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Emma Young

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A Weekend of Firsts

Do you remember your first event? Whether you’ve completed 10 events or 1,000, it’s a healthy exercise to put ourselves in the shoes (tall boots?) of riders who are new to the sport. Emma Young, a freshman Equine Business Major at Otterbein University, rides on her intercollegiate dressage and eventing teams, and also fox hunts — and last weekend at Virginia Horse Trials she completed her very first recognized event. Congrats, Emma, and welcome! 

“The beauty of any first time is that it leads to a thousand others…”

I came across this quote by author Pico Lyer and it hit me. There has to be a first time to make a champion, a seasoned-pro, someone who it becomes second nature for. I still remember calling my trainer the first time we hauled my horse. We were nervous and she told us that the first time is the hardest. Once we do it 10 times it will start to turn into second nature.

I’ve lost track over how many times I’ve hauled horses, but she was right. I’m not nervous now and I’m confident in what I’m doing. Last weekend I completed a different kind of first:

Photo by James Young.

This past weekend I finally met my goal to compete in a recognized horse trial. For the past year and a half I have been hoping to sign up for several, but it wasn’t meant to be. Each time something stopped me from signing up: My horse had a bad abscess, my horse was missing part of his hoof, our prep mini trial got changed to a CT due to weather, my trainer wasn’t going, I didn’t have a trailer ride… I’d watch for the opening dates for Jump Start, South Farm, Cobblestone, etc. with excitement, but each time the closing date would roll around and I wouldn’t be signed up. I’ve been a USEA member for nearly two years, but I’ve yet to experience one of their events before now. I’ve proudly sported a USEA bumper sticker on my car, practically since I got my license, but I have had no idea what one of their events was really like.

Finally, a month ago I sent in my entry for Virginia Horse Trials and held my breath. As the weeks neared closer I drilled my dressage, cross country schooled, and freaked out probably a little too much over some minor scrapes or an off day. I tried to soak up every piece of dressage knowledge possible, follow a set riding plan, and enjoy every minute I spent with my horse.

Before I knew it, the day had arrived: the day we left for Lexington, Virginia. I’m a freshman at Otterbein University and it was also my first show with the eventing team. We packed our tack, 12 bales of hay, six tack trunks, and 24 bags of bedding into the trailer before loading the horses. It was my horse’s first time (that I know of) getting on a six horse trailer and he loaded like he does it every day. A little over six hours later we all arrived at the venue. We settled our horses in, set up our tack stall, hung Otterbein signs and stall guards, and got our competitor packets. The three of us going Beginner Novice walked our cross country course before we all did a little dressage school under a lit covered arena.

The next morning we were there a little after 6 am; ready for the day ahead of us. My dressage time came early. My horse listened pretty well, but our connection we’ve started to get at school was gone. We put down a test that well-deserved its high mark of 47. Once dressage was over, we both let out a sigh of relief: onto the fun stuff!

Photo by Emma Young.

Cross country came next. It was a team effort getting ready. Someone helped tack my horse while someone else put red electrical tape around my horse’s boots. I put all of my own gear on and we headed towards warm-up decked out with everything Otterbein. Our warm-up went well and as we headed towards the start box I felt ready. The starter counted backwards and when she got to zero we sprang out of the start box.

We sailed over the first jump. He looked at the second fence, but we still managed to get over it. Then we started towards a green and white table — one of the biggest fences on course. At first I thought he was going to jump it, but a few strides out he started to falter. My crop got tangled in my reins and I let him run right out my outside rein. I was caught by surprise and my foot popped out of its stirrup as my body lost its center of gravity. I pulled myself together, sat up, pulled him to a trot, got my stirrup, and pointed him towards the fence for a second time. We flew over it and kept going.

Our next issue was at the water. He locked onto the Training level log in front and when I pointed him away from it and towards the water he backed off. I had to slow him to a slow trot to get him in. After that, the course went by in a whirlwind. We jumped our first mini corner, our first ditch and wall, and our first cross country combination. He listened so well and I wish I could go back and ride the course again.

Photo by James Young.

As we galloped across the finish line, my dad, my coach, and members of my team were there to cheer for us. Even Otterbein alumni were there. We were greeted with smiles and words of congratulatory. I had never felt so much a part of a team. The rest of the day flew by from caring for my horse to cheering on my teammates. Before I knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel for the night.

The next morning, after feeding our horses, a few of us watched the FEI level jogs. I had never been to a real jog and I can’t wait to hopefully someday participate in one myself. Then I braided my horse’s mane, walked my stadium course, and cheered on a teammate on cross country.

