Articles Written 7
Article Views 5,933

Taleen Hanna


Become an Eventing Nation Blogger

About Taleen Hanna

Latest Articles Written

Checking in With the 2020 E25 Athletes, Part 4: Kaylawna Smith-Cook, Jenny Caras & Felicia Barr

The 2020 USEF Eventing 25 Emerging Athletes Program is filled with talented and determined upcoming professionals. Just like the rest of us, these young adults have continued to persist throughout this year’s suspension of competitions. In part four of this series, we check in Kaylawna Smith-Cook, Jenny Caras and Felicia Barr to see how they spent their quarantine. 

Part 1: Alyssa Phillips, Megan Sykes, and Woodge Fulton

Part 2: Zoe Crawford and Madison Temkin

Part 3: Hallie Coon and Kalli Core

Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Passepartout. Photo by Kim Miller.

Kaylawna Smith-Cook is from Murrieta, California and had several top three-star finishes last season with Passepartout, including a win in the CCI3*-S at Woodside and a 4th in the CCI3*-L at Galway Downs. Her time at home has allowed her to focus on a newer ride, Mai Blume. 

“Initially I was very disappointed when our season was postponed. I had just run my second event of the year and everything was off to a great start. I can say now, I’m grateful for the time I’ve had to train and build a better relationship with each of my horses. I truly feel like I’ve used this time to really break down the training I have on each horse and focus on what my horses and I need to work on together. 

“I have a mare that I picked up the ride on early this year (MaiBlume). She’s a 9-year-old German Warmblood. At the beginning of the year I felt like I really needed some extra time for us to get to know eachother but was conflicted with the show season in full force. She’s a hotter horse and a mare! So of course bonding is essential. This extra time has been awesome for that!” 

Jenny Caras and Trendy Fernhill. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Jenny Caras

Jenny Caras is from Cartersville, Georgia. She has competed at the Land Rover Kentucky 3-Day Event and Badminton. She started off this season moving Trendy Fernhill up to Advanced at Pinetop. 

“Before all the events were put on hold due to Covid-19 my season started out just how I hoped it would. I had just moved Trendy Fernhill up to the Advanced level at the February Pine Top where he finished second, and had been named to the Futures Team Challenge list for Carolina International. I had my sights set on getting Joey to the Rebecca Farm CCI4*-L. When it was announced that our season was going to be put on hold, I have to admit that I was slightly lost. Thankfully my fiancé Waylon Roberts and I had just taken a horse shopping trip over to Ireland and England and were able to get three lovely new horses imported before the borders shut down. So with all of our competitions on hold, I turned my attention back to focusing on training the horses that we’ve had and developing a relationship with the new ones so that when the time came I’d be able to hit the ground running. 

“I treated the down time like I treat the normal off season. Just focusing on having the horses as happy and well as possible while trying to keep them progressing in their training. It is a lot of stress on the horses going to events and being away from home for periods of time and although it is easy for me to feel behind due to missing the spring season and having to postpone some of the competition goals for the horses, I have really enjoyed being able to focus on training my horses without the pressure of competing. It has also been great to be able to spend a little extra time with my family!” 

Fylicia Barr and Galloway Sunrise. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Fylicia Barr 

Fylicia Barr is from West Grove, Pennsylvania and had top finishes on Galloway Sunrise last season including a win in the Jersey Fresh CCI4*-L. Even though she was aiming for Kentucky this year, she still made the most of her time at home. 

“I won’t lie, at first it was hard to stay motivated but once the initial disappointment of all of the cancellations wore off I was able to shift my focus. During the competition season it is easy to feel like you’re constantly playing catch up and the time off allowed me to take a step back and focus on making my horses overall happier and stronger. My upper level horse who was aimed for Kentucky enjoyed a bit of time off. After her time off I spent a lot of time going back over the basics and polishing up our dressage work. 

