As young eventers, many of us dream of glamorous horizons. We dream of going to the North American Junior and Young Riders Championships then on to the Rolex Kentucky CCI****, Burghley, the Olympics. We aspire to ride like Fox-Pitt and rack up titles as prolifically as a Davidson.
I grew up with my best friends riding around on our ponies pretending to be our favorite international riders; I was always Ginny Leng and I was flanked by BlythTate and Ian Stark as we raced across the fields bareback. As we grow older, we don't necessarily lose sight of those dreams, but we do learn to appreciate their gravity and the long path that must be traveled to reach them. And along the way we gain other dreams and find thrills that have nothing to do with chasing big titles and jumping massive jumps.
I, for one, have discovered the thrill of bringing along young horses. Although riding the end result of years of training is a great thing, I find the journey equally—if not more—rewarding. It's an incredible feeling when you get to take a horse from its first light bulb moments under saddle or from its first crossrail or first cross-country school, and then watch it develop into a green event horse and then finally mature into a confident competitor.
Growing up under my mother's tutelage, I was lucky to get to ride many of the young horses she had bred and take them to their first schooling days or first events. I had a Quarter Horse gelding that was sort of a project horse for me, and he was the first horse that I ever got to start from scratch, with my parents' help of course. I was too young at the time to fully appreciate what a great moment it is, when you put your foot in the stirrup for the first time, and you realize that you are at the starting line of the rest of that horse's riding career. I've since learned to appreciate that moment. Maybe I'm just a total horse nerd but, whoa!
And now I am having the time of my life bringing along a young off-the-track Thoroughbred that I bought this January from Buck Davidson. Roman Place ("Ruler") was not my favorite in the barn after a, shall we say, less-than-ideal introduction to each other. He was always a very sweet horse but prone to tantrums when he felt too pressured. He was just a bit of a wild child.
However after cross-country schooling him one day at Bruce's farm in Florida, I absolutely fell in love and asked Buck if I could buy him to take on as a personal project. At the time I had resale in mind, but now as our relationship has strengthened and he is maturing, I wonder if this horse couldn't be something really special. So I am exploring different options, including syndication, to make sure he gets his chance to shine. It's crazy to have my next potential upper-level horse fall into my life so unexpectedly.
He did his first event ever in March and now has completed his first preliminary. Being along for the ride as he grows from an insecure but kind-hearted (though sometimes unruly!) greenie into a confident and eager cross-country machine is pretty exciting. It's exhilarating and thrilling in a way that is completely different—but equally as intense—as riding Wort clean around an advanced track. Thinking about his future gives me goosebumps.
So while I still have my sights set on riding at the four-star level, I know that there are other dreams to chase too. I hope I am gifted with countless more opportunities to help some youngsters find a love and talent for running and jumping.
Katy Groesbeck has recently packed up her life on the West Coast for the chance to be a working student with Buck Davidson. Follow her adventures as a part of BDJ Equestrian and with her horse, Wort, as she shares the lessons she learns in 2014! Read all of her blogs.