Robyn Fisher writes about her talented mare Betawave in this latest Athletux Equine blog. A Holsteiner mare bred in the U.S. by her co-owner Carol Singh, “Leta” will travel to France this fall to compete in the 7-Year-Old World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers. You can support Robyn and Leta’s trip in this auction, and be sure to follow their journey on Facebook.
There’s an old saying — “never say never” — and that statement has never been truer for me than it is now. In 2012, my life changed dramatically for a few reasons. It was the year that I became a USEF “r” licensed official, the year that I had to say goodbye to one of my best friends, and the year that Carol Singh and Betawave came into my life.
I was very fortunate early in my career and had two amazing horses that carried me through the three- and four-star level. Most people never have an opportunity to ride a horse through the upper levels as a complete rookie amateur, and I was lucky enough to have two that did it with elegance and grace: Lady Calido and LE Samurai. These two horses were as much my teachers as I was theirs, and together we experienced the realities of the upper levels achieving notable success along the way.
In 2007 I sold Le Samurai to the late Amy Tryon and in 2009 retired Lady Calido from upper-level competition. At that time, I was unsure what my next move was, and in the year to come focused my energies into some super nice young horses that went on to win numerous YEH classes.
Sometime during that same year, I realized that I had started to enjoy developing the young horses more than I did running around a three-star track and as a result, I devoted my professional career to producing young horses and then selling them to young riders or other upper-level riders.
In 2011 the USEA advertised a fast-track judging program for riders who had competed at the four-star level to attend a seminar and as a result be able to judge events through Training level. I became incredibly intrigued by this idea and decided to attend the first judging seminar that was available.
The first session was taught by Marilyn Payne and Brian Ross, and they had so much enthusiasm and passion for our sport that I was hooked! After the first session I knew that I wanted to complete the program and not only become an associate judge, but I wanted to go beyond that and become a USEF official.
It was definitely not an easy process that first year, as I had to devote many weekends to apprenticing at competitions, balancing it all with teaching my students, riding several horses and keeping up with my own competition schedule. Whenever I started to doubt myself, my best buddy Amy Tryon was always there to encourage me and support me. Every time I started to question my future as an official, Amy always set me straight and made me believe that I had the potential to be a great one.
Being a licensed official has not only attributed to my growth and development as a rider, but also as a trainer and a person. Being able to apprentice and learn from some of the best officials in the world has allowed me to bring insight and technique back to my own riding and training and has helped me tremendously as a coach and rider.
April 2012 was a life-changing month for me. I had to say goodbye to Amy, and that very same week Carol Singh and Betawave came into my life. Betawave, or as we affectionately call her, Leta or Ms. Wave, has been truly instrumental in my growth as a rider and a person.
Leta was a 3-year-old when she came to me and was not the easiest horse for me to start. She is the epitome of athleticism, but her natural talent comes with some very strong opinions that make her easily offended. She is a true overachiever who is exceptionally sensitive and prone to feeling trapped or persecuted, which can lead to her acting out violently. There was a time where we called her dragon because she was so fiery!
Over the years there have been days where I wanted to give up or sell her, but my intuition and support from others told me to keep working at it. Ironically enough, my good friend Amy loved horses with this type of personality, and I have laughed some days thinking of how she may have played a part in sending her my way.
The methodical patience, sensitivity and care necessary in developing my partnership with Betawave have allowed me to get to know her inside and out. In doing so I learned that Leta is the type of horse that only wants to please you, and when she feels like she is letting you down, she becomes very anxious.
Ironically, this horse is the mirror image of me. In reflecting over my decision to stop running the upper levels, I realized that I also couldn’t handle the pressure that I put on myself. Le Samurai and Lady Calido were such fighters and true competitors that I put unnecessary pressure on myself to always succeed when it wasn’t needed. I was my greatest critic, and that pressure made me not enjoy my job or competition.
After gaining a better understanding of how I handle pressure, I started to apply this to Leta and her own responses to pressure and the show atmosphere. I decided that I needed to scrap all of my personal goals and ambitions for Leta and just make our partnership fun and pressure-free.
Much of Leta’s 6-year-old year revolved around cultivating this new mentality, and while I was unsure what her future would hold, I knew this mare truly loved her job. By the end of the year, Leta was relaxing more in the show ring, although dressage was still difficult. Luckily the lack of pressure allowed me to go to events and just enjoy Leta’s incredible athleticism and apt for the two jumping phases.
Somewhere along the way, both Leta and I found ourselves in a position I had not expected, as our “no pressure” motto began to yield better and better results. With our partnership and trust growing stronger every day, I threw out the idea of competing overseas in the 7-year-old championships at Le Lion d’Angers in France this fall. A year ago I would have said no way, but after completing the CCI2* in Colorado this spring, I have no doubt that Leta and I are strong enough in our partnership to take on the championships.
The process of building my partnership with Leta has taught me so much about patience, being vulnerable and letting go of things. This awareness has allowed Leta and I to gain a trust and understanding of one another that has been essential to our progression up the levels.
She is truly a once-in-a-lifetime mare who has reminded me what I love about this sport. Every day is now a blessing to be with her. I feel so lucky and fortunate that Carol, her breeder and my partner, has trusted me to develop this magnificent mare, and each time I get on Leta I am reminded that this is meant to be fun.
I have continued to grow as a judge in the past few years and still have many goals as an FEI official, international judge and beyond other than what I look forward to with my own riding. Most of all, I hope my knowledge and experiences help future riders, and that maybe just maybe my journey and passion for the sport can some how inspire others to become a part of the officials program in the way the passion I saw from Marilyn and Brian inspired me.
I like to think my good friend Amy will be riding along side me in France, and no matter what she will continue to be a reminder to me that sometimes the best horses are the trickiest ones in the beginning. The journey of horses is an incredible one, and you are never too old to learn more and set your sights on new dreams and goals.