Quentin Judge didn’t even have a horse to call his own when he set pen to paper to write An Olympic Dream for a summer writing contest. At 13, Judge was catch riding what he could in the Chicago area.
Now 30, Judge rides professionally for Double H Farm and has represented the United States in FEI Nations Cups and at the 2016 Longines FEI World Cup Show Jumping Final (Sweden). He had all but forgotten about his illustrated essay when it turned up this spring.
“My wife Cayce [Harrison] found it. We were moving houses in Florida this year, and I didn’t realize I still had it in a box somewhere,” Judge said with a laugh. “I was a terrible, terrible student for my whole school life, but I always really liked English and writing.”
The four-page book, illustrated with markers, follows the adventures of a young boy named Martin (Judge’s middle name) as he sets off on a quest to qualify for the Olympic Games.
While Judge gave himself a pen name, the horse in the book, Odie, was a real horse at his barn.
“The owner of the horse would let me ride him sometimes,” said Judge, who’s based in Wellington, Fla., and Ridgefield, Conn. “He was a jumper—at the time I thought he was the most beautiful and talented horse in the world—and he was this really pretty gray horse. I was just obsessed with him.”
The trainer in the story is also on the nose—Judge rode with and was a working student for Anne Smith (née Preshlock) at the Noble Horse stable.
“It’s the stable in downtown Chicago where the carriage horses are housed, so I was quite far away from any Olympic dreams,” Judge said with a laugh. “But that’s where I was!”
Judge did his final year of high school online while he was a working student for the Jayne family’s Our Day Farm in Illinois. After his junior years Judge continued working for some of the biggest names in the sport, including Missy Clark, Joe Fargis and Margie Engle, before he struck out on his own.
“It’s fun to look back now and see that was always my dream and my passion from a very young age—to be at the top level of the sport,” said Judge. “Obviously I had no idea what I was talking about when I wrote that, you know with the Olympic trials and trotting jumps, but it’s nice to look back now!”
Now Judge travels the globe competing in five-star competitions, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots.
“My first horse was named Cricket, and after I left Chicago she ended up staying at that barn and being a lesson horse for years,” Judge said. “About three or four years ago, I checked in to see if she was even alive, and she was still there doing lessons. So I bought her and retired her, and she was retired with us for a couple years before she passed away.”
Judge has words of wisdom for similarly situated young riders with dreams of reaching the top of the sport.
“Try to find the best person in your area to work for, even if you’re not showing horses,” he said. “If you’re grooming horses and riding a little bit, if people know you work hard, they’re going to give you a chance. They’ll give you an opportunity.”