“Unfortunately during the stay at home order I was forced to close my barn to everyone except staff. Most of my days were filled with training my young prospects and my students’ horses. Spending so much time watching the young horses learn and get better with each ride was really satisfying. We also found creative and fun ways to keep my riders involved from home. 

“The shutdown allowed me to spend extra time in the barn with each horse. I think it can become very easy to take things for granted and I feel very lucky to be where I am doing what I love. I am grateful to be surrounded by amazing horses and people. We all kept each other motivated and sane! We’re all looking forward to getting back out and competing safely in the future!” 

Go Eventing.

Ride Heels Down: Both Mantra and a Business

The phrase “Heels down!” is one we constantly hear our trainer say or one we think as we approach that massive table. While this may be a staple mantra for us, Ainsley Jacobs has turned it into a business.

Those heels, tho! The jump that started it all. Photo courtesy of Halliea Milner, Go With It Farm.

The birth of Ride Heels Down came in September 2014 when Ainsley was jumping her first Novice height course in a lesson. “As JJ and I cantered towards a ‘big’ oxer, I told myself ‘heels down, hold on, and let JJ do his job.’ I thought the phrase ‘heels down and hold on’ would make

a cool t-shirt, and then immediately realized I still had to survive the course before I could start being creative … ha!” After successfully finishing their first Novice course, Ainsley went home to start designing and the rest was history.

Ride Heels Down was officially launched on September 1, 2015 and even had its first sale, from New Zealand, on that day. Ainsley started selling her products at local shows with what she had– mismatched table cloths, an old Maxxis Tires pop-up tent, and some plastic folding tables. Ainsley’s day job in her automotive aftermarket and performance industry company, P. TEN Marketing, has helped her immensely with the growth of Ride Heels Down.

“I was able to design a logo, build a website, and develop an online strategy to get things going right from day one. I just considered it to be another one of my clients, added Ride Heels Down to my daily task list, and, before long, my idea for a little t-shirt shop had become a reality.”

Ainsley and JJ. Photo courtesy of Lauren New, River Birch Farm.

If you know Ainsley’s horse, JJ, you love him. He is well known for his series, “Will JJ Eat It?” Ainsley says, “JJ has been a big inspiration for shirt designs … I love that he’s so loved, he’s definitely got a fan club! We have had some ups and downs, but he has taught me more about riding than I had learned in a lifetime, and eventing as well has elevated me as an overall equestrian.”

A sampling of the amazing Ride Heels Down products. Photo courtesy of Ride Heels Down.

The Ride Heels Down designs are relatable to all disciplines. Phrases like “Everything hurts and I’m dying” paired with some stirrups on the super soft t-shirt material make for a perfect staple in your closet. Ride Heels Down has t-shirts, hoodies, hats, stickers, jewelry, koozies, socks, you name it, they have it! You can shop their products here.

Ainsley is motivated daily by the people she surrounds herself with in the automotive industry. The “self-made entrepreneurs and first-class world champion drivers” are “relentless in their pursuit of success,” which gives her motivation to continually search for success as well. She is
also driven by how far she’s come since a tough childhood.

Ainsley hopes that Ride Heels Down will “go from a small business to a medium or even large one that can sustain itself as an independent entity instead of just a fun side-hobby.” Even though the small business sustains only itself, it’s what keeps Ainsley going. Her ultimate goal is to have Ride Heels Down apparel in big-name retailers like Dover or Smartpak.

Ainsley and the Ride Heels Down booth. Photo courtesy of Mary Campbell, Mare Goods.

Ainsley is not just your typical rider/ businesswoman. She is one of the most genuine and enthusiastic people you will ever meet. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her throughout the past few years, and she is truly one of a kind. When you walk up to her tent she is actually interested in how you are doing instead of just trying to sell her product. Ainsley’s enthusiasm for running Ride Heels Down and her genuine encouragement embodies the strong community in the equestrian industry.

Go Ainsley and Go Eventing!

