Aug 07, 2019

The Road to AEC: Making Up for it With Heart

Xpress Foto Photo courtesy of Barbara Lyons.

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.

Xpress Foto Photo courtesy of Barbara Lyons.

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.

About the USEA American Eventing Championships

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.

Oct 04, 2022 Education

Jim Wofford Delivers His Fun and Education Formula at Woodside Clinic

Specifics of the "Fun & Education Formula" were provided to all at the Jim Wofford Clinic held on August 20 & 21 at the Horse Park in Woodside, northern California. Eager riders, auditors, and volunteers gathered for a much anticipated two-day clinic with the master bright and early Saturday morning.

Oct 04, 2022 Hall of Fame

Connections of Great Event Horse Eagle Lion Offered Invitation to USEA Eventing Hall of Fame

This year a new class will be joining the 47 eventing legends currently in the United States Eventing Association (USEA) Eventing Hall of Fame. Induction into the Hall of Fame is the highest honor awarded within the sport of eventing in the United States. Those invited to join the USEA's Eventing Hall of Fame have truly made a difference in the sport of eventing. Hall of Fame members have included past Association presidents, volunteers, riders, founders, course designers, officials, organizers, horses, horse owners, and coaches.

Oct 03, 2022 Convention

Announcing the Keynote Speaker for the 2022 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention: Dr. Sue Dyson

Have you ever wondered why your horse isn’t performing at their best? Get ready to learn about the many facets that can contribute to lameness and poor performance in sport horses from equine orthopedics expert, Dr. Sue Dyson! The United States Eventing Association (USEA) is pleased to announce that Dr. Dyson will be the keynote speaker at the 2022 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in Savannah, GA this December 7-11.

Oct 02, 2022 Profile

Change of Rein: Rosie Smith's Journey from Reining to the #2022AEC

Rosie Smith’s rose gold accented helmet matched her perfectly tidy bun of red hair as she took the third spot in the USEA Training Rider Championship at the 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nurena Feeds. Every little detail came together while aboard her trusted partner of nine years: the 20-year-old Connemara Irish Draught named Seamus (by Corrcullen, RID). But Smith’s first jump, back when she was only 15 years old, wasn’t with an English saddle.

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