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.
The spring eventing season in the Midwest is always a toss-up due to unpredictable weather. Will it rain, will it be sunny, or will it be a snowstorm? No one knows! Mid-America Combined Training Association’s (MACTA) first cross-country schooling of the season was cancelled in March due to extremely muddy footing conditions and by the time our April dates came around, COVID-19 was in full force and we were unable to host our cross-country schooling and schooling show.
The FEI has published its Policy for Enhanced Competition Safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, aimed at assisting organizers and national federations with the safe resumption of international equestrian events in line with national and local restrictions.
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) has approved additional modifications to the qualification period for the 2020 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds. The AEC is scheduled to take place August 25-30, 2020 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, and the USEA is doing everything possible to ensure a safe and successful Championship, while also ensuring fair opportunities for all.
This article will be updated to include statements as they are released from upcoming USEA recognized events regarding actions they are taking due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).