Checking in With the 2020 E25 Athletes, Part 3: Hallie Coon & Kalli Core

The 2020 USEF Eventing 25 Emerging Athlete Program is filled with talented and determined upcoming professionals. Just like the rest of us, these young adults have continued to persist throughout the suspension of competitions. In this three-part series, you will get to find out how some of these riders spent their quarantine. In part two, we catch up with Hallie Coon and Kalli Core. You can read part one of the series with Alyssa Phillips, Megan Sykes, and Woodge Fulton here, and part two with Zoe Crawford & Madison Temkin here.

Hallie Coon and Celien. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Hallie Coon

Hallie Coon, from Ocala, started a strong season with Celien and Cooley SOS before quarantine. Celien placed 3rd in the CCI 4*-S at Red Hills and was named the 2019 USEA Mare of the Year.

“This spring has been an interesting and uncertain time for all of us, but I think it’s been a blessing in disguise for some, if not most of us event riders. I know that’s going to be an unpopular opinion but it’s given me time to really think things through, reevaluate my program and go back to the basics to fix the holes in the boat that I may not have been wanting to admit had temporary plugs.

“I’ve been able to take the time to go back to a simple loose ring snaffle on all my horses in their training and see what a bigger bit may have been covering up. This alone was a huge step for me in the way I think and getting back to the correct basics in producing these horses. Another focus has been working the horses on the ground, including regular line work and long lining which has made a huge difference in several of my more insecure young horses. With 10+ young horses in the barn, it’s been incredible to have the extra time to focus on producing them the slow, correct way.

“The frustration has come in more heavily with the more experienced horses that should have run long formats this spring, but all I can do now is hope that they have something in the fall to be aimed at. Celien and Cooley SOS have been in light work as they won’t go out competing until August, they have a ways to go until their long formats (Cooley SOS is aimed at the Jockey Club CCI4-L and Celien will hopefully be returning to Pau CCI5*).

“Having purchased a farm in Ocala in late January, which had been abandoned for two years and in a serious state might I add, has also been an incredible motivating factor this spring. There has been an endless list of things to do around the farm and it’s finally coming together. We now have a cross country jump field complete with a water jump, 19 paddocks to mirror the number stalls, a beautiful show jump field, and two arenas in the works and scheduled to be finished in the next two weeks.”

Kalli Core and Cooley Master Courage competing in the Virginia Horse Trials CCI*. Photo by official photographer, Brant Gamma Photography.

Kalli Core

Kalli Core, from Orange, Texas, had a great go last season, winning the CCI3*-L at Rebecca Farm with Cooley Master Courage. The pair ended on their dressage score of 30.7 to dominate the division of 18 competitors.

“I never would have thought, that after our normal winter trip to Florida, it would have been my last competition for a while. For myself, and I’m sure the majority of riders, this pause in competitions was really disappointing. Plans were changed and goals were pushed back for everyone. When that happens, it’s always hard. We love the sport and part of that love is the ability to compete with our horses. But during this time, there was also the opportunity for growth. You take a moment to reevaluate, set a new plan and then you get to work. For me, this time has turned out to be very impactful. Each day is a new day and one to focus on putting everything I have into bettering my riding and my horses.

“For my young horse, Dobby, I have been using this time to foster our relationship and build his trust. I recently purchased him in December and am thankful for this time we have had to spend with each other. It has been a really fun process learning together and having the ability and time to get creative. Angela, my coach, and I have been working hard to help Dobby become braver on cross country. He is great and extremely careful but just needs a bit more confidence. We have been lunging him over cross country jumps and the process has been really rewarding. I cannot wait to take him to his first event back as I think it will feel like a completely different horse underneath me.

