Sometimes fate takes unusual paths to its intended targets. And one day in 1996 just such an event occurred.
Megan Young, then 10, was at a horse show, struggling with her small pony, Cat In The Hat. Her mother and trainer, Katie Young, was also frustrated, and that thorny issue of parent training child was showing its prickly side.
So, after a particularly rough moment in the schooling ring, Katie threw up her hands in exasperation, and what followed next changed the course of Megan’s life as a rider and horseman.
“This lady walks up to me–I knew Katie then, but barely. She sidles up to me and says, ‘Will you help my daughter? Because I’m not going to talk to her for the rest of the day.’ And that’s how I met Megan,” recalled trainer Christina Schlusemeyer with a laugh. “So I walked over and said, ‘Hi, I’m Christina.’ And she growled. It was an interesting afternoon, but it turned out to be one of the best.”
And eight years later, Megan culminated her career in the junior divisions with a roar instead of a growl. In addition to becoming the 13th rider in history to win the USEF Medal and ASPCA Maclay finals in the same year, she earned best child rider awards and/or junior hunter accolades at the three major indoor shows and Devon (Pa.).
“Working with Megan has been nothing but a pleasure,” said trainer Scott Kemery, whose Navigator earned junior hunter tricolors at Devon, the Pennsylvania National, the Washington (D.C.) International and the National (N.Y.). “She always gives 100 percent. And when the pressure is on, you can count on her–like at New York, when she had to win that last class [to be champion].”
Megan has always wanted to ride with Quiet Hill because she admired Schlusemeyer, Bobby Braswell and their riders. “I always wanted to get to the top of the sport. [But] I was more mad at my mom that day for giving me to Christina like that,” said Megan. “I was scared of her!”
As a youngster, Megan owned a few ponies, including Oreo Speedwagon and Cat In The Hat (“You can’t be a good rider unless you start out with an evil pony,” noted Schlusemeyer.) But early on–she did walk-trot at age 21Â³2 and was riding small ponies by age 5–she was a sought-after pony catch rider. Then, after graduating to horses, Megan owned a few, the last of whom, Glacier Bay, she sold when she was 15. From then on, she rode Quiet Hill’s sales horses or mounts for other trainers and owners.
“You could see she was durable,” Schlusemeyer said. “She would get it all done. Right at the beginning I told her she’d be famous. She had a fantastic eye, and being the kid of a professional she lived at the barn. She had the durability and the talent–and that’s the type of person to be a winner. But nobody thought it would end up this perfect!”
Megan said that in 2004 everything just fell into place. After riding Navigator periodically for owner Sarah Alvarez, she picked up the ride throughout the fall when Alvarez went to Vanderbilt University (Tenn.). Then, when junior rider Cortie Wetherill’s trainers sent a lanky chestnut equitation horse named Cresendo to Quiet Hill to be sold, another piece of the puzzle clicked into place.
“In the middle of the year we were worried,” said Schlusemeyer. “We didn’t have any horses for Megan. We were too good at selling them.” So one August day Schlusemeyer received a call from Debbie Stephens and Jeff Wirthman, who said “they were going to do us this big favor–as it turned out none of us knew at the time how ‘big’ it would turn out to be.”
Like Alvarez, Megan is now taking some time off from serious showing–she enrolled at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla., in January and helps out at Quiet Hill in nearby Ocala when she can. “I was home-schooled through my junior career. And I can come back later to riding, and it won’t be as much pressure on me. I’ll do it more for fun,” she said.
“I’ve learned a lot from the horse world,” she added. “I have so many great people in my life that have helped me so much. And I’ve learned to be grateful for everything that they’ve given me. My mom doesn’t get to come on the road with me all of the time, so I’ve learned to be independent doing this. It’s been a great experience.”
Katie also sees Megan’s equestrian education as a huge stepping stone into the future. “I have always felt riding is very good for any child,” she said. “It gives them confidence and self-esteem, and the ability to learn how to handle challenges, and disappointments, and the thrill of victory in a sophisticated way. I’m very proud she’s a good sport and a nice person to be around, which is what I wanted most.
“While all of this [winning] is wonderful–I never expected it,” added Katie. “The thing that I’ll remember most about this year is all of the kids who offered Megan horses. Jackie Attwood-Dupont loaned her a horse at the [ASPCA] Regionals in South Carolina so she could qualify for the National. And Kendle Handtmann offered her a horse for the USET Finals, where she was third. Those are the moments I’m so grateful for because it tells me that Megan must be a good kid if other kids are offering her their horses. That, to me, is what’s most important.”
Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.
Family: mother Katie Young (with Megan in photo)
Trainers/Supporters: Christina Schlusemeyer, Bobby Braswell, Kate Conover, Scott Kemery, Patti Foster, Katie Milton.
Pets: two Boxers, Morty and Daphne.
Hobbies: None. “My whole life has been riding. But now I’ve been relaxing. I went to Hawaii after indoors–I’d never had a real vacation before!”
Horses Shown in 2004: Cresendo, Navigator, Leighton Bay, Mistletoe, Anni, Unic, Better Best Z, Golden Boy 6, Call Me, Kindred Spirit, Ilex, Furbi, Convent 8, Grace, Titleist, Denvue, Kolgani and Jasper.
Highlight of 2004: “Being named The Chronicle of the Horse Hunter Horseman of the Year. Everything else added up to that,” Young said.
2004 Competitive Highlights
ASPCA Maclay Finals (N.Y.) ? winner (Cresendo)
Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals (Pa.) ? winner (Cresendo)
Monarch International’s Show Circuit Magazine North American Equitation Championship (Md.) ? winner (Cresendo)
BET/USET Talent Search Finals-East ? third place (Denvue)
ASPCA Maclay Region 3 Qualifier ? third place (Atlantic D)
Metropolitan National (N.Y.) ? grand & large junior, 16-17, champion, best child rider on a horse (Navigator)
Washington International (D.C.) ? large junior, 16-17, champion (Navigator)
Pennsylvania National ? large junior, 16-17, champion, grand large junior champion, overall grand junior champion & best child rider on a horse (Navigator)
Saratoga I & II (N.Y.) ? high junior jumper champion & junior/amateur-owner classic winner (Golden Boy 6)
Devon (Pa.) ? large junior, 16-17, champion (Navigator)
HITS Ocala (Fla.) small junior, 16-17, circuit champion (Anni)