Before I knew it, I had to tack up for stadium. Once again, decked out in Otterbein colors we headed for the warm-up. On the way, we passed the ring where the two-star riders were having their award ceremony. It was such a surreal experience showing at the same show as some of the best riders in the country. Our stadium round was so fun and while we pulled the final rail, my horse listened so well. The walk back to the stables was full of emotions. I just completed my first recognized show.

I’m so thankful for everyone who made this weekend possible. I’m thankful for my dad for driving me and cheering me on all weekend. I’m thankful for my mom and sister for being the biggest supporters from home. I’m thankful for my friends back on campus who texted me with Good Lucks. I’m incredibly thankful for my teammates and coach — they made my first recognized show one for the books. I’m so thankful for my trainer at home and all my instructors before that helped me get where I am now. Most of all, I’m thankful for my horse who gave me
his best last weekend. I’m beyond blessed.

Photo by James Young.

Otterbein had three teams between alumni and current students. One of our teams got sixth out of the eighteen teams in the intercollegiate challenge! Everyone of my teammates rode incredibly well and I’m so excited to get back out with them soon. Can’t wait to come out blazing
next season after winter dressage bootcamp! What a weekend full of firsts it was!

To Love Another

Emma Young is a 17-year-old avid eventer and foxhunter in Ohio. Thanks for sharing, Emma!

Photo by Jenifer Young.

This May will mark two years since I lost my first horse to colic. To this day that was one of the worst days of my life. I had walked him for hours, praying the whole time he was going to be OK, but he was weak and old and had a low chance of making it through surgery … we finally had to make the difficult decision to put him down. I remember whispering to him that I would always remember him and that I could never love a horse as much as I loved him. After a final pat on the neck, I fled the barn with tears pouring down my face.

It took me weeks before I was ready to start thinking about getting another horse. But finally I was ready and one summer day my mom and I finally had the conversation. I admitted that I did want another horse, although I knew no one could replace my first. She asked me if I cared about color, breed or size. I decided right away that my dream horse was a bay gelding standing around 16 hands. However, I didn’t care as long as they liked to jump. With that, we started a horse search that would last for nearly 10 months.

I tried a countless number of horses but none of them were quite right. One was too green, while another could never make it past Beginner Novice. One was too hot, one too old and arthritic, and another just didn’t click with me. Finally, in mid-March of last year, I found my dream horse. He was dark bay. He was 16 hands. He loved to jump. He wasn’t too old or too young and while he had never evented he had done hunter/jumpers. The moment I sat on his back I knew he was my horse. We just clicked.

One year ago today he officially became mine! I couldn’t sleep the night before and forget about breakfast; I was so excited to be getting a horse. When he finally arrived I couldn’t keep a smile off my face. I spent the entire day just admiring my horse.

Photos by James, Jenifer and Ava Young.

Throughout our year together we have become better partners. I know when he is grumpy and I know when he is happy. He knows when I’ve nervous (rather it be about something horsey, a school test, or maybe just a dentist appointment) and he prances and gets nervous too. We both share our joy for jumping and love for cross country. I’ve learned to let him run a little more and he’s learned to let me hold him back just a smidge (… he is an OTTB). We’ve both learned to accept dressage a little more (I think). We even moved up to the fastest group at our last fox hunt.

While I love the big things we’ve done and competition goals we’ve made, it is the small things that have made our partnership blossom the most. It’s the quiet hacks all alone when I can spill my stories and share my worries with him. It’s the times I’ve gone out in the field just to say hi and I end up spending half an hour just gazing at my perfect horse. It’s the gallops that we both sometimes feel like we deserve after a dressage school. It’s the first time I took him through water alone and he trusted me enough to go in. It’s the autumn evenings that I worked on homework while sitting on his back. It’s because when I’m with him I forget anything else even exists.

This first year together has been one of the best years of my life. I haven’t forgotten my first horse (I never will), but I’ve learned to love another and I’m so glad I have.

Reasons Why I’m Thankful

Emma Young is a 16-year-old avid eventer and foxhunter in Ohio. Thanks for sharing, Emma!

Photo by Emma Young.

I’m thankful for my horse, my friends, and my family. I’m thankful for every bit of advice every trainer has ever given me. I’m thankful for every horse I’ve ridden, from the first pony who dumped me to the first horse I jumped and to the horse I get to call my own. I’m thankful for eventing — the jumping and even the dressage that comes with it. I’m thankful for early morning hacks, breathtaking gallops, cross country fences, and exhilarating fox hunts. I’m thankful for all my role models who inspire me to be a better rider.

I’m thankful for the smell of fresh leather, freshly washed saddle pads, leg wraps, and horse shoes (that stay on). I’m thankful for people who inspire me. I’m thankful for the vet who saved my old horse and the farrier that came on their day off. I’m thankful for schooling shows, hunter paces and clinics. I’m thankful for mud and for rain and for snow-even though I’m most thankful for sun. I’m thankful for trailers and cars and for keys. I’m thankful for my parents who support me in this expensive sport. I’m thankful for a sister that loves to ride too and I’m ever so thankful for the rest of my family too. I’m thankful for friends at school who try to understand what Eventing really is. I’m thankful for teachers who want me to learn. I’m thankful for helmets and cross country vests.

