due to her size and breeding, it took a lot of work, and more importantly, patience, for her to understand her job and do it well.
In May of 2017, we completed our first long format event at the Novice level, finishing with just a rail added to our dressage score. We successfully moved up to Training later that season. In the spring of 2018, we unfortunately discovered multiple melanomas in the guttural pouches of Willow’s throat. At first, I was completely devastated that my best friend and teammate was ill. But I refused to give up on her.
Fortunately for us, we are surrounded by some of the country’s best vets who have worked diligently to help me keep Willow healthy. After finding a medication that worked to keep the tumors at bay, we received the all-clear to keep training and competing.
As of the 2019 season, we have completed dozens of Training level events, most recently completing a Training level long format event and a Preliminary/Training horse trials. We are heading to the American Eventing Championships in August and competing at the Training level.
Willow shows no signs of slowing down, and absolutely loves her job. There were a lot of people who didn’t believe in her, and I am so glad that she has been able to prove them wrong. She fights health problems, unconventional breeding, and not-so-ideal conformation, and yet she gives me 100 percent every single ride. I firmly believe that what she lacks in outstanding breeding or natural athletic ability, she more than makes up for in heart, and I am eternally grateful that our paths crossed all those years ago.
The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) is the pinnacle of the sport for the national levels. Held annually, the best junior, adult amateur, and professional competitors gather to vie for national championship titles at every level from Beginner Novice to Advanced. This ultimate test of horse and rider draws hundreds of horses and riders from around the country to compete for fabulous prizes, a piece of the substantial prize money, and the chance to be named the National Champion at their respective levels. The 2019 USEA American Eventing Championships will be held August 27-September 1, 2019 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.
A relentless rain didn’t put a damper on the first horse inspection at the 2019 Dutta Corp Fair Hill International Three-Day Event in Elkton, Md. The CCI3*-L presented first in front of the ground jury of Helen Brettell (GBR) and Valerie Vizcarrondo Pride (USA) and all 62 horses were accepted to start the competition. C Me Fly ridden by Colleen Rutledge and Jos UFO De Quidam ridden by Heather Jane Morris were both sent to the hold, but were accepted upon reinspection. Lasse 73 ridden by Jennifer Salinger was asked to jog twice, but was accepted after the second pass down the lane.
The USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) East and West Coast Championships will take place this weekend on opposite sides of the country. On Thursday and Friday, October 17 and 18, the East Coast Championships will take place at Fair Hill International in Elkton, Maryland. Then on Sunday, October 20, the West Coast Championships will run at the Fresno County Horse Park (FCHP) in Fresno, California.
Rutledge Farm is thrilled to welcome back two-time Olympic gold medalist Phillip Dutton to host his second eventing clinic as a part of the Rutledge Farm Sessions clinic series. Since 2017, Rutledge Farm has been dedicated to bringing premier educational opportunities to Middleburg, Virginia to support the development of the sport at all levels and for multiple disciplines, including eventing, show jumping, dressage, and equitation.
Experience the 2019 USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Championships through the judge's eyes! The USEA will be hosting YEH judging seminars during the 2019 USEA YEH Championships. The seminars will be led by the world-renowned judge and co-chair of the YEH Committee Marilyn Payne. All interested parties are welcome to attend.