Devon, Pa.—May 24
Thirty-three years ago Courtney Lee Gilmer proudly led Swan Song center ring at the Devon Horse Show to accept the small pony hunter championship. And this year she’s back for the same division in a very different capacity.
Her daughter, Caroline Gilmer, is making her first trip to Devon to show Farnley Crown Prince (Farnley Ballad—Farnley Kerchief, Farnley Jolly Miller) in the small pony division. And while Caroline is well aware of her mother’s big win in 1985 (that pony went on to star in the ring with other riders like Lauren Hough), her goals are much more simple: Have fun.
“I’m not really that nervous; I just have to go in there and do it,” said Caroline, 12. “Just being here is amazing.”
Courtney, Midlothian, Virginia, wasn’t always sure her daughter would follow in her footsteps.
“When I was 2 I’d go to my grandma’s farm an awful lot, and I’d be scared of the horses,” said Caroline. “I’d stand outside the barn and cover my ears.”
“She’d say, ‘No neighs! No neighs!’ ” said Courtney.
But within a few years Caroline took up the family pastime and started throwing a leg over ponies. These days she trains with Fiona Turner, and Dale Crittenberger fills in at shows when Turner can’t make it.
The Gilmers found “Prince,” now 11, through Farnley Farm, after he’d done some Pony Club outings and foxhunting while dabbling in the show ring. This is Caroline’s second year with the ride on the chestnut.
“He has a really funny personality,” said Caroline. “He will eat anything and lick you. His canter is awesome, and it’s easy to find distances on him. Plus his jump is pretty fun.
“In lessons I work on keeping my hands quiet and not pumping my body,” she continued. “He’s slow, so he gets behind my leg. We also work on keeping him really straight and not letting him swap or get crooked.”
Even though her classes kick off today, Caroline’s already made a head start on the Devon experience. She took Prince down to check out the Ferris wheel (he took a second look, understandably) and got herself a lemon stick. What is she looking forward to the most? Pony hunt teams. She’s pairing up with two other small pony riders, Carolyn Coulter (Sunbeam) and Emelia Richard (Fairytales) with an Alvin and the Chipmunks themed team.
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