“For my upper level horse, Courage, we have been working hard filling in all the gaps. I have been working on his softness and rideability both in the show jumping but more recently out cross country. We have been setting up some hard accuracy/turning questions out cross country to help teach him to look through the bridle better. We had worked through a lot at the beginning of the year and this break has been great for all of the little details. Courage has never felt better, and I truly feel like this time without competitions has helped us reach a whole new level of education. I am hoping to take him advanced in the fall and Angela and I have been working hard to prepare us both. He is such a special horse and I feel so blessed to be the one riding him. I can’t wait to compete at Virginia Horse Trials for our first competition back.”

“This time without competing has been different but I think in ways it has been super beneficial because it has pushed me to work even harder. I am taking the time to do things like riding a horse each day with no stirrups and one with a whip across my hands. I am grateful for the time I’ve had and cannot wait to get back competing very soon.”

Go Eventing.


Checking in With the 2020 E25 Athletes, Part 2: Zoe Crawford & Madison Temkin

Photo of Madison Temkin by Sherry Stewart / Zoe Crawford by Lisa Madren

The 2020 USEF Eventing 25 Emerging Athlete Program is filled with talented and determined upcoming professionals. Just like the rest of us, these young adults have continued to persist throughout the suspension of competitions. In this three-part series, you will get to find out how some of these riders spent their quarantine. In part one, we catch up with Zoe Crawford and Madison Temkin. You can read part one of the series with Alyssa Phillips, Megan Sykes, and Woodge Fulton here.

Zoe Crawford

Zoe Crawford, from Reddick, Florida, started this season out strong with K.B.S Quick Strike and K.E.C Zara picking up few penalties to add on to their dressage scores at Red Hills. Zoe and K.E.C Zara have been partners since 2015.

“Of course the cancellation of the spring season was very disappointing especially when I had my sights set on my first 5* at Kentucky. The first few weeks of quarantine I gave my horses a little downtime. They had a few weeks out in the field and then went on lots of hacks and trail rides. It is sometimes nice to not have the pressures of a competition calendar to enjoy just riding and being around horses.

“The funny thing about horses is they sort of train you for times like these. That is the unexpected and unplanned. Although there are no competitions to help stay motivated, I have found that I have really enjoyed having this time with my horses. There are so many training videos on the internet of different cavaletti, dressage, and showjump exercises that I usually wouldn’t have time to try because of competitions. Quarantine has been great for trying new exercises, training techniques, and approaches to improving the overall quality of my horses’ work.

“Along with online training videos to try I love watching old competition videos from Burghley, Badminton and Kentucky. You can find plenty of years’ worth of competition videos online. I want to be at those events competing one day. Watching the likes of Andrew Nicolson, Ros Cantor, and Michael Jung gallop around those enormous tracks effortlessly motivates me to work as hard as I can so that one day I will be riding around those tracks too!”

Madison Temkin

Madison Temkin is from Sebastopol, California and has been competing on Dr. Hart and MVP Madbum. Madison and both of her horses had a great run last season, ending in the top 15 at Stable View and Fresno County Horse Park.

“During these times of uncertainty this spring I have found different ways to keep myself and my horses motivated. Luckily for me, I live on my farm. As the world around us feels a bit like it is collapsing, I have been blessed in the fact that my life truly hasn’t changed that much. At the beginning of quarantine, I backed off of my upper level horses a bit and gave them an easy few weeks.

“As we begin to (hopefully) see a light at the end of the tunnel, I have begun training harder again. I have taken this time of no shows to really work on my flat work as well as some footwork and ride-ability exercises in the jumping, that really work on educating my horses and making them think. The horses have also been doing quite a bit of water fitness work which has been a great tool to get them fitter and stronger without the stress on their legs. It’s incredible to see how much they have changed over these last few weeks because of it. One of the most motivating things for me is that because we have had all this time off, I want to come out with stronger, more competitive, and fitter horses than I had in the beginning of the year.

