Sunday, May. 26, 2024

Remembering A Small Star: Silver Steps Through The Years

A generation of young equestrians learned the ropes on this veteran small pony.

Christina Schlusemeyer calls Silver Steps the 40-second pony, because that was the length of her sale videotape. And after watching those 40 seconds—which showed a green 4-year-old jumping one fence—she knew she was watching a spectacular animal.
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A generation of young equestrians learned the ropes on this veteran small pony.

Christina Schlusemeyer calls Silver Steps the 40-second pony, because that was the length of her sale videotape. And after watching those 40 seconds—which showed a green 4-year-old jumping one fence—she knew she was watching a spectacular animal.

“The Frieds went to try ponies, and sent me a tape with four ponies on it,” recalled Schlusemeyer. “I watched the first three ponies and was about to turn the tape off because I had a lesson waiting for me in the ring. Then the fourth pony starts to trot. Its hair is so long it looks like a yak. But it’s trotting
a 20. Then she picks up this long sweepy canter and jumps a jump and its knees are way high up—and then
the tape stops. Turns out that she’d run out of battery. But I knew this was the one.”

Schlusemeyer, Ocala, Fla., had her work cut out for her, convincing client Linda Fried to buy the scraggly pony with the plain head for her daughter, Susie. But Schlusemeyer’s hunch paid off, and that diamond in the rough went on to win four AHSA/USEF Horse Of The Year titles during her long career.

No one was more pleased with the pony’s success than breeders Thalia Gentzel and Molly Rinedollar. But when she hit the ground 21 years ago, Silver Steps (GlanNant Epic—Pine Lane Holiday, Warrior’s Handy Arrow) didn’t immediately strike Gentzel as Horse Of The Year material. “I had absolutely no idea that she would be as successful as she was,” she said. “Here’s a small foal, very cute, but who would know?”

Gentzel sold the Welsh cross as a yearling and lost track of her, until an unexpected phone call from friend Alex Jayne three years later tipped her off. “He said ‘You know that a pony of yours is leading the nation in the small greens, and that it’s showing at Lamplight [Ill.] right now,’ ” she recalled. “He made me guess who it was, and I couldn’t figure it out until he said told me that when I had her she was a chestnut roan.”

So Gentzel headed down to the show grounds in Wayne, Ill., to reunite with her long-lost pony. “All of the
sudden this lady reaches out over the fence and starts taking pictures of the pony, spooking him right in front of one of the jumps,” recalled Linda. “She kept saying, ‘It’s Garden Party!’ Of course, I didn’t know who she was and didn’t know that the pony’s name used to be Helicon Garden Party. All we knew was that this woman was spooking our pony during a beautiful trip.”

That year the pony won her first national title in the small/medium green pony hunter division and topped the nation in the small pony division in 1995, 1996 and 2001. Silver Steps’ career came full circle when Rinedollar trained Madeline Thatcher on the mare two decades after breeding her.

Silver Steps, now owned by Lochmoor Stables and Paige Tredennick, is still going strong, competing in the small pony division with Thatcher of South Jordan, Utah.

“The pony has had an unbelievable career—just amazing,” said Schlusemeyer. “She’s taught so many good kids. Every single person who rode that pony ended up a confident rider. That’s the most complimentary thing that an animal with a career like that could be remembered for.”

“Missy” touched each of her riders: Susie Fried, Ashley Aldrich, Caitlin Donovan, Nicoletta von Heidegger, Olivia Esse, Olivia Kohan, Meredith Darst, Allison Toffolon and Madeline Thatcher. Here’s what they have to say about her.

Susie Fried Macon, Ga.
(showed Silver Steps in 1992-1993)

When I was 6 years old we went to a local barn in Maryland to try ponies. We liked two ponies: one that was more made and Silver Steps. She didn’t have the prettiest head, but she was very good minded and less expensive. My mom told me to jump over a 3-foot brick wall, and she just loped over it like she’d done it a million times.

Then I took her to her first show in an indoor and she stopped at a jump, and then took off around the ring with me about 10 times before I got her to stop.

Christina [Schlusemeyer] used to make me stand in front of her when I modeled her, because she had a bit of a roman nose, and her body was dark gray while her head was completely white then.

I showed her during her green year, and we ended up Horse Of The Year in the small/medium green division, as well as overall grand green pony champion. Before [Millers/AHSA] Pony Finals, I argued with my mom. I had two ponies, and my mom wanted me to take the other one, One More Rainbeau, but I wanted to take Silver Steps. I ended up taking Silver Steps, and we ended up third, so it was the right decision.

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Ashley Aldrich
Bellview, Fla. (1994-1996)

When I started riding Missy she was young, and still a little green, and I was young too. But it was a good fit: at the beginning she was a little stubborn, a little hardheaded, but as she got older she grew out of it.
One year I was only in school for two months, then my mom and I took the truck and the two-horse trailer, loaded up Missy and Sunny [One More Rainbeau] and went out showing most of the year. It was so much fun: Missy was just great, and she was so good everywhere we went.

