Most kids a few weeks away from their 13th birthday are focused on becoming a teenager, but Lauren “Lala” Gee is just concentrating on her rides. Showing multiple ponies every weekend prepared her for her Feb. 9 win at the HITS Ocala IV in the $1,500 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby on Editor’s Note in Ocala, Florida. That medium pony, owned by the Maher Family LLC, is a 10-year-old gelding (Meadowbrook’s Special Edition—Deerfly) and also won the division championship with Gee up. Gee also took home fifth, seventh and ninth with East Side, Bit Of Laughter and Vienna, respectively, in the derby.
Gee’s love for ponies also extends to small pets. She organized the Bark Bash fundraiser to benefit the Humane Society of Marion County. The event will be held on Feb. 28th after the show at the Ocala National Country Club. Junior riders can join her in raising funds. For more information visit the event’s Facebook page.
Junior reporter Ella Doerr caught up with Gee after her pony derby win to learn more about the up-and-coming junior rider.
Congratulations on your win! What is Editor’s Note like to ride?
He’s so soft to ride, and he’s just really easy to find the distances on. And he has such a big stride. So you just kind of go around the course so smoothly and soft.
How did you prepare for that derby?
[Trainer] Traci [Weston] helped me prepare for the derby, and I’m just so grateful for everything that she’s done because I would never have gotten to this point without her. We schooled and we practiced a couple jumps but not too many because we don’t want his feet to get tired. And I rode two other ponies beforehand, so I’d already gotten in the ring and gotten all my nerves out, so I was just focusing on having fun.
How did you celebrate?
When I walked out of the ring and the announcer announced my score, my mouth just dropped open, and I was like, “Oh my God. I just won the derby!” And I was just so happy, and I was just thanking everybody for what they’ve done for me.
Did you do anything special later like go for ice cream or something?
No. We did barn chores!
Who do you train with?
I train with Traci Weston in Tampa, Florida. We have a barn in Odessa, Florida, [which is about 45 minutes north of Tampa] and I ride down there.
What happens when you go to Tampa? Do you have a lot of friends? Are there a lot of ponies? Yes. I ride with my friend Lauren Studstill. So when I go down to train, I usually ride with her, and we ride five to seven ponies when we train.
Oh my goodness. Your legs must be so strong.
How often do you ride in lessons?
I go down to a horse show on Thursdays, and I ride until Sunday. If there’s no horse show, I ride two times a week down in Tampa. The typical week is Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesdays I do online school, and on Thursdays I drive down to a horse show in Florida and usually ride three to seven ponies until Sunday.
Does anyone else in your family ride?
No. My brothers rode a little bit when they were younger, but they don’t anymore. I have two brothers and no sisters. I am the youngest. They are 14 and 15.
You said you ride five to seven ponies. Do you have one or multiple that you’re currently riding regularly?
Yes. I’m campaigning Editor’s Note now and Eastside for Shadow Ridge Farm, and I usually get additional catch-rides for the weekend.
I heard that you qualified 20 ponies for USEF Pony Finals and nine for Devon last year. Tell me about some of your catch-rides.
I ride Sterling, Amulet and Balboa for Shadow Ridge; In My Dreams and Reidell Day Dream for Iron Horse Performance Ponies; Bit Of Laughter for Liz Reilly; and I rode Swan Song for Daniel Geitner Stables at Pony Finals.
In what divisions are you currently showing?
I show in basically every [pony] division. Small greens, medium greens, large greens, small, medium and larges.
Which ponies and horses do you own?
I own our retired walk-trot pony named Sunday Special. I own Tina Turner, our small pony who was USEF national champion small green pony in 2018. I also own Grand Slam and Vienna.
What are you currently working on in your lessons?
I’m working on the flat, so I can go around smoothly in the courses.
Do you have any pre-show routines or good luck charms?
We put charms in the ponies’ braids as good luck. They all have a specific charm that we put in.
Do you have any riding superstitions?
I don’t think so. We, my team, wear the same belts each day. Like on Saturday we wear a Hadfield’s belt and on Sunday we wear a Devon belt, and we all match the same day. So if we don’t do that, I feel like we’re not going to have good luck.
Tell me about a time when you really bonded with a pony.
I just kind of click with Tina Turner. I love when I walk into the model with Tina Turner, and she just stands perfectly, and she just looks at me like she is saying, “OK, I’m ready to win the model.”
How long have you been getting catch-rides from Shadow Ridge Farm—Stacey Weiss, Sam Schaefer and Kate Conover?
Since the middle of December, so probably 2 1/2 months, three months.
How long have you been riding?
I’ve been riding since I was 4, so it will be eight years.
Do you have any other hobbies or sports?
I go surfing once a year and skiing once a year, so I can ski and surf, kind of.
What’s your favorite movie?
I really like a movie called “Ocean’s 8.”
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I would like to be a professional rider or a vet when I grow up because I just love animals so much.
Who’s a rider you admire and why?
I really like Victoria Colvin because her riding is so smooth, and it just looks so consistent. All the jumps are the same, and there’s no real change in pace or anything.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to young riders?
Don’t compare yourself to anybody else. Just ride how you ride, and just have your own way of riding and just have fun.
Have you heard of the USHJA Horsemanship Quiz? I’d like to ask you a practice question. Name a part of the horse.
The cannon bone.
What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment is probably the USHJA Pony Derby win. That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve won.
Is there anything else that you didn’t get a chance to say?
I would just really like to thank my trainer, Ms. Traci Weston at Team Weston LLC. Also all the people who have helped me get to this point such as my mom; Ms. Gabrielle, my groom; Shadow Ridge for letting me ride their ponies and really especially Ms. Traci because I wouldn’t have gotten to this point without her because she’s helped me grow so much. She’s helped me since I was 6 years old.
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.