Photo by Jenifer Young.

I’m thankful for my first riding lesson and I’m thankful that I quit. I’m thankful I found the right path for me and I didn’t end up as a hunter/jumper, a volleyball player, or a track star. I’m thankful for my boss who gave me the dream teenage job. I’m thankful for the farm that helps kids with a therapeutic riding program. I’m thankful for duct tape and all that it can do, from packing a horse hoof to holding the feed tub lid still. I’m thankful for my trainer that showed me the ropes of eventing and introduced me to foxhunting. I’m thankful for foxes, hounds, huntsmen, and whips too. I’m thankful for people who trailer me places. I’m thankful for no-stirrup November and dressage December. I’m thankful for getting the chance to go on hacks with a four-star rider. I’m thankful for seeing the life of a working student up close. I’m thankful for the young girl at my lesson stable who dreams of big things. I’m thankful for those I call in need of an answer to my many questions.

Photo by James Young.

I’m thankful for the blanket that keeps my horse warm. I’m thankful for every horse I gave a test ride on and I’m ever so thankful I ended up with my guy. I’m thankful for button braids, white contour pads, and the sound of the bag pipes that make my horse close his eyes. I’m thankful for dreamers, for lovers, for those who inspire. I’m thankful for everyone and everything that has entered my life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Something Little: The Small Things That Shape Who We Become

Emma Young is a 16-year-old avid eventer and foxhunter in Ohio. Thanks for sharing, Emma!

Photo by James Young.

Something little. That is the reasoning, the solid proof behind every big thing. A dream to climb the levels in eventing, to be someone’s role model, and to be a leader in my foxhunting club. Those are my big things — my big dreams. They are things that I don’t expect to accomplish now and maybe I never will, but to get there I have to start somewhere.

Phillip Dutton had to compete at the Beginner Novice level to get where he is today. Hannah Sue Burnett had to face grueling lessons, both in the ring and alone. The leaders of my foxhunting group all had to purchase their very first cubbing jacket at one point in their lives. They all had to have a first hunt to get where they are today. The local schooling shows I compete at — maybe one of the young competitors there will turn out to be the next Boyd Martin or Lauren Kieffer. You never know.

The first time I sat in a saddle. The first time I cantered. My first jump. My first show. They were all something so little but together they make who I am today.

My first show has more stories that tie together than any other memory I have. They are all tiny things. All something little. Here’s how I remember the day that possibly changed my life:

The sky threatened to rain and riders were everywhere. People were dressed in formal foxhunting attire and their horses wore neat braids. It was a benefit show to raise money for the local foxhunting club. (It was the first coincidence of the day. I became a member a year and a half later of that club — the one I hope to lead some day.) The show was held at the farm that I would soon work at, exercising the owner’s hunt horses (the second coincidence of the day).

Photo by Ava Young.

I had already competed in my two flat classes. My next class was a jumping course meant to mimic second field hunting. There was a course of nine cross country jumps all under a foot and a half tall. I must have had at least four stops on that course! There was also a water crossing and a stop where I was asked a foxhunting trivia question. Our water crossing was less than ideal and my trainer had to come out on course and lead us through.

I kept going and it came time for my trivia question. A lady wearing a scarlet red hunt jacket sat on top of a Belgian cross (the third coincidence of the day is that lady would become my boss a year later). She asked me what “Tally Ho” meant. After my third try and some guidance from my future boss I finally got it right — it means to spot a fox. Our final task was to make way for horse and rider. When the Belgian cantered past us, my horse shot him a dirty look. To this day I will never forget how the Belgian bucked several times in a row leaving the audience speechless (the final coincidence of the day is that horse would someday become my favorite to exercise).

Photo by Jen Young.

I had so much fun that day and I came home feeling like I had won the Kentucky Three-Day Event (even though I hadn’t even heard of it at the time).

All my coincidences, all my little moments. They all make me who I am today. Every person who has come into my life has come for a reason. Perhaps they have come for something little or something big. Every struggle, every victory, and every moment in between; everything in life fits together like a puzzle. Some pieces set the corners and the edges — they are the things and the people who hold me together. The inside pieces are smaller but are every bit important. All my pieces are all something little, something important, and they are all apart of who I am today, in my own little puzzle.

I want to thank every trainer, mentor, rider, classmate, friend, relative, parent, sibling, role model, teacher, and horse who have made me who I am today. You make my little things, you build my dreams, and for that you are irreplaceable.