Upper Marlboro, Md.–Oct. 5
Reminiscing a few hours later, Taylor Ashe Cawley admits it really wasn’t the worst horse show morning in the world—but it also wasn’t that amazing either. She’d finished 10th on her small pony Reidell Day Dream in the first over fences round out of 41 competitors, but she felt her handy was a little inconsistent. Then her medium ride, By4Now, showed his greenness in the indoor ring of Prince George’s Equestrian Center and distrusted the corners.
“He was just a little spooky, he’s never been in an indoor ring, being that he’s 7 years old,” said Cawley, of Wellington, Florida. “In the first two rounds, he was a little bit suspicious of the ring. So I was definitely a little nervous going into the [World Champion Hunter Rider Pony] Challenge class.”
But Cawley knew just who to call.
Though her mom, grand prix rider Molly Ashe Cawley, wanted to be there for her daughter’s first trip to Capital Challenge, work kept her away as she judged the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals-East with her mom Susan Ashe in Gladstone, New Jersey. But despite the distance, Molly lifted Taylor’s spirits up before the 11-year-old marched into the WCHR Pony Challenge with GC Pony LLC’s 7-year-old Welsh Pony gelding (Maple Side Wish List—Elite Rain Dance).
“She just kind of gave me some happy info,” said the 11-year-old. “And just told me that everything’s OK, you just need to keep your leg, and they’ll help you out for the rest.”
And with the morning to adjust to the enclosed setting, “Joey” pulled on his big boy breeches as Taylor confidently guided him around. And the “meh” day turned into a blissful one after she landed off the final jump.
“I saw my distance into the [final] outside line, and it was a five to a two,” said Taylor. “I saw the five was getting a little long, so I was like, ‘Come on Joey.’ And he left for me. Over the last jump, I just had a big grin on my face, and I was so happy with him. I couldn’t have asked for better.”
The smile proved warranted as the judges awarded her an average of 87.33. While she went ninth in a class of 22, her score remained the highest.
“I knew he had brought his A game,” said Taylor. “I was definitely nervous coming around to the last three riders because they were all very good, and they all had a good shot at this class. I was shaking; I was so scared. It was just amazing.
“Winning a championship definitely means a lot because I know my mom wasn’t here,” she continued. “I was really doing it for her because I know she really wanted to be here for this.”
But what’s the big end goal for this third generation horsewoman? An American Gold Cup victory.
“Because my mom won that class last year,” said Taylor. “My mom had her horse D’Arnita who sadly passed away last year. And she was an amazing horse, one of the best my mom’s ever had. She had a little bit of some struggles with her, but she went into the ring and said, ‘I’m here to win it.’ She was amazing.”