Making the Hard Decisions

Maya Simmons and Archie Rocks. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

With everything we love about eventing, it also comes with hard decisions. Recently, I’ve made the tough decision to put my unicorn on the market, Archie Rocks. And believe me when I say he’s not just my unicorn. He could be anyone’s unicorn; he’s only 10 years old and an iron horse. I’ve had multiple horses at the Advanced level and he’s not even in the same category.

I’d love to take credit and I believe we had a really special bond, but Archie was amazing since the first run at Beginner Novice when he was 7 years old, and from there it was icing on the cake. Every time I rode him he learned and progressed. Every time I moved up he made me feel like I made the right decision, even if it seemed too quick. Archie Rocks just really rocks.

I have been a professional event rider since I was 21, doing every job I could to make it to the next level. At 37, I was finally blessed with the horse that had all the parts, but at a time when I didn’t have a farm or, to be honest, a business, plus with 2-year-old twins and a very non-horsey husband.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not one to shy from tough situations. I put my head down and slowly blew through a lot of accounts labeled “retirement” and “safe investments,” but it didn’t seem like it was going to carry Archie into his golden years, and I had big goals and dreams.

So doing what I do worst — asking for help — I presented a syndicate packet in 2015. “For cents on the dollar, please be part of this amazing journey” … insert crickets. Everyone but one said no. Now, I’ve had to fundraise my entire career; I’m fairly used to people saying no. So a year later after Archie won a few big things, including finishing sixth at Fair Hill CCI2* as the top Thoroughbred, I reached out again. But again, I was not successful in syndicating Archie.

Maya and Archie Rocks at Fair Hill. Photo by Allie Conrad Photography.

Many amazing things did come out of the fundraising. A lovely woman gave me a horse her family had sitting on their Thoroughbred farm, and I was able to sell the horse and use the funds to get Archie and myself to Rebecca Farm in 2017. A friend’s mother who I grew up with in Wyoming sent me a check out of the blue telling me how happy she was that I was following my dreams. Another wonderful friend from the past gave me the sweetest pick of her German Shorthair Pointer litter for a good luck charm.

People that weren’t able to give gave to me in so many wonderful ways. I cannot even begin to tell you how many people Archie brought into my life that I can count as true friends. I even have my amazing natural horsemanship guru now teaching me a better way to restart the Thoroughbreds in their eventing training. I also was the recipient of some generous donations through the American Horse Trials Foundation.

But at the end, I was unable to do the things that Archie and I needed to compete at Advanced level, let alone be successful. Because I value my family and my horse above all else, I made the tough decision to sell my unicorn.

Archie is a top class horse, and he doesn’t deserve to be ridden halfway or without stirrups! He deserves to be in the victory gallop of some big competitions. So I sent him to my friend Buck Davidson to be sold. Buck has loved the horse since he saw him for the first time after Archie had run a few Preliminaries about one year into Archie’s career.

Maya Simmons (stirrup-less!) and Archie Rocks. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

So in a perfect world, Buck would be able to raise the money to keep Archie. But the liability angel/devil on my shoulder is a bit nervous.

The chance to sell Archie means the next time I have a top horse, I will have a shot at being at the Kentucky Horse Park on one fine spring day. Maybe for once I can realize my dreams that I’ve been working towards and committed to my entire life. So hopefully this story doesn’t end here. Hopefully, sacrifice is met with reward. And because I have now felt what a unicorn feels like, maybe it will help me make my next one feel like a unicorn too.

This decision hasn’t come easily, and I know others have had to make these kinds of tough choices. I can spot diamonds in the rough, and I can train them and bring them up the levels, but I am just unable to play the game financially at the top. I haven’t been to see Archie since he has been with Buck because I don’t know if I can look him in the eye and tell him I gave up on us. But what I will say is that I will be back.

Finding Archie renewed my love of American Thoroughbreds. I started my business, Crown Sport Horses, to keep finding these amazing athletes their proper homes. In the meantime, I have a bunch of wonderful prospects to shine up and see what happens.