“One of the other things that has helped me stay very motivated and focused is that this time off of traveling has been an incredible opportunity to work with the young horses and my students. As much as I strive to see change and improvement in my own riding and my competition horses, I love to see and feel the young horses develop as it gives me a bit of a glimpse into the future with them which in itself, is very motivating for me. It’s hard when we are traveling and competing to truly give them the time they need.

“I have been able to continue taking lessons and most recently had a great couple days of lessons with Tamie Smith, which just makes me even more eager to get back to it. This was definitely not my plan for 2020, but life tends to throw curveballs and at the end of the day, what matters most is how you react to them. I hope that we can get back to showing soon and finish off the year with a few great events.”

“With so much happening around me on the farm it’s been hard to lack motivation — we have a brilliant place to train now and I’m so incredibly grateful for that — the only thing that can dampen the positivity is the possibility that the remaining fall fixtures will cancel. In that case — we will come to guns blazing in 2021! Cheers to all, and hoping to see you all (distantly) soon!”

Go Eventing.

Checking in with the 2020 E25 Athletes, Part 1: Alyssa Phillips, Megan Sykes & Woodge Fulton

The 2020 USEF Eventing 25 Emerging Athlete Program is filled with talented and determined upcoming professionals. Just like the rest of us, these young adults have continued to persist throughout the suspension of competitions. In this three-part series, you will get to find out how some of these riders spent their quarantine. In part one, we catch up with Alyssa Phillips, Megan Sykes and Woodge Fulton.

Alyssa Phillips and Oskar. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Alyssa Phillips

Alyssa Phillips is from Fort Worth, Texas. She is a five-time NAJYRC medalist and is currently competing Oscar at the four-star level. They ended in the top five at almost every event last season.

“In the beginning, everything was so up in the air and uncertain, so we decided to give my horses a short holiday. They were super happy coming back into work, and that made me happy. During show season, I feel like everything is fast-paced, so my horses and I have enjoyed this downtime. I have been able to focus on each horse’s training needs without rushing to fix the issue or weakness. I love going back to the basics; rideability is key. I’ve stayed motivated during this time because I know my horses are benefitting from it.”

Megan Sykes & Classic’s Mojah. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Megan Sykes

Megan Sykes is from Midland, Texas, and is competing with Classic’s Mojah this year. Shortly before lockdown started, she placed 4th in the CCI3*-S in Fresno. She also owns and operates Classics Eventing.

“Unfortunately, I got injured shortly after shelter-in-place started, from a fall sustained while training at home. This is a very real thing that happens in our sport, and I got very lucky. The fractures in my scapula and pelvis are healing ahead of schedule and I can’t wait to get back in the saddle!

“Before my accident, I was staying motivated by taking advantage of the down time to get to know my new horses and develop a strong foundation and connection with them. I have a new mare, thanks to my supporters Brian and Kailynn, imported from Germany who is coming along very nicely! Due to the pandemic we’ve been able to take our time with her and allow her to settle in.

“For my upper level horse, Mo, I backed off of his fitness and focused more on strength building exercises. Since my accident, my motivation is stemming from trying to heal as quickly as possible so I am ready to leg back up my horses and make a plan for the fall. Not knowing when shows would resume made it hard to stay focused, but making sure my horses and I stay as healthy as possible keeps me more determined than anything.”

Woodge Fulton and Captain Jack at Badminton. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Woodge Fulton

Woodge Fulton, from Finksburg, Maryland, has been competing with Captain Jack and Franky Four Fingers this year. Woodge and Captain Jack had a successful run last season at Badminton, Strzegom, and Luhmühlen.

“These times have been uncertain to say the least, but honestly it’s been super useful for myself and my horses. Every year I find myself feeling like I’m playing catch-up, finishing up one event and then having to try to make last minute improvements before the next. After Ocala, there was no shows in sight, and this caused a weird, ‘Twilight Zone’ feeling where I could just train in a bubble. No pressure of upcoming shows that made me feel like I needed to rush training certain things, nor a potential start back up date to look forward to. For once in a very long time, we were training just to make each ride better and that turned out to be really beneficial for both myself and the horses.

