Maya Simmons hadn’t competed at the advanced level for five years after giving birth to twins, so she was excited to tackle the advanced course at the Cloud 11-Gavilan North LLC this weekend on Archie Rocks.
Things were going well until she got to the first water at 7AB, a huge drop in to a corner.
After landing from the drop, both of Simmons’ stirrups came loose.
“I think if I did anything wrong I maybe came in a little too fast. It was his first time out, and he was really excited. I run him in a rubber snaffle, so usually he’s not very strong, and I thought I would get him back a little bit better than I did,” she explained.
“When he hit the landing, he just pecked. He hit hard, and my feet went flying behind me, and I went onto his neck. I think when I did that, the pressure of my feet pulled the leathers off the bars. I thought I’d lost my stirrups, but Archie had already seen the corner and was going for it, so I was like, ‘OK, here we go. This is really big!’ I had been kind of nervous about it and had been walking it that day, and it looked like people were having a hard time finding a distance.”
Archie jumped the corner well, so Simmons, 39, slowed up to find her stirrups but discovered they’d both fallen off her saddle.
“I looked down and saw them dangling really far. I went to pull up and put them back up, and they were gone within the three strides that it took me to pull up! Bad timing!” she said. “The rules are usually that no one can assist you, so I was like, ‘Well, I don’t want to not try. I don’t want to be done.’ I have so much confidence in that horse—he’s amazing. He just felt great, so I thought, ‘I’ll just try to jump 8A and B, which was the tobacco barn, and I had a perfect ride to it, so I was like, ‘Oh, it’s not bad.’”
Simmons kept going over a table to see how a fly fence would feel. When that went well, she decided as long as he was jumping safely, she would try to continue.
“I was riding around on course, like, ‘Is this stupid? I’ve got 4-year-old twins at home.’ I just said the second I feel tired or that I can’t give him the right ride I’ll pull up,” she said.
“I came out of the second water and thought, ‘Oh this is great,’ then came to the ditch and wall and saw a long one that you gallop those ditch and walls, and thought, ‘I can’t take this stride! I’ll be jumped out of that tack.’ So I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, Archie!’ and he was just so brilliant. I don’t know if he knew or what. We have a very neat bond,” she continued.
When Simmons got to the new coffin at 19ABC, she was a little concerned since it had walked very difficult. She knew there was an option, but it required her to jump the first element then pull him away from the ditch, and she wasn’t sure she could hang on.
So she went for the straight route.
“He twisted over the ditch and unseated me enough that I couldn’t keep him straight, and he glanced off [the skinny brush,]” she said. She fell off slowly to the side, but both she and “Archie” were fine.
Simmons, Southern Pines, N.C., was “bummed” she didn’t get a qualifying score, but was thrilled that the 9-year-old gelding (Le Monde—Unbridled Diva) jumped around so well despite her handicap.
“He’s just the most phenomenal horse, and I’m so lucky to have him. It was actually a very nice course, and I had a nice time. It wasn’t hard, I wasn’t fatigued,” said Simmons, who admitted she doesn’t do regular no-stirrups work.
She is no stranger to no-stirrups in her past, though. She grew up in Wyoming until she was 18.
“I never put a saddle on. We were just lazy and goofing off most of the time! I don’t know if it was muscle memory or what. I have very good balance and I’m small, so I don’t have a big center of gravity. It didn’t seem that hard,” she said.
Simmons (neé Studenmund), last rode advanced on Shear Mizou, but when he was injured and she got a severe head injury on the same day right before the Plantation Field International CIC*** (Pa.) five years ago, she took a year off to recover and have children with her husband. “I’m very competitive, and of course I wanted to be back at the top, but I’ve been taking my time. I’m trying to develop my business [Crown Sport Horses] and get going with that,” she said.
Archie was a resale horse who’s turned out to be much more than Simmons ever expected.
“He’s just that magic unicorn I’ve been waiting for my whole life, and I’ve just never had the opportunity to have. He will be very competitive in all three phases, and he’s just such a delight,” she said.
She’s hoping for better luck at The Fork (N.C.) in two weeks and is aiming for a possible three-star this summer.
“I think it’s important to have stuff like that happen every once in a while. I’ve kind of made it this far in my life because of that grit that I have. I just don’t give up, ever. I think it’s important for people to remember you can do whatever you want to do if you just keep trying,” she said.
Need to catch up on news from the Carolina International? Check out how young Caroline Martin seized the CIC*** from a field of veterans and how former sales horse Deniro Z turned into a CIC** winner.