The 2028 U.S. Eventing Team is already out there somewhere, and it’s up to us all to nurture their talent and their big dreams. “2028 Olympic Talent Watch” is an (adorable) series in which we identify junior eventers who are already exhibiting the heart and the guts to lead American eventing to glory in the (distant) future. Any short-stirrup riders you know come to mind? Email us their story at [email protected] Today, let’s meet Claire and Morgan Gestes!
Super twins Claire and Morgan Gestes were born to love horses. Their father, Terry, spent a good chunk of his life exercising and training racehorses, so it just seemed natural that his nine-year-old twin daughters would follow suit. Even with just a few years in the saddle, these pony-loving kiddos already have their sights set on some big dreams.
The dynamic duo has been riding in some shape or fashion since the tender age of three. After several years of leadline and flatwork lessons, the Gestes family decided to invest in a pony for the kids to have of their own. Morgan fell in love with Jet, a spunky POA/Quarter Horse cross, and while there they got to meet his mother, Cocoa, whom Claire also fell head over heels for.
“We went there with the intention of buying one pony for them to share,” mother Darah recalls. “But Claire was in love with Cocoa and it worked out where we could surprise Claire with her on their birthday.” The duo has since switched mounts, but they both can be seen leaning across their pony’s neck to huge and kiss the other pony after a successful jumping round.
The twins only recently began jumping heavily around eight months ago when they began training with Jen Robertson of Altamonte Show Stable in St. Louis, Missouri.
“They are delightfully arrogant,” jokes Jen. “If I have a 4’6″ oxer set in the ring, they immediately ask if they can jump it on their medium ponies. When I put it down, they always say ‘awww man!’ They are super fun to coach and it is unique since their parents were involved in the horse world in a different fashion.”
“One time Morgan’s pony spooked and bolted across the field. Most parents would be mortified, but they were there clapping their hands and yelling, ‘Good job Morgan! You look awesome with those bridged reins!’ I fell in love with that family right then and there.”
Since upping their training regime they have participated in a few local mini-events and completed their first ever Starter horse trial at Champagne Run. Their trailer is packed and loaded to head out to Heritage Park next weekend for their second Starter premiere.
While most people believe twins are identical in everything they do, these sisters are very different in the saddle. “Claire is very go with the flow. She loves dressage and the technicality of the flatwork,” Darah says. “Now Morgan, on the other hand, has a need for speed. She is always ready for bigger, higher and faster!”
But both of the girls have a dare-devilish streak in them. “At Champagne Run Claire asked me, ‘What if my pony runs away with me and just DOES the water complex?'” Jen recalls. “I told her she would be in trouble, but I had a sinking feeling it didn’t stick. So I had to stand at the water complex with my arms crossed to make sure she didn’t attempt it. She later admitted she was going to do it until she saw me standing there!”
Inspired by their first ever trip to the Kentucky 3-Day Event this year, Claire and Morgan are ready to kick things up a notch. Darah recently shared this adorable photo on Facebook showing off Claire’s list of goals she dreamed up on her own and hung up in her room.
“I feel like as a family this is our thing,” Darah says proudly. “Ever since the girls laid eyes on their first horse, they have always lit up around horses. We spend our weekends with the trailer in tow heading off to horse shows. It is truly what we love to do!”
And now that family affair is growing even more. Parker, the twins’ seven-year-old brother, has also began taking riding lessons and is proving to be quite the natural in the saddle.
One thing is for sure: There is greatness in these girls’ future if they keep it up at this rate!