Twenty years ago, Avery Dimmig, now McEnery, topped the Stablegate.com/ASPCA Maclay Final at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Back then she kept her horses at home at her family’s Rougemont, North Carolina, farm.
“When we weren’t at horse shows I was independently doing my own thing,” said McEnery. “My dad grew up riding and worked at Rodney Jenkins’ barn. He always had a passion for the horse sport. I think there was a moment of him living vicariously through my successes, but my parents were unbelievably supportive.”
After she won the final, McEnery set horses aside for a bit to focus on her studies at Vanderbilt University (Tennessee), but by the end of her sophomore year she was back in it. She started showing again when she was a senior and spent a few years as an amateur before turning professional.
“We did the hunters, mostly,” she said. “I had a group of nice clients—mostly amateurs—and we had a nice go of it. We had a farm in Wellington [Florida], and one of my last shows was the Hampton Classic [New York].”
McEnery hung up her hard hat about eight years ago, shortly before she married Miles McEnery. The couple lives in Bronxville, New York, and owns several contemporary art galleries in Chelsea. They have two children: Will, 4, and Jack, 5.
She remembers the weekend she won the ASPCA Maclay Final as the pinnacle of her junior career.
“I felt a sense of calm that I don’t know that I felt often,” she recalled. “I wasn’t nervous at all. I think I felt a sense of resolve. It was the end of my junior career, and I was in college. I certainly wanted to win. But did I feel the pressure to win? I don’t think so. Everyone else was more nervous than I was.
“Certainly I was thrilled and felt very fortunate and lucky [to have won] because so many things have to be aligned in horse sport,” she added. “Unlike other sports where you have teammates who can pick up the slack, you’re dealing with an animal that lives and breathes and depends on you as well. It’s a special moment where I can look back and say, ‘I had a goal. I achieved it.’ ”
As for her horse Derrek, he went on to partner with a few other riders (he won the Washington International Equitation Championship with Whitney Roper in 2002), but Avery retained ownership and retired him at her family farm. He died seven years ago the week of Avery’s wedding, and she was there to say goodbye.
Molly Sorge wrote about Avery’s win in the Nov. 17, 2000, issue of The Chronicle of the Horse, and excerpts from that article are below.
Sometimes, the dreams we have when we’re young come true.
Eight years ago, Avery Dimmig earned the small pony championship at the National Horse Show, while Nicole Shahinian took the Rolex/ASPCA Maclay.
Then her mother recalled in a Chronicle interview, “In the car on the way home from the show, Avery woke up from a nap. She had her cooler wrapped around her and the championship ribbon stuck in her ponytail. And she said kind of groggily, ‘You know in that class when I came around the last turn, I thought I was Nicole Shahinian. I saw the distance and squeezed my legs.’ We just laughed and said, ‘Any time you want to pretend to be Nicole, you can.’ ”
But at this year’s National, Dimmig, 18, didn’t have to pretend to be anyone else—her own talent and style brought her the Stablegate.com/ASPCA Maclay National Championship, Nov. 4-5 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Dimmig led the class from start to finish, with classic displays of riding in a battle between very impressive junior riders. “The whole fall, it looked like there would be one show that would be her show, and this was the one,” said Bill Cooney, who worked with Don Stewart and Scott Hofstetter to train Dimmig to the win.
“There have been a couple times when I’ve been on top, and I’ve let the pressure get to me, and I’ll make a mistake, but this show I’ve never been more relaxed,” Dimmig said. “These were basically the two most exciting days of my life. I decided that no matter what happened, I was just going to be thrilled with the way my horse went and what has become of these last two years that I’ve shown with Bill Cooney.”
Dimmig finished second in the Maclay in 1998, and her horse, Derrek, was third with Kristin Posehn in 1996. But when they joined forces at the beginning of 1999, it all came together.
“He’s become like my best friend,” Dimmig said of the 15-year-old Hanoverian. “There’s not a horse in this world that I say I could get on and feel the same way about him. There’s just something about the way he canters.”
It was the perfect ending for Dimmig’s junior career. A freshman at Vanderbilt University (Tennessee), she plans to concentrate on school from now on and “just ride for fun,” she said.
Through The Ups And Downs
Dimmig rode in her first Maclay Finals as an 11-year-old, and she’s been a consistent competitor ever since. She won the World Equitation Championship at Capital Challenge (Maryland) in October.
“I’ve done it for seven years, and I’m a very competitive person. When I was little I put a lot of pressure on myself that wasn’t at all necessary. Throughout my riding career, I would put more pressure on myself than anyone else, and I let myself down,” Dimmig said.
“I’ve definitely learned to say to say to myself, ‘If I’m going to win this, it’s going to be for me, and not for anybody else,’ ” she added.
But Dimmig’s win brought just as much joy for Cooney and her parents, Tom and Jane, as it did for her. “She has worked really hard, and she’s had her ups and her downs, and she deserves this,” Tom said.
Tom played a large part in Avery’s career. The National was the first horse show that he hasn’t acted as a groom for her horses. “But he was still there at 3 in the morning, and he didn’t miss a second of it. He is by far my prime supporter, and it’s been a special thing between my dad and me,” Avery said.