“It was also interesting not being able to take lessons. It can be the case for anyone, but especially for young riders transitioning to professionals, one of the hardest steps is taking a step away from being under the constant supervision of a coach. So often it’s easy to get reliant on our coaches and trainers, and while quality instruction is obviously important, I think it’s good every once in a while to put the full pressure on yourself and know it’s up to you to get better. I intend to use what I’ve learned during this global pandemic going forward, and apply what I’ve learned even when we are ‘back to normal.’ Until then, I hope everyone is being smart and staying safe, and look forward to enjoying our sport together one day soon!”

Go Eventing.

Remember Your Why

EN intern Taleen Hanna is a junior at Cambridge High School in Milton, Georgia, and an avid follower of the sport. In her latest column, she reflects on the “why” of eventing relative to other sports.

Taleen and Ash. Photo by GRC Photo at Stable View Horse Trials in January.

Recently I was at the barn, having a conversation with my friends about how our horses were sometimes the only thing we lived for. Yes, this sounds a little depressing, but it’s true. We agreed that they largely helped us get through the stress of school, being a teenager, and just life in general.

This piqued my interest in learning more about how horses affect us and our mental health. I can say for sure that going to the barn is vital to my sanity. I wanted to learn more about how other riders are affected by their horses.

On my Instagram, I interviewed 25 riders in total, 21 of whom said riding and their horses provided them with an outlet or a stress reliever. Four of them said that riding has impacted them in positive as well as negative ways. The competitive aspect seemed to bring about mixed feelings on whether or not it helped or harmed their riding. Ava Vojnovic said that “It showed me the competitive side of things; made me work harder. But then it also kind of brought me down because some people are really mean.” While showing can be motivating and fun, it brings the
difficulties of peer pressure and jealousy.

On the other hand, most of the riders I talked to found competing more motivating than anything. Most of us feed off of goal setting especially with our placings or levels we event. We work hard to accomplish our goals. Why? For the ribbons? To impress everyone else? Or for the horse?

I then contacted a sports psychologist to talk to. Janet Sasson Edgette completed her doctorate in clinical psychology and decided to get back into riding and competing. After doing this, she realized the importance of a rider’s mental attitude, so she began working with riders to help them with the demands of the sport. Edgette says that “rather than setting up the rider’s anxiety as this thing to be ‘beaten’ or abolished, I help the rider identify the specific ways in which her anxiety compromises her riding.”

I never thought of looking at it that way, but when you think about it, it makes sense. When you realize what makes you anxious, you have already made a huge step towards improving. This outlook on riding can definitely help to minimize or even just recognize show nerves, which is a big aspect to our riding.

Then, I wondered if other sports have the same effect on people. So, I interviewed some friends who play other sports. Katie, who dances, said that she would be more stressed if she was not dancing, since she would have more time to stress about schoolwork. Sarabeth, who plays lacrosse, said that she would be less stressed if she was not playing lacrosse because she would have more time for her academics. Caroline, who rows, feels that rowing is an outlet for her to push herself, but it is also physically and mentally draining. Lauren, a softball player, said that it affected her mental health in a negative way because when she does not do well, it takes a toll on her self esteem. She also said that “Even though the sport itself can take a mental toll on you, your teammates are always there to back you up and that is what I consider my outlet, not the sport itself.”

As equestrians, we have double the teammates. We have our horse, but we also have our fellow riders. Comparing riding to other sports, it seems like they both have the motivation factor, but the other sports lack the horse. The horse plays a crucial role in our sport.

