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.
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 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 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!”