With the recent naming of the 2016 Eventing 25/18 Training Lists, there are a lot of talented young riders who are ready to take the eventing world by storm. This winter, we’ll be spotlighting the E25 and E18 riders as they prepare for their training sessions with Leslie Law.
“So, what are you going to do after you graduate?”
It’s the inevitable question that every college senior dreads hearing, but it doesn’t seem to bother 22-year-old Avery Klunick much. “I don’t exactly have a five year plan right now,” she shrugged. “But I’m really content doing what I’m doing. I have an awesome horse and I’m excited to see what we can do together, whether it lasts for a year or for ten.”
The end of the 2014 season didn’t go quite as planned for Avery and In It to Win It. After her infamous save at the AECs, an unfortunate fall at the Fair Hill International CCI3* brought their season to an abrupt end and Avery decided to put her hopes of being a Rolex Kentucky competitor on hold.
Instead, she focused on flatwork and school work in the winter and came out strong with second place finishes at the Chattahoochee Hills CIC3* in May and the Copper Meadows CIC3* in June on “Winston.”
In August, the pair tackled the inaugural CCI3* at Rebecca Farm ending with a sixth place finish. Avery also received a Rebecca Broussard Travel Grant which enabled her to bring her younger horse, Ringwood Army, along too.
Though she’s selling him for financial reasons, Avery has enjoyed bringing “Army” up the levels. “Army is really straightforward on the flat and in stadium jumping — which is the opposite of Winston — so it’s given me a lot of confidence as a rider.”
Avery is very grateful for the opportunity to have brought both her horses out to Montana to compete. “The Event at Rebecca Farm is definitely my favorite event in the world that I’ve been to so far,” she said.
Originally, Avery had planned to finish out her and Winston’s season with another try at Fair Hill, but it turned out not to be in the cards. “I hit a bit of a breaking point,” Avery recalled. “There was no way I could go to Fair Hill and do well in school so we scratched sort of at the last minute. It was pretty disappointing, but all in all I think I would rather have graduated than stay in school another semester!”
As a newly minted college graduate, Avery can finally breathe a sign of relief. The Midland, Texas native has bounced back and forth from the Lone Star State to the Golden State relentlessly since 2013 between training with Bea and Derek di Grazia in Carmel Valley, California; working on her degree in finance from Texas Christian University; and competing Winston and Army primarily across Areas V, VI, VII.
Now she no longer has to worry about balancing riding competitions with school courses. “It feels amazing and I’m thrilled,” Avery said about being done with school.
But just because she’s completed her degree doesn’t mean that it’s time to sit still; Avery hit the road again on New Year’s Day, this time headed east to begin working for Boyd Martin.
“I knew it was time for me to come to the East coast,” said Avery. “I’ve been out west multiple times now and the events out there are awesome, but they’re fewer and farther between. I figure it’s time to expose myself to new events, new people, and new ideas.”
Less than week after moving in at Windurra USA’s winter home at Stable View farm in Aiken, South Carolina, she hit the road again for Ocala, Florida to take part in the Eventing 25 Developing Rider Training Session.
Avery has been named to the Eventing 25 Developing Rider list twice before in 2013 and 2014. Having missed 2015, this is her first time training with coach Leslie Law. “I’m really excited for one-on-one attention and to get the new season going,” she said. “I’m looking forward to learning some new exercises and getting critiqued with a fresh set up eyes.”
She credits her first year in the Developing Riders program with opening the door for much of her future success. “It’s cool how just that program made a lot of things happen for me,” Avery said. “It was a game changer. It opened my mind to a lot of things I’ve never heard of or thought of.”
It also gave Avery the opportunity to meet new people. “No one knew me the first year,” she said. “I was the random girl from Texas and I was just walking up to people and introducing myself.”
It was during that training session that Avery introduced herself to Mackenna Shea. “We’re best friends now, but she told me later that she thought I was really weird!” Avery laughed. Mackenna, in turn, has introduced Avery to Tamie Smith and also encouraged her to call up Boyd to ask for a job. “Its amazing what a small world eventing is!”
Avery played the role of groom during Mackenna’s four-star debut at Rolex Kentucky last spring. “It was a really cool experience,” she said. “I walked the course with her and got to be behind the scenes. I’m really glad I got to do that and be with her for her first four-star.”
As for 2016, Avery is looking forward to exploring some more of the east coast events; The Carolina International and The Fork are on her tentative schedule. As far as Rolex goes, Avery has qualified again, but she’s going to roll with the punches before deciding whether to enter. “I would love it if it worked out, but I’m going to wait and see what I have this spring,” Avery said. “I would love to go, but I won’t die if I can’t.”
For now, Avery is happy and grateful to be where she is. “I’ve never really been able to focus on just my riding before,” she said. “So I’m excited to be riding professionally for a little while and forge my path and see what doors open.”