The highlight of my career was winning the small pony hunter championship at [AHSA] Pony Finals [in 1996]. Up until then we had won a lot of championships, and we’d been Horse Of The Year twice, but we’d never won at a really big show. I was so surprised.

I cried a lot when we sold her. She was such a super pony, and I learned so much with her.

Caitlin Donovan
New York, N.Y. (1997-2000)

When we got Silver Steps she had already been Horse Of The Year three times. I was only 8 years old and riding this pony with an incredible record. It was amazing.

We went to the Winter Equestrian Festival [Fla.] to try Missy, and up until then I’d only done the short stirrup. I got on her, and they basically tied me into the saddle and sent me into the small pony ring. I went into the ring, circled one time, then stopped and walked over to Christina and said, “That’s the biggest jump I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I can’t jump that!” And Christina, of course, said, “Yes you can, your pony can jump anything.” So we went back in and did the course, and we knew right then that she had to be ours.

She was my first pony and taught me absolutely everything. She wasn’t young when we got her, but I was. The first year I’d fall off almost daily—I’d fall off at the walk. But after about six months it clicked. She was such a great teacher, and she had such personality.

My mom designed the American Girls Store in Chicago, Ill., so when they decided to do the book Girls And Their Horses, Silver Steps and my other pony [Silver Steps’ half-sister] Helicon Take Notice and I were all pictured in it.

I’ve never met a pony more blessed. Everyone who owned her has adored her. My entire family loved her, and we sobbed and sobbed on the day that we sold her.

Nicoletta von Heidegger
Chatsworth, Calif. (2000-2001)

I rode Missy when I was 10 and 11 years old, and she was one of my first competitive ponies. I’d ridden a lot of ponies, but never anyone as fantastic as Silver Steps. We won the [USEF] Horse Of The Year award our second year together. It was great to win a national title with her, but to me she was my little fat pony. People would come up and say, “Oh my gosh! You ride Silver Steps!” But to me she was my pet.

I remember when we went to indoors the first time. My mom got so mad at me. Here I have this great pony, and we’d been doing well everywhere out West, and my trainer Joe [Thorpe] promised that we’d do well at indoors. Then I think I added two strides down every single line I jumped. But the next year we were much, much better, and I was reserve at Capital Challenge [Md.].

She was such a great pony to learn on—I kept her until I was way too big for her. It was such a great honor to ride her, and it’s great to see her still showing and doing well.

Olivia Esse
Beverly Hills, Calif. (2002-2004)

Missy was a noisy pony. She would make snorting noises with each canter step so it helped me learn to keep a rhythm and count.

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I rode Missy at my first Devon [Pa.]. It rained a lot, and there were lots of puddles on course. She would swerve around them but get to the jumps just right. She sure knew her way around a course!

Olivia Kohan
Beverly Hills, Calif. (2005)

I got Silver Steps when I was 8 years old. One thing I clearly remember about her was that she liked to jog
in first, lead the line in the model and leave the ring first after the under saddle. I didn’t ride very well back then, and I was rarely first. And I remember thinking, “Oh, she’s mad at me. She wants to win!”

She was a great pony, and I was lucky to ride her.

Meredith Darst
Lebanon, Ohio (2005)

I got to show Silver Steps at the Washington International [D.C.] and the Pennsylvania National when I was 6. I’d been to Devon and Pony Finals, but it was my first time at indoors. I rode her a little bit before the show, but not a whole lot, but she was perfect. It was really exciting to get to ride such an experienced show pony my first time at indoors.

She was really good, though, and we ended up winning the hack at Washington and getting some ribbons over fences. It was great.

Allison Toffolon
Bronxville, N.Y. (2006)

When I first got Silver Steps, Missy, she was great and I won many blue ribbons in the children’s division. Then when I moved up to pony hunters, it got a little harder. Missy had a small stride and she was a bit slow, but it still went well. Missy is a great mover and a beautiful modeler.

My most special moment with Missy was at Capital Challenge in 2006. This was my last horse show
with her, and I wanted to do well.

We were showing outside in the pouring rain, and I was very worried and nervous because Missy didn’t
really like the rain very much. When we went into the ring, every jump was perfect. I was so happy and so proud of her, my Missy, because we won the blue ribbon.

Madeline Thatcher
South Jordan, Utah (2007-2008)

Silver Steps is easily the queen of the barn, and she makes sure everyone knows that. She only cares for one thing: food. And as long as she has that she’s quite happy. The thing I love most about Silver Steps is that you can’t eat doughnuts around her, she just can’t resist!

Silver Steps has taught me a lot. She always has the “let’s win it” attitude. The little white pony is my favorite. I know that she knows the course because she always knows where to go. After a nice round, she always makes me laugh because at the jog she’s dying to go first. To think that she is a lot older than me makes me wonder how many others she has taught.

I hope that Silver Steps goes on to teach more kids what she has taught me. My last year on Silver Steps is going to be a great one!

Mollie Bailey and Molly Sorge

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