Dec 05, 2020

USEA Horse of the Month: Rayastrada

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
MGO Photography Photo courtesy of Meghan Lewis.

2020 has been quite the year for everyone in the eventing community. With events completely shut down for nearly three months, many competitors didn't have the 2020 season they were planning on. Still, the truncated season didn't stop Rayastrada and her owner and rider Meghan Lewis from earning the lowest finishing score of any competitor during the whole of the 2020 season. For that, Rayastrada (Redwine x Windklasse), a 9-year-old Hanoverian/Oldenburg mare who was bred by her owner/rider, has been named the December Horse of the Month!

Confirmed by our friends at EquiRatings, Rayastrada and Lewis's score of 16.7 in the Senior Novice Rider division at the Twin Rivers Winter Horse Trials has set the record for the lowest score of 2020.

Rayastrada and Meghan Lewis in their Training level debut in July at Twin Rivers. MGO Photography Photo courtesy of Meghan Lewis.

Get to know more about sweet and kind "Raya" from her breeder, owner, and rider, Meghan Lewis!

  • Barn names?

“Raya,” “Ray,” and "Ray-bae”

  • Favorite treat?

"Carrots all the way (but not the peeled babies!) and some expensive horse cookies. No apples or mints!"

  • Favorite phase in eventing?

"Raya is obviously a dressage queen, but it can be tricky to keep her calm and focused."

  • Introvert or extrovert?

"This mare is probably one of the sweetest horses I have ever met. She knows just how to make me forget about the stresses of life or the intense training session planned for the day. In her pasture in front of our home, she is by far the bottom link in the totem pole with her 23-year-old mother and younger sister. Despite her rank, she's the first to offer a partner itch behind the withers. She has the sweetest nicker every time I come to feed, unlike the expectant nicker of her mother or the amped-up nicker of her sister. Raya's is patient, kind, and grateful."

Raya sharing a snuggle with Lewis's husband. Photo courtesy of Meghan Lewis.
  • Likes?

"Raya loves snuggles and scratches under her chin and itching her face on me after I remove the bridle. She enjoys meeting people and greets anyone and everyone with a warm breath and a gentle nuzzle. She's always up for a trail ride in the mountains. But what makes her happiest is returning home from a show and immediately gallivanting around the pasture with her mom and little sis."

  • Dislikes

"At first, anything involving showing. She was not a fan of trailering, stalls, warm-up arenas, and especially cross-country. The jumps have never been the problem; it’s what happens in between the fences and the invisible horse-eating monsters she sees in the most random places and simply will NOT go near. Honestly, I questioned her desire. Then, 947 hours of cross-country schooling later at my amazing local Fresno County Horse Park, flourishing alongside a gun range, trains, and buzzing electrical towers, I finally felt that the mare was genuinely down to run (she was always down to jump). She was all-in."

  • Any other facts that you’d like to add?

"Ever since I started riding, I dreamed of achieving it all with one horse: breeding, foaling, breaking, training, and showing (and winning!). It took several agonizing years to get her ornery mother pregnant, and finally, my little nugget came. Then (no thanks to my spine surgery), she had a late and inconsistent start. She was challenging and exuberant, but I saw her as perfect. When she was on, she was ON. I knew there was something there that I could potentially channel, if only I could get here to trust me enough. She was so naturally athletic and lovely that if I could just keep her focused and content for 11 minutes over the course of three days, then we could do this thing. Things finally began to click, and cross-country became fun for both of us."

"What an honor and blessing it was to receive the news that Raya had been chosen as Horse of the Month, and the chance to reminisce on our journey during this difficult time. Four months ago, I had a life-altering fall on another horse and broke my neck. It has been an emotional roller coaster, feeling thankful I'm not paralyzed, yet left wondering if I will be able to ride again and what my life may look like never riding again. I couldn’t even look at my girls in the front yard for weeks without crying. But Raya was always there."

"As I stumbled out to their pasture after many tough days on the couch, there she was . . . nickering, ready to snuggle me and nuzzle my neck. I knew then: It’s OK. It’s OK if I never ride again. She doesn’t mind, she will accept me as I am and enjoy whatever part of me she gets, whether that is a greedy show-hungry mama, or a snuggly never-ride-you-again mama. She will accept me the same either way. That’s why horses are the best. You earn their trust and they give you their hearts. She did that for me and I will never forget that feeling."

"As of now, I am unsure of what the future holds for me as far as riding, but I know I have years of sweet cuddling with my best girl and that is all I need."

MGO Photography Photo courtesy of Meghan Lewis.

Miss any of the previous 2020 horses of the month? Find out about the USEA January Horse of the Month, USEA February Horse of the Month, USEA March Horse of the Month, USEA April Horse of the Month, USEA May Horse of the Month, USEA June Horse of the Month, USEA July Horse of the Month, USEA August Horse of the Month, USEA September Horse of the Month, USEA October Horse of the Month, and the USEA November Horse of the Month.

About the USEA Horse of the Month

The USEA is recognizing an event horse each month on the USEA website and social media. The USEA Horse of the Month is determined based on performance and event results and announced at the beginning of every month. The December Horse of the Month was selected based on the lowest finishing score at any level of the 2020 USEA competition season.

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