A phone call in March dramatically changed Lizzie Snow’s competition schedule. Snow’s 2011 plans had already been thrown into upheaval.
She’d hoped to contest the Adequan FEI North Ameri-can Junior and Young Riders Champion-ships CCI** on her intermediate-level veteran, Pop Star.
She and Pop Star earned team gold and individual bronze at the 2010 NAJYRC CCI*.
But as the spring went on, Snow realized Pop Star wanted to slow down rather than move up, and she made the difficult decision to retire him from the upper levels.
She gave up on her NAJYRC dreams for 2011. But then her phone rang. And it was Kathryn and Tim Sullivan, owners of Coal Creek, the horse Amy Tryon had ridden to win the 2008 Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.).
An ownership dispute between Tryon and the Sullivans was resolved in March, and the Sullivans offered “Devon” to Snow in a lease situation. Snow jumped at the chance to ride the talented Thoroughbred by Devil On Ice, and in just their third event together, they won the CIC** at Chatta-hoochee Hills Horse Trials.
The blue ribbon on May 20-22 in Fairburn, Ga., put Snow back on track for the NAJYRC.
“I wasn’t coming expecting to win, but he’s such a nice horse that it worked out to be a great weekend,” Snow said. She and Devon were in third after dressage and moved into the lead with a fast cross-country round.
“Everything came up very quickly on cross-country; you had to be sharp at all times. There wasn’t really an area where you could let up. But he knows his job so well. He’s good for me because I can just go out there and work on my riding and not worry about getting the horse around.”
Snow polished off the win with the only double-clean show jumping round, which was especially gratifying for her.
“It’s been harder for me to get to understand how to ride him, especially in the show jumping,” she said.
“I wasn’t going in there expecting to win or have a clean round, but somehow I was on my game, and he was super careful. It was a nice surprise.
“Amy’s such a good rider, and she’d known him for so long,” Snow added.
“He likes to get a bit low, and it’s been harder for me because I’ve always ridden little Thoroughbreds that are light. On him, you have to sit down a bit more and keep him up in front. It’s taken me a while to get used to that, but now that I know after this round what it’s supposed to feel like, hopefully I can keep riding like that.”
It’s Worth It
Snow is relishing having the ride on a true veteran.
“Amy did such an amazing job teaching him everything he knows. He’s so unbelievably well trained; he’s a little quirky, but he’s so broke, and he knows his job,” she said. Snow is originally from Oregon, though she’s lived in Southern Pines, N.C., for the past three years, so she knew the Sullivans, who are also from Oregon.
“They contacted me to see if I would be interested in him. First, she asked me if I wanted to buy him, and I said there’s no way in the world I could afford him, so she offered the lease situation. It’s an incredible opportunity, and I can’t thank the owners enough for offering it to me,” Snow said.
Snow made sure to discuss her intentions with Tryon before trying Devon in March.
“I wanted to make sure that all of this was OK with her. She’s so attached to him that I feel guilty for having him on the one hand, but it’s such an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t really pass it up. It’s been a little weird with all the political stuff, but it’s worth it!” she said.
Devon arrived at Snow’s barn in late March, and she started to get acquainted with him with the help of trainer Charlie Plumb. She was fourth in a division of preliminary at The Fork (N.C.) in early March, then completed the CIC** at Fair Hill in April.
Now that Snow and Devon are qualified for the NAJYRC, she plans to spend time getting to know him better in the jumper ring.
“He’s so good on cross-country, and I don’t want to run him off his feet. I just need to make the most out of the least I can do with him,” she said. Snow, 18, originally came to Southern Pines from Oregon three years ago to ride with John Williams.
“I was supposed to be here for six months, but I somehow convinced my parents to let me stay here by myself and live across the country from them at 15 years old,” she said. She rents a five-stall barn and graduated from high school last year.
“I took this year off to ride, and I’m trying to decide what I’m doing with my life after that!” she said. “Now that I have this nice horse, it’s harder to make a decision.”
Showing Her The Way
Hannah Begue came to Chattahoochee Hills for the same reason as Snow—for a qualifying score for the NAJYRC. And she definitely got it, winning the CIC* on Asterix. Begue was the only rider in the division to make the cross-country time, which moved her up from second after dressage into the lead.
“It made me so happy that everything I’ve been working for came together. I haven’t been scoring fantastically on the flat because I get nervous and worry about being in the ring instead of going in and riding. I was able to go in and score well and have a test I was really happy with,” she said.
She was then thrilled to make the time on cross-country and jump clean in show jumping. “I hadn’t really ever made the time on him. [At Poplar Place (Ga.) in May] I wanted to just get comfortable letting him gallop and see what it would take to make the time,” she said.
They made the time at Poplar Place, placing sixth in their fifth pre- liminary level event together. Begue has had the NAJYRC as a goal for a number of years, but her previous horse, Song Sung Blue, wasn’t quite up to the task. They were competing at training level and having problems.
“She was green, and it wasn’t her thing. We sold her as a jumper, and she’s great at what she does now and loves it,” she said. Trainer Nick Cwick offered Begue the ride on Asterix, his advanced level veteran who completed the Jersey Fresh and Fair Hill CCI***s in 2008. Asterix, a 14-year-old Oldenburg gelding, had been in semi-retirement for a year before Begue picked up his reins in January 2010. They started out at training level, then moved up to preliminary in September. Things were looking good for Begue to make her first NAJYRC team until Asterix suffered a minor injury over the winter. His recovery time meant Begue had no room for error this spring in qualifying.
“I was really thinking it wasn’t going to be possible to qualify and go this year, but last minute I decided to try and go for it,” she said. They placed ninth in the CIC* at Fair Hill in April.
Begue, 16, is thoroughly enjoying letting Asterix show her the ropes.
“I’ve never ridden a horse with that much experience. I’d always learned to ride on lower level or greener horses. It was definitely a big difference. I’ve learned a lot,” she said. She plans to spend the summer honing their dressage and show jumping skills in preparation for the NAJYRC CCI*.
“He’s great, especially coming from a horse that didn’t like the cross-country as much. He’s really bold and fantastic to ride. I had to learn to ride him, really,” she added.
“At training level, I just kind of sat there and steered. But when I moved up, I had to learn how to let him gallop to make time, but then still bring him back and create a good canter for the fences. It was a hard transition for me.”
After Begue, of Birmingham, Ala., graduated from high school on May 27, she packed up her things and moved to Newnan, Ga., to be a working student for Cwick. She’s been accepted to Georgia Tech and will balance one or two courses with her riding. “I’d originally planned on taking a year off, but Georgia Tech doesn’t offer deferrals. I didn’t want to risk not being admitted next year,” said Begue, who skipped a grade and graduated high school early.