Anna “Ginger” Flock made her first USHJA Pony Hunter Derby count, winning the class aboard Monkey Business during the Gulf Coast Azalea Classic in Gulfport, Mississippi, on March 11. We caught up with the 14-year-old from Pace, Florida, to hear about her win.
How long have you been showing in the USHJA Pony Derbies?
This was my first time.
And you won! How did it feel?
I was really nervous at first. But after I got in, I was perfectly fine because I got my nerves together and because I was so well trained by my trainer. Everything just worked out for me.
You rode your own pony, Monkey Business. What do you think he thought of the derby?
“Monkey” loves challenges, and he likes competition. He just loves doing hard things.
How would you describe your rounds?
My first round was long, but it also felt very natural because I ride in a big field at home. I go in and out of the ring and go all around the field, which is probably roughly three acres.
Going into the second trip, did you know that you had a really good first trip?
I didn’t really. I knew it felt very nice though. Then I went in the second round, and it was tricky to remember where to turn. I focused on remembering how to get to a jump and making it look as pretty as possible and making sure I made good decisions so Monkey and I wouldn’t get hurt. I made sure I listened to my trainer too.
How did you celebrate your win?
I gave Monkey lots of treats. I spent time hanging out with my parents and my trainer and just being happy. The next day I had the pony division to think about, but I just kept giving Monkey lots and lots of treats.
Do you plan to go to the USHJA Pony Hunter Derby Championships this summer?
I don’t know because of the coronavirus, but I feel like that’d be a very nice opportunity to do so.
How old is Monkey?
He is 21 years old.
Oh my goodness! Tell me about his personality.
Monkey is opinionated. He sometimes doesn’t like me kicking, pushing him forward. He’ll occasionally give me a buck now and then. He is the captain of the whole entire herd; he loves being the boss. At home we call him the sheriff because he will just control everything. He has my mom and me wrapped around his little finger.
He sounds fun. Did I hear that you’ve been riding Monkey since you were 11?
How long have you been riding overall?
I’ve been riding since I was in kindergarten.
Who is a rider that you admire and why?
Daisy Farish. I like her riding skill, her knowledge and how she overall completes her courses.
What do you want to do when you grow up?
Oh, I really don’t know what I want to grow up to be right now. I just love horses, and I love animals. So I just want to do something like train horses and just do something with my passion, which is horses.
Describe a typical day for you.
I get up around 6:30 and go out at 7 to feed horses. Normally I scoop, feed the horses, then do the grain, come back up here, work for a little while on schoolwork, then I go out and mess around with the horses. And then at 5 o’clock, I feed them, and then I come back in and do some chores.
Do you turn your horses out yourself, or does someone else do that?
They live outside. They have a run-in barn, which they go in, and I lock them apart for feeding time.
They must love that. I know my ponies love to be out and roll.
He rolls a lot too. He’s naturally very disgusting. Oh, and he’s a food hound; he loves to break into the feed room. That’s Monkey all right.
Does he do that often?
Not very often. He’ll do it once in a while if one of us accidentally leaves the gate open because he’s an escape artist.
Who is your trainer? Does your trainer come to you, or do you travel for lessons?
Andrea Frate from Nomad Farm & Transport, Inc. She comes to my parents’ house. We do lessons out in the field and in our ring at Buffalo Mill Creek Farm in Pace, Florida.
How often do you lesson?
I flat at least three times a week, at least one jumping lesson a week, and ride bareback at least twice a week.
Tell me about bringing Monkey along.
When I first bought Monkey, no one really said anything about Monkey’s appearance because I was just doing short stirrup at schooling shows. But when I got experienced enough, some people said he’s not fancy enough. They would say things like, “You’ve got to get a new pony.” Finally, I started with my trainer, Ms. Andi, and she said, “This pony will do great in rated divisions.” Me and Monkey were a pair! Miss Andi saw it. We’re doing very well, and I’m happy on him. We have such a great bond together, and that’s why we’re doing so well.
You have proven that Monkey is fancy enough. How would you describe that feeling?
I actually feel very proud of myself overcoming that because I can prove people wrong, because I don’t care what people think. If they think Monkey’s not fancy enough, it doesn’t matter to me. He’s my pony, and I love him to pieces.
You said you’re riding your pony Monkey Business right now and Teddy. What is Teddy’s show name?
Do you show him?
I do show him, but he does small stuff. We call him my practice pony. We practice a lot of stuff at lower heights, and he builds my leg strength up for Monkey because he is the laziest thing on earth.
What is something that you and your trainer are working on in your lessons right now?
We are working on rollbacks to a single because there are times that I might not turn correctly, or there are times that Monkey doesn’t want to get a lead change, and we get fussy, and one of us will get all discombobulated.
Tell me what makes your relationship with Monkey special.
He has really helped me with my muscle thing.
What is your “muscle thing”?
I was born really premature [and was in the neonatal intensive care unit for a long time]. My parents went to many doctors for many years. They thought it was scoliosis and then cerebral palsy. My muscles were very tight. I went to many doctors who sent me to other doctors and a physical therapist. My physical therapist said, “If she can ride, that’s better than anything I can do for her in my office.” Then after that, we bought property and moved and built a house for us and my grandparents and a barn for the horses so I could ride more because I would have the horses at my house. And we moved from downtown Pensacola to Pace, Florida, and now I get [injections every four to eight weeks to keep my tendons from rupturing]. I’m riding, even though my legs are still tight. Riding has helped me with my flexibility, and if I wasn’t doing riding, I’d be a thousand times tighter than I am now.
Who inspires you and why?
My mom, my dad and my trainer do. My mom and dad are always pushing me, saying, “You can follow your dreams.” And Ms. Andi is a very nice person, and she’ll inspire me with stories of her past and what her children did, and I want to do the same thing they do.
Have you heard of the USHJA Horsemanship Quiz challenge? I’d like to ask you a practice question. Name a part of the bridle.
Ella Doerr, 16, from Avon, North Carolina, is a recipient of the USHJA Youth Leadership Award, the USHJA Sportsmanship Award and the USHJA Foundation Gochman Family Grant. She competes in the pony hunter division and the equitation, and she keeps her ponies at home.