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September 26, 2011

Remembering My Grandfather

Jennie Brannigan's grandfather George Boase visited with her mount Kozmo in the living room at a family Christmas celebration in California.

I seem to find myself in front of a computer when something upsets me, and I’ve found that writing this blog has, ironically, helped me through some highs and lows. So today I just wanted to take a moment to write about a person who has been an amazing role model in my life. To be honest with you, without his support, I surely wouldn’t have the riding career on which I have started to embark.

My grandfather, George Boase, was one of those amazing people you often hear about and are so lucky to sometimes meet in life. The kind of person who’s self-made and driven to the core. I have no doubt that my competitive nature and desire to succeed come from him. He grew up with very, very little and created a huge life for himself and for my family. And even though I can’t begin to describe all the things he did for himself and for everyone around him, I can speak about what he did for me.

Any time he’d come to visit us in the Midwest when I was young, Grandpa would always end up getting dragged to watch my riding lessons. I’m pretty sure he thought it was just a fleeting hobby that would disappear once I became interested in cars, clothes and boys.

But once I became a working student for Allison Springer and wanted to go with her down to Florida for the winter, things got more serious. My grandfather was a smart man. He put himself through college while supporting his family (as his father had died when he was only 12).

So he was less than enthusiastic about me losing focus on school, and when I asked for his help in paying for the trip, I remember being very upset when he politely refused and suggested I go to college (smart man). As he put it, “Someone will always have better horses and more money, and you need to stay focused on school to get a real career.”

So I did. Or I tried, anyway. We moved from Northern Illinois to California, and I started another working student position while doing independent studies and college classes online. But my previous dreams of going to Michigan State and becoming a veterinarian had changed a bit, and I think Grandpa noticed.

I remember the first time I made the developing rider list on my horse Kozmo and thinking, “WOW! I really made it!” Ha—how funny does that seem now? Then as my developing rider session with Kim Severson grew closer and I got more excited, Kozmo went lame (as he tends to do), and I couldn’t participate. I was really crushed, but working for Susie Hutchison in Indio that winter really helped me carry on. And Grandpa watched as it all happened.

He was also watching me as Reality Check, a young horse I was supposed to go to NAJYRC on, passed away, and as I went through all the other heartbreaking occurrences that go along with riding. And he noticed that I wasn't giving up what I really wanted to do.

On my 17th birthday, my grandfather told me that since I didn’t seem to be giving up horses for clothes and parties, he would support me in buying a horse. So I went to the East Coast with Hawley Bennett and met a horse that changed my life—a gray 4-year-old gelding named Cooper.

If you take the time out of your day to read my blog, you probably already know the story of Cooper. Suffice it to say, without him, I’m very sure I wouldn’t have what I have today, and though I’m nowhere near the level I strive to attain, I know how lucky I am for what I have.

Soon my Grandpa grew more and more enthusiastic about what I was doing, and when Cooper and I won double gold at the NAJYRC, I knew I made him very proud. With the help my grandfather gave me with Cooper and then with Ping, I was able to start my career and by the age of 22. He gave me an opportunity to prove to him that I can make a real living doing this.

Other amazing people have come into my life now as well. The memory of my win with Ping at the first ever Galway Downs CCI*** last year will always live in my mind, because that was the first and last time my grandfather ever saw me compete at an event. And there he also met the Gardners, who are amazingly wonderful people and who have stepped up and continued to support me so devotedly, as everyone knows.

I went to church with Grandpa last summer near his home, and the highlight of my life was all of his friends telling me how proud he is of me. It made me quite emotional to think that I am something to be actually proud of in his eyes, since he’s the one who was such an amazing person. 

I’ve spent a lot time feeling guilty for the leg up he gave me at the start, but I feel better when I see how far I’ve come because of it, and I appreciate the fact that he didn't help me until I proved I was worthy of it.

My grandfather died two nights ago, and I am so sad, feeling the loss of him, but so thankful that I had him in my life. Knowing he was proud of me and turned into such a supporter of my riding will continue to be a driving force in my career.

In his 98 years, my grandfather had one amazing life, and I’m beyond lucky to have been a part of it. 

Jennie

Brannigan Eventing

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