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October 5, 2011

Meet Lauren Billys

Lauren Billys (left) spent some quality time riding Ginger on the beach for strength and conditioning along with Karen Shull on Figaro.

Hi. My name is Lauren Billys. I am 23 years old. I’ve been riding since the age of 8 and grew up falling in love with horses in boxer shorts, tennis shoes and half chaps. My best friends and I learned how to ride by trail riding, swimming down the river, and (my favorite) three-day eventing.

My first horse, Ranger, came from a local classified called the Thrifty Nickle where everything you can imagine is sold from used mattresses to horses. It was with him I learned riding is about the journey not the end product. I really learned to enjoy the day-in, day-out of riding.

He took me to training level, and when I was 18, Molly Rosin (my coach at the time) found me my next horse to compete. Her name was Ballingowan Ginger (Ginger for short). When I saw her for the first time, she was short, fat, brown and slow, but I was in love. It was her calmness and personality that sold me on her.

I had no idea what this horse would become, but with some help from my coaches, Bea and Derek di Grazia and Loris Henry, Ginger has developed into more than I ever could have imagined. We currently compete at the intermediate level and completed our first CIC** and CCI** this past spring. In the least amount of words, it was a blast.

I was a full time student at Fresno State University studying chemistry and winemaking until I got an unexpected but exciting opportunity to attend the Pan American Games for Puerto Rico. I currently live and train in Carmel Valley with Bea and Derek where I sleep about 20 yards from my horse, and I currently am five days away from flying my horse to Mexico.

Aside from my horse life, I guess there are a few things I could tell you about myself.  My greatest achievements include: being the shot put champion of my county in sixth grade (throwing all of 10 feet and a few inches), mathlete champion of the San Joaquin Valley in middle school, and being a two-time Space Camp attendee. I have been embarrassed far too many times in my life; one of my greatest includes nearly unseating a famous rider that I had a crush on when I burst out of a steaming hot port-o-potty on a hot and humid day on the East Coast. I hope these small and somewhat insignificant facts can help you understand a bit more about my perspective as I continue to blog during my journey to and within Mexico. 

As I said, I am on my way to going to the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, to compete for Puerto Rico as their sole individual in the eventing competition. This will be the first time Puerto Rico has ever sent anyone to the Pan Ams for eventing, and I am honored to take the lead.

My grandmother, Maria, is a Puerto Rican native, and it is because of her that I have this huge chance to compete for Puerto Rico. I fly out of the country on the 10th at midnight, which is only days away, and I still CANNOT believe that I am getting the chance to do this. I am in the midst of packing all of my things and arranging the last bit of technicalities before I go.

Today was my very last gallop before I depart. Ginger, who is an Irish Sport Horse mare out of Master Imp, is feeling stronger and fitter than I’ve ever felt. It is really an amazing feeling to know she has the drive and the power to do well. Living at Bea and Derek’s has its perks, one of which includes galloping on the beach.

For me, a Fresno-native, this is a foreign concept. It amazes me that we spend so much money and time on creating the most perfect footing to on which to gallop, but the best footing around is the one we have no ability to alter. On Ginger’s first beach gallop ever, which was only last week, she came walking boldly up the dune, only to hit the top and stop to see the ocean in front of her. I think we so often see the ocean and talk about it that it loses its power, but for her it was very real. She stood there for a few minutes taking it in. When we got down to the water, it was a real process teaching her that the waves weren’t horse-eating monsters and they actually felt nice when she stepped into them. By the end, she was tearing up the sand and galloping on.

On our very last set, she and I were probably feeling the same thing, disbelief, that we were getting the chance to do this when all of a sudden two giant sea lions surfaced only 20 yards off shore and swam along side us as we galloped. They were jumping the waves and looking at us very curiously. I thought, “Wow, I could be on the cover of National Geographic right now! This is crazy!” It was truly a surreal moment and made me feel so blessed to ride and have the chance to experience moments like that with a horse I love.

Today’s gallop was focused and reassuring. Ginger was a bit more used to the waves, but she found many ways to spook and test my abilities to stay on. She felt fresh at the end and ready for more. After our gallop, I felt more assured than ever that we are ready to fly to Mexico.

This weekend Ginger and I will attend the Woodside International Horse Trials and compete in the CIC** to complete the dressage and show jumping before we fly out on Monday. The dressage test is the same as the one we’ll do in Mexico, and I think it will be great practice for us to iron out a few more details.

I will be blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse while in Mexico about my journey and experience. That opportunity in and of itself is so amazing, and I am excited to keep you all updated with how this event looks from the inside.

Thanks for reading!

Until next time,
Lauren & Ginger

LaurenBillys.com

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