At 13 years old, Kat Fuqua boasts an impressive résumé of competitive achievements. A U.S. Equestrian Federation Pony Finals hunter and equitation champion and U.S. Dressage Federation bronze medalist, Fuqua has stepped up to the junior hunters and equitation and is now earning tricolors at 3’6″, even contesting several international hunter derbies this year. She also competes her mare Dreamgirl in fourth level dressage classes.
Fuqua’s family owns Collecting Gaits Farm, in Milton, Georgia, and her parents, Jeff and Shereen Fuqua, have ridden to the Grand Prix level of dressage and are consistent sponsors of top-level U.S. horse sport. We tagged along with Kat for a day in her life at a horse show in Lexington, Kentucky, in July.
5:30 a.m. I wake up bright-eyed because today I show my hunters and my new equitation horse Heathrow HX I got [to lease from Sophie Transou] for my birthday.
I always eat a light breakfast and drink lots of water to hydrate and keep my energy level up for four show horses and two ponies.
6 a.m. I walk my dog around the Griffin Gate Marriott [in Lexington]. My mom never brings Hailey anywhere except in this pandemic. She feels safer to have our Doberman mix we got at the pound when [the dog and I] were both 3 years old. Hailey is so happy not to be left at home with my dad.
6:30 a.m. We head out to the Kentucky Horse Park, so I can warm up Consent and Cornell 22 for the small junior hunters. Jimmy Torano, my trainer, likes me to get the horses in the show ring, so they are comfortable with it and get to see the jumps. Then they stay focused on jumping during the show class instead of looking at the jump flowers or boxes.
7:30 a.m. I take a brief nap in the car.
8 a.m. I go to the Claiborne ring, so I can watch and learn the course for the first day of showing in the large pony hunters.
8:30 a.m. I meet Ava O’Donnell of Tampa, Florida. She rides a medium green pony. My mom takes a photo of us together. Ava’s mom was so happy and talked about Ava’s father, who’s deployed in Saudi Arabia. He’s a Marine. They were both so happy to be here showing.
9:40 a.m. I show Chic In Time, aka Spicey the palomino, in the large pony hunters. We have a rub in the first round and finish sixth out of 31. The large pony division has over 60 ponies, so they divide it into A and B sections, which they call a California split. In our next hunter round we don’t place. I was really long to one jump, but the rest of it I thought was really good.
10:12 a.m. A really nice trainer, David Sanderson of Dallas, who leased me Hashtag, a 3’6” small junior hunter I showed at the Winter Equestrian Festival [Florida], wants me to meet his client, Adair Moses, to try my Spicey. I am a little upset. I know I have to let him go to a nice home because I’ve grown so tall, and I’m doing the international hunter derbies now. Adair is really nice, and my heart feels calmer to let him go.
10:30 a.m. I rush to the Stonelea Ring next to show my small juniors, Consent aka “Kent” and Cornell 22, as I was the last to go. I have really good rounds on Consent, and the judge likes him too, giving us firsts in both jumping rounds. He jumps really round and high with a lot of scope. Larry Glefke and Kelley Farmer, whom I got him from, are there to cheer me on.
Consent is Kelley’s favorite. Kelley and I showed together earlier in the [$40,000 U.S. Hunter Jumper Association International Hunter Derby (North Carolina)]. We had a lot of fun together.
Next, I compete against myself with Cornell 22. Unfortunately, I am late on a lead change in the first round and end up fourth. But then we finish in second place in the next round behind Consent.
10:55 a.m. I ride Cornell 22 in the under saddle, placing third. Jimmy Torano’s 10-year-old son, JJ, rides Consent in the class. He places second! JJ always does well with Consent, as he rode him for me at WEF, too.
11:20 a.m. I race back to the Claiborne Ring to flat my pony Chic In Time, where they split the 31 ponies into two sections. I am in the first round and on call back after the second round. It starts raining, so I get my rainwear and wait.
11:30 a.m. They take the top 10 of both rounds, and Chic In Time and I end up seventh in the under saddle. I am so happy that my former pony Brighton got first! I am proud of him and his new owner Ellie Sadrian. They are a pair to watch for sure.
11:40 a.m. We have a trial with Jole Kosloske to try Spicey. I really have to hold my feelings and pray for the right person to come along. The three of them, Jole, her trainer Diane Weber, and Spicey got along really, really well, so I am very happy.
11:55 a.m. I race back to the Stonelea where Jimmy is pacing for me to get on Grand Remo for the large junior hunters. By now it is raining, but Jimmy trains me no differently in the warm-up. My first round is quite good because I ride forward, and all my distances seem right on. We place first. But in the next class, we only get fourth because I was deep to the single oxer. In the under saddle, we take second.
12:40 p.m. Jimmy tells me to meet him at the Covered Ring for a low schooling jumper class for my new equitation horse, Heathrow HX. I showed him at Tryon earlier and placed fifth in the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal and second in the ASPCA Maclay classes there, so I am really excited. I knock down a rail, but Jimmy says it’s OK. He says it’s important for the horse to get comfortable with the ring.
12:50 p.m. I receive an email invitation to the U.S. Children’s Dressage Championship at Lamplight [Equestrian Center in Illinois] for the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions. While I am very happy to qualify eighth in the country, I had planned to show my junior hunters the same weekend in Kentucky for the [USEF Junior Hunter National Championship—East]. Those finals had been postponed from a earlier planned date in July due to the pandemic.
1 p.m. I grab a quick lunch and more water to stay hydrated.
1:20 p.m. I meet two sister trainers, Jordan and Lindsey Ayres of Knoxville, Tennessee, at the warm-up ring for ponies. In Tryon, they had asked me to ride and show their medium pony that they just got. His name is Bridlewood In Deemand, aka “Andee.” He’s a great mover but still learning changes. We school him with changes after coming off the jumps for this weekend’s show.
2 p.m. I go back to the barn to check on all my horses, spend time with them and give them treats. Long, long day, but I’m excited to see my dad driving in from Atlanta late this evening.
Mom makes Ramen noodles in the microwave in the hotel, since we don’t go out to restaurants with the pandemic. We watch “Friends,” and I fall asleep at 9:45 p.m.
Postscript: I ended up grand champion on Consent and got first in the handy hunter class with Spicey in my very last round with him. Jole’ and her family bought Spicey, so he left us for Tampa. The nice part was they laid over at my family farm, Collecting Gaits, on their way home to Florida. So Spicey got to say goodbye to Nutter Butter, my mini I’ve had for 12 years, and RS Levitation, my retired first junior hunter.