Several years removed from her last outings at the three- and four-star levels, California eventer Robyn Fisher didn’t anticipate returning to the upper levels of eventing. But a special horse and special circumstances rocketed Robyn back into FEI competition, and she’s taken the unexpected turn of events and run with it as she looks ahead to the new season.
Robyn originally put herself on the map with a horse named Le Samurai, a Holsteiner/Thoroughbred gelding with whom Robyn competed at the three-star level, including a trip to the CCI3* at Saumur in France, where she finished in the top 10. After Le Samurai, Robyn refocused on her other goals, including obtaining her “r” judge designation.
A Judge’s Perspective
In 2011, Robyn began the process of becoming a dressage judge after seeing a program offered by the USEA to become an associate judge, which would give her the ability to judge through Training level.
“My original intent was just to get my associate license, but I was mesmerized by the theory behind judging after the first session,” Robyn said. “I pretty much fell in love with the philosophy. I didn’t know where I would go from there, or even if I would be a good judge, but I decided not to sell myself short and to try to contribute to the sport. I was a bit burned out at the time and thought it would be a great way to diversify my participation.”
Robyn went on to obtain her “r” license and is currently pending approval to obtain her “R” license, which will give her the opportunity to judge through Intermediate. “Once I get my “R,” I’ll try to move forward and gain more experience,” she said. “Once that happens, I’ll be on the right track to go through FEI seminars.”
How has judging affected her riding and coaching? Having a different perspective is always helpful, and getting a handle on what judges look for and what they see from their point of view has helped Robyn with her own program.
“There are basic criteria for what a judge is looking for,” she said. “I can now ride a test and pretty much know what the judge will say when I come out of the arena. I definitely think it’s helped both my riding and my coaching.”
Robyn’s riding has taken her for a wild ride over the last couple of seasons thanks to a special mare named Betawave. An 8-year-old American-bred Holsteiner mare, owned by breeder Carol Singh and Robyn, Betawave has put Robyn’s mind back on the elusive upper levels of the sport.
“She’s unlike any horse I’ve ever ridden,” Robyn said. “It was absolutely not my goal to go back to riding at the upper levels. (Betawave) came to me in a very unique situation. Carol had watched me develop Lady Calido and Le Samurai and liked how I worked with Holsteiners. She emailed me before we’d ever met and asked if I’d consider taking on Leta. We both took a leap of faith and it’s turned out to be one of the best partnerships I’ve ever had.”
Carol’s goals for Betawave, who has proven to be wildly talented across the country, are just for her to go as far as she is comfortable. “As long as she is happy and enjoying the job, she wants her to continue,” Robyn said. “The horse is incredible cross country; I’ve never felt safer on a horse.”
Robyn and Betawave successfully moved up to the two-star level last year, culminating in an overseas trip to the FEI World Young Horse Championships at Le Lion d’Angers in France, where they completed the most difficult cross country of their partnership with just a handful of time penalties accumulated.
“Going (to Le Lion), my goal was just to finish,” Robyn said. “We did more than that, and it was definitely more of an Advanced track than a two-star track and it was a huge accomplishment for both of us.”
It was the trip of a lifetime for Robyn, who is now eyeing an Advanced move up for the scopey mare. “When it comes to the jumping, she’s always going to be game,” she said. “The dressage will continue to be a challenge, but she’s pretty capable of finishing on her dressage score. We will feel it out and take it show by show, which is what we’ve been doing up to this point.”
While her return to the upper levels is happening sooner than she originally thought, Robyn is all in.
“I’ve always owned the horses I’ve competed, and in order to survive, everything has been for sale,” she said. “Leta is not for sale, so in a weird kind of way I’ve kind of been forced out of my comfort zone. She is not tapped out. I don’t want to make any big plans just yet, but she’s young and she’s game. That’s a pretty special combination.”
With the help of the team of people in her corner, Robyn is officially back in the upper-level game and enjoying every minute of the journey.
“This horse has really helped me push myself, and I couldn’t do any of this without the encouragement and support of Carol Singh, my coach Hawley Bennett and the people who are in my corner no matter what. Especially with Hawley, when she says you can do something, you’d better believe you can. We’ve traveled the world together, and you absolutely have to have people like that to make it in this sport.”