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Rick Wallace

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A Letter to My Daughter: ‘Continue Your Amazing Grit and Determination’

Elisa Wallace, Simply Priceless, and Rick Wallace.

I find myself as a father and spectator watching Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless tackle their fifth four-star together and their third Kentucky. Each one of these competitions brings a range of emotions and at each one of the four-star competitions, I send out my thoughts about my daughter’s journey with an amazing animal fondly known as Johnny.

Since 2015, Johnny and Elisa have had very high highs and some very low lows. Their record for four-stars speaks for themselves — 2015 Kentucky, 17th place; 2016 Kentucky, eighth place; 2016 Burghley, 14th place. All of these are highlights of her and Johnny’s career. The eighth-place finish at Kentucky was good enough to name them alternates for the 2016 Rio Olympics — a great accomplishment for what always seems to be the underdog of our sport.

Elisa has never been phased by being an underdog; it typically creates more focus and determination. Her amazing partner Johnny, just recently, has been called “ancient,” “old,” and “close to retirement.” I always scratch my head at those comments. This Australian Thoroughbred was born in November 2001 which makes him 16 but, in the USA, because we push the age on January 1, Johnny aged one year in a 2-month period. So, to all reading this — HE IS 16 and by all measures at the top of his game. All onlookers seeing him marvel at how youthful he is looking. Thus, I call him, Benjamin Button.

This run marks Elisa and Johnny’s first four-star run since the 2017 Badminton. A lot was learned at that event. It was a long journey, and not to mention a painful one for Elisa. She is one of the greatest horsewomen I know. She can look at Johnny and know exactly how he is feeling. She can scan his legs and body and see if something isn’t right. It was this one time in England, on a course that I would call the hardest course of their career, that Elisa missed signs which would cause her great grief and disappointment in herself but has made her an even better horsewoman.

Elisa Wallace, Pocket, and Rick Wallace.

Upon their return to the states, Elisa enlisted the best specialist to go over Johnny, make determinations on his health, and make decisions of his ability to continue in this sport. Elisa of course, used this to learn even more about Johnny on things she couldn’t see on the outside. Over the course of the last year, Johnny has excelled in his health and well-being and has been given the green light to continue his journey with Elisa to their fifth four-star.

Elisa and Johnny had a successful run at the Ocala Jockey Club in November 2017, placing eighth in the CIC3*, and in 2018 were third in the Advanced at Rocking Horse and had a solid run in the CIC3* at Carolina International at the end of March. She competed him in the Advanced combined test at Ocala International this last weekend and spent the week after training with Karen O’Connor in preparation for leaving for Kentucky today.

So here I sit, writing about their fifth four-star together, and I am extremely excited to see them step out on Friday in the dressage, Saturday on the cross country and see them finish up strong the show jump on Sunday. I hope all will follow her and Johnny on social media. I will be the one in the background crying no doubt.

Good luck, my dear daughter, and to Johnny, continue your amazing grit and determination as you always do …

Love you both – DAD

Special thanks to The Simply Priceless Syndicate owners: Steve and Vicki Sukup, Kim and Larry Loveless, and Jon and Susan Day.

The Trek to Blenheim Palace … Finally

Rick Wallace wrote this touching blog about his daughter Elisa’s first overseas competition coming up at Blenheim and kindly allowed us to reprint it here on EN. You can follow along with Rick and Elisa’s adventures in England this week on Facebook and Twitter. Go Family. Go Eventing.

Rick Wallace and his daughter Elisa. Photo courtesy of Rick Wallace.

Rick Wallace and his daughter Elisa. Photo courtesy of Rick Wallace.

It was 2007 and I had just sent Elisa and her horse Jackson’s entry into Blenheim Palace Horse Trials. A long list of “to do’s” were being done and travel arrangements through Dutta Corp had been made. Elisa had worked diligently on preparing Jackson for the trip and a last run at Millbrook had her finishing fourth in the Advanced Division. Things looked great for the trip to England.

As things go, Jackson came up lame the day after Millbrook and the worst fears were realized when it was confirmed he had re-injured an old injury that had taken Elisa and him out after being named to the USEF High Performance list earlier that year. Fundraising done, entry paid for, tickets purchased, it all came to an end. While Elisa had another Advanced horse, Leap of Faith, it was Jackson who was prepared for the trip.

Looking back, Elisa had, like so many others, worked so hard and had major setback after major setback. Later that same year, Leap of Faith was injured as well and retired from eventing. Elisa was without an upper-lever horse and she went back to the drawing board. Well, I do not believe she thought it would take eight years to come back to this moment but it did and she is here for the challenge again.

I head over to witness her debut overseas with great anticipation. I really have kept quiet about the trip until now, until I knew both Elisa and Simply Priceless made it to England safely. The journey has been much different this time around. Elisa is going over as a part of the USEF. She has loyal owners, Jill and Dave Hopcroft, who own Simply Priceless aka Johnny.

While she is again on the USEF High Performance list, it is now under the watchful eye of David O’Connor and she is traveling over to England with a Land Rover Grant (many thanks for their support). Her recent training (just before Rolex) with Karen O’Connor has brought Elisa and Johnny up to a new level in riding and it is showing.

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Of course, I would be amiss if I left out the part which thanks Joanie Morris for all her hard work in making all the travel arrangements, keeping all of us from losing our minds and always staying calm. Thanks Joanie for the hard work you do for the USEF and the horses and riders … and fathers.

Just before Rolex, I posted my feelings as a father and what a surreal journey that was for me and for all of us including Elisa. Elisa’s years of hard work, challenges, setbacks, and dreams coming to fruition in front of the world. I am also hit with the realization that many think of Elisa (pronounced E L I S A or e-lease-a) as a young rider, in her late teens to early 20’s, when she is actually 33 years old and been hitting it hard for years.

The hard work to get Simply Priceless to England has been daunting, but I know each day that Elisa’s main goal is to ensure her horse is happy, healthy and sound and her dreams can only be fulfilled if she pays close attention to her partner, Johnny. I speak daily with Elisa and we talk endlessly on schedules, programs and progress of our horses. She is a wealth of knowledge for me and I often marvel at what this woman knows and understands about horses. She is my rock now and I love the full circle.

She was born without much chance of anything else. She was at a horse show at three days old as her mother committed to watching me show in Macon, Georgia, April 24, 1982. Elisa has done the work since that day. She has put the time in, the effort, the sweat, the tears, and the pain. Today I travel over to England to watch a huge milestone for not just Elisa, but her entire family: me; her husband Timothy Harfield; her mother Laura Youngblood, her brother Braden Wallace; her aunts Laura and Cynthia; her uncles Bubba, Jim, and Charlie; her grandparents Richard (in heaven) and Medra Wallace (Keyser), and Charles and Frank Youngblood; and the many cousins she has as well. They have all watched and hoped for her success and all that hope has funneled down to this moment.

As a father, I hope for her rise to the top and again show her talents at Blenheim. I will be there to support and help and again marvel at my young girl, Elisa, known to me as Weezer.

Do well my little girl. Go live those dreams. Love, Dad