Hi! I'm Lisa Burnett. Yes, it's March and I should be out conditioning my horse. But I'm not. I'm pregnant and either sitting or getting up to find food that I don't like once I smell it. So, here I am reflecting on how I got into Eventing. I had a rather unconventional horse upbringing. I'm a Navy brat with non-pet parents. No dogs, no cats, not even a goldfish. I was born in California and at 6 days old, moved to Virginia Beach. One fateful day when I was three-years-old, our babysitter took us to her grandfather's farm to ride his horses.
As the story goes, I got on Blackie, the requisite Shetland on the farm. Blackie proceeded to take off with me back to the barn. My sister and babysitter ran after us and found me at the back of the barn, on the ground, bawling my eyes out. They asked if I was okay and I just blubbered, 'I WANT BACK ON!' My mother promptly fired the babysitter and never forgave her for the next 37 years.
We then moved back to California, this time up near San Francisco. While there for two years, I went trail riding. My sister did take some lessons. Then we moved to San Diego. Back in the day, my mom would literally dump us off at the local rental stables for the weekend, and we would help out there. I was eight-years-old and a trail guide. The first real lesson I had was with the owner's daughter who was my age.
It was a lunge lesson and it was learning how to fall off, and then I only rode bareback. We had a "pasture" (this is California so a dirt lot), of ponies. I got a lot of injuries and had a lot of fun. I think this is what helped me with being able to fall off and not get hurt or being able to stick. Ponies can and will test you!
So, there were zero English type of shows available. Del Mar was only beginning. And then the Olympics happened. My mom got us the cheapest tickets in the equestrian event she could find. And luckily, it was 20 minutes away at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Course. We didn't know Eventing existed much less dressage nor even that you can actually jump outside the arena! I watched the entire thing and was hooked. My mother never forgave herself, she said she should have gotten tickets to dressage. I didn't know who these people were but I distinctly remember Toddy and Charisma. They were that good. Even with the likes of me who didn't know a thing about English riding.
So, I started riding English. I got the saddle and knew I had to stick my legs back and my chest out, right? I had a few lessons here and there. Did dressage solely for two years which I loved, but my mare had other ideas. She kept jumping out of things. So we went to a few combined tests and the only event in Southern California, the Horse Trials at Show Park. But I was hooked.
I then had the opportunity to go to school in Virginia. My dad was stationed in Virginia so I could get in-state tuition, and the poor man took me to Upperville and then onto some Universities that had riding teams. And off I went to the Eventing mecca of the U.S.!
I now have 'that' horse. You know the one that your just absolutely click with. After a few misfires with beautiful Thoroughbreds, I followed the orders of horse finder extradonaire, Lisa Reid. She found this Amish horse in the side of an icy mountain in Pennsylvania. No one suspects that he's as good as he is when he's just standing there, but after winning such events at the Waredaca Training Three-day Event, he's got the goods! For some horse that was bred to trot on the road, we clocked a two and a half minute steeplechase in one minute 50 seconds! That was such a thrill and a highlight, and I couldn't have done it without my instructor, Emily Beshear, teaching us how to do everything correctly. I've been through a lot of trainers, and I can truly say she's a talented instructor. It helps that Winston has a brain between those ears because a lot of times, I don't!
This story first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Sidelines Magazine.
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