Overcoming the Odds to Shine at the 2018 AEC

Briana Delacruz is a 14-year-old Area V eventer from San Antonio, Texas, who contested the 2018 American Eventing Championships earlier this month. Riding Alleged Waki, a 15-year-old OTTB she trained to event herself, the pair had a solid finish in the highly competitive Jr. Novice division, adding just one rail to their dressage score to complete the event in 11th place. Briana and “Ruger” worked hard on their journey to the AEC, as he came off the track with an uncertain future bad attitude that Briana managed to turn around with patience, love and the help of Kendall Bradley and Avery Klunick.

Great to see all the effort and belief in a special horse pay off! Briana kindly shared with EN the story of their AEC experience. “This young lady has brought her boy up from the bottom and we see many more amazing years in their further. Looking forward to see what they can accomplish together, and thankful everyday that someone gave these two a chance by saving this amazing boy from certain death,” her mom Shanna says.

Briana Delacruz and Ruger. Photo courtesy of Briana Delacruz.

Countless hours of training, competitions and strict qualifications lead up to the competition this year in Parker, Colorado. With riders from all over the U.S. converging on one location you can’t help but be a little overwhelmed, but it’s so exciting. Just knowing that myself and my plain brown wrapper, once-discarded OTTB would be among those listed as competitors was worth every minute of getting there. It was a long road with a lot of struggles over the years to bring Ruger along, but I knew he could do it. I always did, and just as I trusted him, he trusted me and I knew that we would give it our all.

When we tacked up that first day in Colorado and I put my foot in the stirrups I knew he was ready. The competition was stiff but all I wanted deep down was to be safe and have a great ride. My goal was getting here. Finishing in the ribbons was just a bonus.

Judging by this photo he was pretty proud of himself, too. Photo courtesy of Briana Delacruz.

With the news that storms were coming, myself and other competitors checked in on our horses, tucked them in safely in their stalls and hunkered down. At times we weren’t sure what was going to happen but they were great about keeping us as updated as they could. The storms over Parker and the mountains were beautiful regardless of what they brought. Times were changed and classes were postponed but everyone from the coordinators to the vendors, from the riders to their horses all worked together to make this happen and it was so worth it. It made my family and I so happy to help and see others pitch in to grab hay out of the rain, help move trailers, and get everyone all squared away. The community really came together and everyone got their rides.

When my classes began I was as ready as I going to get. My longtime friend and instructor was there to help me from California and my trainers here at home, friends and family were rooting me on from Texas. Dressage went well, he was a beast on cross country and he had a beautiful stadium round. I couldn’t have asked more from my guy. After traveling 17 hours one way he did everything I asked and I adore him for it. We finished in the ribbons and I was very proud of all we had accomplished.

Looking forward to doing it all again, although I may secretly hope for no rain next time around!