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.
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.