Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 14
For many of the competitors at the Platinum Performance USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships, there’s a fair amount of pressure. They have big expectations for their mounts, and most of them are hoping for a shot at a chunk of the prize money, but for Kira Epstein, coming to the Kentucky Horse Park is almost like a vacation. As a clinical professor at the University of Georgia, Epstein’s life can be chaotic, so a week away is a pleasant change.
“There’s two of us as the emergency people, and pretty much this summer one of us has been in town and the other has been on call for the last three months, so I’m coming off of a pretty difficult few months, but it’s good to get to do something fun,” she said.
Though her job can be taxing, it also has plenty of perks. Working in large animal emergency medicine and critical care means her schedule isn’t your standard 9 to 5 job.
“I do a lot of nights and weekends, which gives me a lot of time during the day and allows me a lot of flexibility, because I work a lot of weekends, to take other weekends and a few days off around them,” she said. “I have a good husband and supportive friends and all of that kind of stuff. [My trainer Kat DeMas Mulkey] does a great job with him at home when I can’t get out there, and the other amateur that’s here [Grace Bridges], she’s on the equestrian team at UGA, and we kind of help each other out with riding the two young horses. It’s been definitely a balancing act.”
The amateur rider brought her 8-year-old Westphalian by Fidertanz to Kentucky with one goal in mind— “to have fun and not be embarrassing.”
She accomplished that goal, turning in a pair of respectable rounds with “Oakley.”
“I always had projects growing up too, so I never really got the chance to do Pony Finals or Junior Hunter Finals or anything like that,” Epstein said of her decision to compete this week. “And I work fulltime for UGA as a professor at the vet school, so I just have a limited amount of time and wanted a goal that I didn’t have to show a ton to get to do something fun.”
Though much of Oakley’s background is unknown, she purchased him two years ago from someone who’d had him primarily on the backburner. He’d never shown before, and she planned to make him a sales project as she’s done with other horses in the past. Only, with Oakley, she ended up falling in love.
“I usually keep them for a couple of years and then sell them, but this one—I’ll keep him,” she said. “I have a 4-year-old now, and she can do the leadline on him. In fact, that would be his preferred discipline, to do the leadline. He would love to just walk around with a small child on his back all day.
“He’s like a dog,” she continued. “He’s just got the best personality and the best brain. Even though I’ve had him for two years, I’d say this might be his 15th horse show, and he walks in there and never, he doesn’t ever look at anything as far as jumps go. He’s never done anything—the first show we moved him up to the 3’ he bucked really hard after the first jump, and I fell off, and that’s the only time he has ever put a foot wrong. He’s just really a great amateur’s horse.”
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