On Sunday, May 19 in Lexington, Kentucky, Transylvania University hosted their annual all-sport athletic banquet with one team missing. The eventing team was on their way home from the 2019 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship at Chattahoochee Hills Horse Trials in Fairburn, Georgia. Knowing that senior and team captain Abby Blackburn was a finalist for the school’s Female Athlete of the Year award, she and Transylvania’s eventing coach Tanya Davis anxiously watched a live stream of the banquet from the road.
“They announced that I had won, and we couldn’t believe it,” said Blackburn, “I was up against soccer players, basketball players, golfers, all the traditional school sports, and they chose an event rider. How cool is that?”
The Transylvania eventing program was formed in 2012 and Blackburn has been a member since the fall of 2015. In that time, the team has gone from four riders to 12.
“I completed my first recognized horse trial the summer before my freshman year,” Blackburn remembered. “It was something I always wanted so badly, but it just wasn’t realistic for me until I joined the school team. Suddenly, I was traveling all over the southeast competing at venues I’d never thought I’d make it to. It really has been a dream, and without the support of the school and Coach Davis I don’t think it ever could’ve happened.”
Blackburn had multiple wins at the Beginner Novice and Novice level last year and was named the 2018 USEA Novice Intercollegiate Rider of the Year.
“Our school is NCAA Division III, so the eventing program is the only chance we get to go up against the big D1 schools,” Blackburn reported, “I think that’s a great thing for the school, and knowing the other coaches respect our sport enough to vote me Athlete of the Year is such a big deal for the program. You just don’t see that at other Universities.”
Blackburn is sad to be graduating and leaving the team, but she is far from done with eventing. She plans to continue working in the horse industry after graduation and hopes to be a professional rider and trainer in the future.
Female Athlete of the Year is a huge honor to be given to anyone in any sport. However, as far as we know, this is the first time in history that a University has given this award to an event rider. For information about the Transylvania University eventing program, contact team coach Tanya Davis at [email protected].
On Wednesday, March 10, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. Central time, join Eric Dierks for a live stream interview with David O'Connor. David was an alternate for the 1988 Summer Olympics, and riding Wilton Fair, was part of the U.S. team at the 1990 World Equestrian Games, where he placed 35th individually and the team finished fourth.
Billy Jackson was introduced to horses at a young age through his local 4-H program. “One of my mom's close friends was a large animal vet and she really encouraged me to stay with it,” Jackson said. As an adult, he is a Marketing Project Manager, and when he’s not at work, he’s a lower level eventer based at Poplar Place Farm.
Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.
It is with great disappointment and regret, which we know will be shared by many, that we announce the cancellation of the 2021 Badminton Horse Trials which was due to be held “behind closed doors” between May 5 and May 9. This cancellation also includes the BE90 and BE100 Championships (May 4 and 5).