As Jenny Caras prepares to make her overseas debut at Bramham with Fernhill Fortitude in mid-June, she reflects on the path that has led her to where she is today. Many thanks to Jenny for writing and to Athletux for partnering with us on this blog series!
The other day I was scrolling through my news feed on Facebook, and I saw a post from a fellow eventer with the hashtag #livingthedream. This got me thinking: What does “living the dream” actually mean? The “dream” is probably different for everyone, but I think all too often in the hustle and bustle of daily life we don’t stop to realize when we are actually living our dreams. I feel like I am incredibly fortunate and am living mine every day.
I started riding when I was 4 years old on a pony named “Tally Ho.” My instructor was Cathy Stephenson, who still operates Sterling Equestrian Center in Powder Springs, Ga. Ms. Cathy is the person who taught me the basics as well as horsemanship and work ethic. When I turned 6 she took me to my first unrecognized event and also took me fox hunting. To this day, I can say the skills I learned fox hunting help me out on the cross country course.
I continued my education with Ms. Cathy until I was 12. It was then that I purchased my first horse from her, a mare that I had been riding named Gwen. She was an OTTB that Ms. Cathy had bought about three years before and I was about the only one Gwen would let ride her. Everyone else, including Ms. Cathy, got bucked off!
While I was still at Sterling, a few of us decided that it would be fun to go to Kentucky to watch Rolex. It was there that I really figured out what eventing was all about. Before that trip, I would go around telling everyone that I wanted to go to the Olympics for horseback riding, but I didn’t really understand what that meant. After watching Rolex a new kind of passion was ignited in me. All I knew was that ONE DAY, I was going to ride there! I went back to watch every year through 2014.
I trained with a few instructors after leaving Ms. Cathy. Finally I started training with Julie Richards. She really took me under her wing and invested countless hours in me. After my freshman year in high school, I started attending an independent study school so I could move to Newnan, Ga., and live with Julie full time.
Julie found me my Young Rider horse Fernhill Stowaway as well as Fernhill Fortitude (“Forty”), who has taken me to two CCI3*s, and hopefully a third one in about two weeks at Bramham in the UK. She also went to Ireland with me this past summer and helped me pick out my two young horses.
I met Phillip Dutton for the first time when I was probably 14 years old. Julie has Phillip down for clinics six or seven times a year, and I was always excited to participate every time he would come. Now seven years later, I am “living the dream” working full time for Phillip! So now having three horses that I am really excited about bringing along with Phillip’s help, the dream continues.
As I prepare to board the plane to fly to the UK to compete at Bramham, I almost have to pinch myself to make sure all this is real! With the help from the Karen Stives Grant, I am able to fulfill another dream of competing “across the pond.” This will be an invaluable opportunity that I am very much excited about. I am looking forward to working with Leslie Law, the Under 25 Developing Rider Coach, to get me through the weekend there. If all continues to go well for Forty and me, we will continue on the track to hopefully competing at Rolex next year, fulfilling another dream!
As for my other two horses, Fernhill Full Throttle (“Pongo”) he is positively moving towards doing his first CCI1* by the end of the year, and then progressing from there. Trendy Fernhill (“Joey”) is just a 5 year old but shows great potential. I will continue bringing him along slowly to build his confidence, aiming for Prelim by the end of the year. He has shown that Training level is no problem!
So I continue to dream and plan, and set goals. I love the sport of eventing. I love horses. I love the lifestyle. One day I hope to have a string of upper level horses, ride for the United States in team competitions, and have owners, students and a prosperous business of my own.
I guess one could say that MY idea of “living the dream” is the privilege to wake up every morning, spend the day with horses, and be a part of a community that is more than a sport. It is a FAMILY that supports one another during the good times and the bad times.
I truly am “living the dream!” And I’m thankful every day that I am privileged to do what I love with such a great support system — parents, trainers, sponsors and the whole eventing community!
May we all continue to dream, and dream BIG!