Laura Pfeiffer may have been the top junior in the field of the $100,000 ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals—though three more of her peers advanced to the final 25—but this 17-year-old treats the sport as if she’s already a professional.
Following in the footsteps of her brother Henry, she’s intimately involved with her family’s Fox Meadow Farm, run by her aunts Polly and Meg Howard and her grandmother Judy Howard, while her parents John and Beth Pfeiffer run the affiliated tack shop, The Custom Fox.
At home, Laura tacks up her own eight or so mounts she rides daily after she’s finished her schoolwork. And at shows she keeps plenty of serious responsibilities, like organizing the white board for the day, filing the barn’s 30 or so entries and training her 5-, 6- and 7-year-old cousins, in addition to run-of-the-mill barn work and riding as many horses as she can throw a leg over.
Ever since she can remember, Laura’s had her sights firmly set on working at the family business after she ages out at the end of next year.
“It’s everything any kid would want,” said Laura. “My aunt Polly is my role model, and watching her ride is just breathtaking. My goal is just to try to live up to her riding. She’s always telling me that every time you step in the ring it’s the big time, but she gives me so much confidence.
“Because of that I went into the ring for the handy thinking, ‘I’m a great rider, I’ve come this far, it’s anyone’s game. I’m going for it, and we’ll see what sticks,’ ” said Laura. “I had the time of my life in there! It gives me chills just thinking about it.”
A native of the adult amateur ring with owner Terri Dandino, Foreign Encounter found his way to the derby arena with Pfeiffer a year ago after Howard suggested the horse could use a few extra miles to beef up his résumé.
The gelding proved immediately adept at the format, winning his first derby a month later, prompting Howard and Dandino to suggest that the pair keep going.
And when Pfeiffer found herself without a suitable mount for last year’s equitation finals, once again she found herself saddling “Beau.” Never mind that he’d never even contested a 3’6″ equitation class, the extraordinary Holsteiner carried Pfeiffer to fifth in the Washington (D.C.) International Equitation Classic Final and sixth at the ASPCA Maclay Final (N.Y.).
“He never bats an eye at anything,” said Pfeiffer. “We didn’t have to do anything special to prepare, because he’s so well broke you can’t teach him any new tricks.”