The USEA is made up of over 12,000 members, each with their own special horses and experiences. Now on Course highlights the many unique stories of our membership. Do you and your horse have a tale to tell? Do you know someone who deserves recognition? Submit your story to Jessica Duffy.
I was the typical horse crazy young girl and started riding when I was about 11 years old. My first instructor was Sharon Anthony, who received the Governor's Cup Appreciation Award at the 2016 USEA Annual Meeting and Convention. I was present at the awards ceremony and was thrilled to see her receive the award. I joined the Middle Tennessee Pony Club and competed occasionally through my teenage years until I went to college. When I started riding again as an adult I lived in Arkansas and there were no eventing trainers in the area, so I spent a few years doing hunters. But my heart was in eventing and I always knew that I would return to the sport I love.
My horse's show name is La Cosa Nostra. His barn name is “Kozi”. His barn name fits his personality. I like to call him my "Wal-Mart greeter." He has to say hello to everyone he meets, human or horse. He is 10 years old and I purchased him as very young four-year-old. He lived in a woman's backyard in Aiken and was used as a trail horse. I would not trade him for the world now, but we had some very rocky moments early on. He was naughty and very stubborn. He broke my collarbone a few months after I bought him and we were eliminated more than a few times on cross-country. But I have some wonderful trainers that have helped me teach him and work through various issues. Through all the trials and tribulations, Kozi and I have become a team. There have been so many times when I felt that he tried his heart out for me. He is my best buddy and I'll take care of him forever.
When I planned my show schedule for 2016, the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) was a primary goal for me. It was actually the culmination of a ten-year journey to return to the AEC, having competed in the AEC at Southern Pines in 2006. I have to commend the USEA for bringing in top-notch sponsors and really expanding the whole AEC experience. The venue at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) is just amazing and the AEC experience is something I recommend for every amateur. The chance to compete against the best at my level was incredible. I am a lifelong amateur and I fully accept my limitations - I will never ride at a Rolex or represent the US Team. I have a newfound admiration and respect for the professionals who enter the show jumping arena on the last day of a big competition with everything on the line. The pressure has to be enormous! I was very proud of Kozi, I was concerned about how he would handle the environment, particularly the large stadium, but he was completely unfazed. He took it all in stride and we finished as Reserve Champion in the Master Training Amateur division. Cantering around that stadium with a sash around Kozi's neck in a victory gallop was one of the proudest moments in my life. Literally it was a dream come true. That was my first time to every be part of a victory gallop. Little did I know I would have another chance a few weeks later at the Training Three-Day at Waredaca.
Nan and Kozi competing in the Training Three-Day at Waredaca in 2016. GRC Photo.
The Training Three-Day was my second goal of 2016. That was a uniquely amazing experience. It was my first time conditioning for a long-format so I felt completely out of my element. I was so focused on preparing for the AEC that I was concerned maybe I waited too late to start preparing for the roads and tracks as well as steeplechase. I came up with a specific training schedule and stayed focused on my plan. It was a wonderful experience. Other than the learning experience of conditioning, my biggest takeaway was the camaraderie of all the competitors. We supported each other and we cheered for each other. I had several friends beforehand tell me that their horses came away more confident and they were right. Kozi started the 2017 season more confident and forward on cross-country because of our experience in the Training Three-Day.
My tattoo was something I came up with before last season as a way to motivate myself to stay focused on my goal. I've worked very hard for many years to achieve my goals and was finally able to realize a lifelong dream. Without a doubt 2016 is a year I will never forget, for the challenges I faced and the obstacles I overcame. I may never get the chance to have a year like that again and I will savor it for a lifetime.
Nan's tattoo to comemorate the achievement of her lifelong dreams to compete at the AEC and in a long-format event. Photo courtesy of Nan Schumaker.
When it was time to switch my focus to 2017, I knew that Kozi and I were ready to move up to the Preliminary level. However, we were in completely unchartered waters. Kozi was my first Training level horse and now my first Preliminary level horse. Knowing that the move up from Training to Preliminary is the most challenging, I wanted it to be a positive experience for both of us. I had not planned on taking him to the The Fork, however when I saw that they were offering the new Modified division, it was a natural fit. That actually made a big difference for me. I felt considerably more confident after our cross-country round. I felt like the course was adequately challenging. The tables were a little more imposing and the combinations definitely tested us. It sure wasn't a Training course, but not as tough as the two Preliminary courses I have done since then. Without a doubt, making the trip down from Maryland and competing in the Modified division was the best decision I made this year.
Unfortunately, I have significant knee problems that require surgery so my 2017 season has been cut short. But I am already setting my goals for 2018, the primary goal being completing a one-star. I'll have to find a good place to have that added to my tattoo!