Not just in the competing aspect, since we obviously need them for that, but they are a part of a partnership that is different than any other. The fact that we can communicate with a large animal with just our body language is incredible. We forget that sometimes. I think I can speak for most of us when I say that riding can be an outlet, but it can also be a stress inducer. Sometimes, it becomes a chore of having to ride in order to prepare for the next event. This isn’t even touching on the fact that horses are unpredictable and can injure themselves, altering our competition plans. Not being able to ride, especially due to injuries or weather, can take a huge toll on our mental health. We have our minds so set on a schedule to accomplish a certain list of goals that we are easily distraught by the bumps along the way.

After gathering this information, I realized that no matter what sport we are involved in, we push ourselves to be the best for our teammates. We do this because they are there for us; whether that be our horse or the riders we surround ourselves with. I ask you to never lose sight of why you do this.

Go Eventing.

Majestic Oaks Winner Catherine Shu Is Enjoying the Journey

EN is very excited to welcome a new intern to the team! Taleen Hanna is a junior at Cambridge High School in Milton, Georgia, and an avid follower of the sport. For her first writing assignment, we asked Taleen to interview an eventer she admired. Her chosen subject: 18-year-old Catherine Shu, who is fresh off a win in the Training Rider division at Majestic Oaks H.T. with her horse 24 Karat Fernhill. 

Training Rider winners Catherine Shu and 24 Karat Fernhill. Photo by Lisa Madren.

Eventers of all levels often look up to the professionals in the sport like Boyd Martin, Michael Jung or Lauren Kieffer. When I think of eventers I admire, they automatically come to mind. Another rider, however, also comes to mind: Catherine Shu. I’ve known Catherine since I was about 10 and I’ve always looked up to her throughout my riding journey. I had the chance to sit down and talk with her about her journey and the challenges of riding.

Her start into riding was not a surprise since she had always been obsessed with horses as a kid. For her fourth birthday, her parents signed her up for riding lessons at a local barn. Around four years later, she went on to ride with an eventing trainer and has stuck with it since then.

Catherine and her current horse, 24 Karat Fernhill, aka Copper, had a win at the Training level at Majestic Oaks earlier this month — what a great start to the season! She was looking for a horse that could give her a move-up to Prelim, but ironically bought a baby five-year-old instead. “He hadn’t done anything, but I don’t regret it at all, it’s been a really fun process,” she says of the 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Radolin x Cendry Nouvolieu).

Catherine has been working with Copper for two years now and worked up the levels with the goal of going Prelim this season. “He had the entire year off last year because he tore his check ligament and this previous weekend was our first show back,” she says. “So I’m very happy with our win!”

Catherine describes Copper as “having a ton of energy and you kind of just have to figure out how to deal with it; he’s a really smart horse, and you have to work with him instead of against him.”

This year has looked a little different than past years for Catherine, especially since her horse is down in Ocala with her trainer Alex Green. She drives down from Georgia during weekends or days off of school to ride, but misses a lot of school for shows. “The most important part is just being willing to compromise your schoolwork and talking to your teachers to figure out a schedule that works for you,” she explains. She’s learned to be responsible and to manage time with school and riding, which is definitely not the easiest task. When she’s not in Ocala riding Copper, Catherine rides her friends’ horses if they need work.

The toughest challenge she’s had to overcome in her riding career was “the competitiveness of how all the young riders are now,” she says. Catherine often compared herself to her friends, who were moving up the levels while her horse was injured. “The most important thing that I’ve learned is that you can’t compare yourself to other people; you have to focus on your own goals, and that’s the only way that you will get better.”

Catherine said it perfectly — we should not compare ourselves to others, which I think is something that we all struggle with.

When I asked Catherine what her proudest moment in her riding career was, I was expecting her to tell me about a successful move up or a certain placing she won at a show. She hit me with this: “When I sold my second horse.” At first I was surprised, but she went on to explain that seeing the horse that she taught from a young age become a packer for another rider was the most rewarding part.

Catherine truly captures what it means to not only be a considerate rider, but also a brilliant horsewoman. “Don’t let competitiveness get in the way of your training and of course enjoy the journey!”

Go Catherine. Go Eventing.