In this series, the Chronicle follows multiple riders as they seek to fulfill their FEI World Equestrian Games dreams in Tryon, North Carolina, in 2018. We’ll check in with them in the coming months as they pursue a team spot to see how they’re getting their horses ready and preparing mentally.
Olivia LaGoy-Weltz and Lonoir finished their Florida season by helping the United States take home a win in the FEI Nations Cup. On May 2, they were named to the short list for the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games. After a whirlwind four weeks getting her Mountain Crest Farm in Haymarket, Virginia, set up after the winter circuit, LaGoy-Weltz and “Lono” hopped on a plane for the Netherlands.
They’ve competed at one national show hors concours to knock the dust off and were named to the Dutta Corp. U.S. Dressage Team for the Nations Cup at Rotterdam (the Netherlands), June 21-23.
Things have been good! I’ve just training a lot and getting everything organized. I taught a lot of clinics before we left, and I actually came over a bit early. I came over in mid-May, so that’s been going quite well, and I think Lono’s going well. We’ll know when we’re going down centerline.
We don’t have a massive barn at home. We have 11 stalls and usually about 15 horses on the property, but I run a fairly active business out of there, and then I’m on the road doing clinics. I think I taught between six and eight clinics in the three to four weeks that I was home before I left to come to Europe. I can’t work from over here, so you’re not working for almost two months. I had to decide: Do I stay in Florida but not be able to manage my business from home and be on the road all the time teaching clinics and then come at the same time as everyone else?
I needed to get home and get my business set up and our barn open because we shut down during the winter. I also needed to get my assistants organized for taking care of the farm. I went home by the 15th of April, so I had about four weeks where we got the barn up and running and all the clients settled in and happy.
In terms of the clinics, [not being able to work for a couple months is] a bit why I took that month and stockpiled them. Normally I try not to teach more than two to three clinics a month depending on where they are, and so teaching basically two clinics a week is a lot. Trying to get ahead that way is the best I can do. You have an idea that this can happen. With a horse like Lono you’re sort of planning on it, and if it doesn’t happen that’s fine. It’s much easier to plan for that in the last minute and just readjust and stay home than it is to be like surprise, you’re going on the road for two months.
Coming over early gave me a few weeks to just completely refocus on Lono and make him the total priority. When you’re teaching that much—I was working him—but you don’t get in the same brain space as you do when that’s all you have to focus on.
Having The Right Support Team
I’m really lucky; I’ve got some truly fabulous clients who are very supportive and understanding. When people are inquiring about moving into the barn, we warn them that this can happen, that I could be gone for months at a time.
I’m incredibly fortunate to have two very good girls working for me. Nicole [Ardito-Ng] is 30, and she is quite experienced. She had worked for a friend of mine before she worked for me, so I was already familiar with her, and she’s a good teacher and a good rider and very capable of keeping the horses going while I’m gone and teaching the clients. Then Micah [Andrews], who’s my other girl, is also quite a good rider. She specializes more in the young horses, but she also does some teaching, so we split the barn up, and they are able to take care of everyone, which is fabulous. We very luckily got another really good girl through Micah who is just a working student for the summer.
[It all came together] between having very supportive clients who are willing to work with the girls and also having incredibly capable girls, so no one is falling off the bandwagon. They take them to horse shows. They’ve been racking up high points everywhere they go, so they’re doing great. I tease them, “You guys don’t need me back! You don’t need me around; you can do this!”
I’m very proud. When you go away like that, and they go to shows on their own and are doing so well, that is the biggest compliment I could ever get, that they can flourish without me.
[Lono’s co-owner] Mary Anne [McPhail] has really helped out with training fees and that kind of thing. I think that’s also part of being fortunate to have a really great group of people around me. She’s a big player in that. She doesn’t come for every show. She’s very kind. She’s always like, “I don’t want to stress you out.” No, I like having you. You’re always welcome in the barn!
She’s like, “I don’t want to come freak you out.” And I’m like, “It does not freak me out to have you come kiss your horse on the nose also.”
The higher up in this that you go, you start to realize how much is hard work. You have to be so hard working and so dedicated and then also there’s some luck in there. You happen to get the right horse at the right time with the right trainer with the right support, and if all that comes together and then also in the right year because it also depends on who else is going and how good you are. There’s so much that goes into this.
I’m also very lucky to have a great husband who makes sure that the farm doesn’t catch on fire and keeps things going. He’s willing and able to pick those things up if we have an emergency or something like that. Having a really, really good team is basically how we pull it off. Small but mighty is what we have essentially. We call it the small Mountain Crest Empire.
Home Away From Home
[I’m staying at Craecken Stables.] I worked here right out of high school. I came over to Holland when I was 18, and this was the barn that I had gotten referred to through a mutual friend. I had ridden some with her, and she was like, “Well, do you want to try going to Europe?” I was like, “Oh sure, sounds good.”
I was debating college and that kind of thing, so she made a call, and they were like, “Sure we could use someone. When can she be here?” So two weeks after I graduated I was on a plane, and this is the place I happened to be.
I’ve been lucky. Lots of people come over to Europe, and it doesn’t always work out super, but it was a really nice place, and I learned a lot here, and I would have never guessed that I’d be coming back full circle and staying here and working with Egbert [Kraak].
I feel very at home here. I feel like I have many homes, so when people are like, “Do you miss home?” I feel like I’m home.
It’s always exciting being over here. I think especially when you get to this level and if you’re a professional and you’re running your own barn and your own place, you end up being the big fish in your pond. So coming over here is a chance to—not be a minnow, but have more around you that you can soak up and look at and take in and think about.
I think that’s one of the reasons [U.S. Technical Advisor] Robert [Dover] has made such a big push to make these European tours—last year getting experience and this year part of our qualifying process—so that we really are not having to compete amongst ourselves at a championship, but that we’re also having to see how we stack up when we’re put up against the rest of the top riders in the world. While these trips can be stressful sometimes and challenging financially—there are lots of logistical challenges—I think they’re so worth it, and the team has been very smart to do it.
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