Southern Pines, North Carolina
7th grade Pony Club member, foxhunter and eventer
How did you get started riding?
Four years ago, my grandma put me and my cousin, Grace, into summer horse camp in Maryland. Shortly after camp, I started taking lessons at a hunter barn in Orlando, Florida. My mom and dad weren’t into horses at all before I got involved but they are the best horse parents. Mom is awesome and Dad is always driving the trailer for me.
What has your horse life been like?
I was at a hunter barn in Florida, riding a pony named Huckleberry. When we moved to Southern Pines, I started foxhunting with the Moore County Hounds, began eventing, and then bought my own horse to do both. I enjoy eventing, hunter trials, and hunter paces. I currently have my junior colors with Moore County Hounds, one of the oldest hunts in America
What do you like about foxhunting?
I like the thrill of it. Every day is different, unlike many other disciplines where you’re practicing the same thing every day. The hunt hunts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, but with school I can only go on Saturdays. The season is September to March. The hunt also participates in hunter trials, hound shows, performance trials and hunter paces. Moore County Hounds are very welcoming to juniors, and I enjoy being one of the youngest members with colors.
Why do you think it’s important to conserve equestrian and wildlife land?
We need to keep the tradition of foxhunting going as well as having land for equestrians to enjoy riding on. It’s also important to provide safe areas for wildlife away from all the land development happening. The Walthour-Moss Foundation has helped keep several thousand acres of land protected in Southern Pines. Lots of different landowners help support the Foundation and maintain the land. Each year the landowners and the hunt work to clear the trails. We only have so many untouched areas of land to enjoy and when they’re gone, they’re gone, so it’s important for equestrians to preserve and share the beautiful area we have here.
Are you still involved in Pony Club?
I’m a D3 with Pony Club; I joined three years ago. I really enjoy it. It’s helped me with my horse. To get my D3, I’ve had to do a lot of horsemanship and groundwork: wrapping, grooming, lunging my horse, jumping ditches, practicing emergency dismount. My Pony Club, Sandhills Pony Club, provides a great number of opportunities to grow my horsemanship and learn from clinicians of all disciplines. It’s fun to be around the other kids, too.
How did you get started eventing?
In the off season, many foxhunters event so I started eventing Battalion, an amazing horse I was leasing from Cameron Sadler. I was lucky to event at Beginner Novice with him. With my new horse, George, and with the help of my trainer, Melanie Harper, we have been doing the Green as Grass division.
Can you tell us more about your new horse?
His name is George’s Heartbeat. He’s a 4-year-old OTTB. He had raced on the flat and was seventh out of 11 in his race. He’s currently working on learning to jump. He’s a rock star when we go out on the trails; he likes to be a leader and likes cross-country. For his age, he’s very calm, like an old soul. I’m working toward doing upper-level eventing on him, really working on his dressage. I’m hoping to foxhunt him this season.
Who has been influential in your life as an equestrian?
Shelly Talk introduced me to foxhunting and taught me barn manners. Cameron Saddler is a Master with the Moore County Hounds and helped me with hunting and introduced me to eventing. Her husband, Lincoln, is the huntsman and looks after all the hounds. It’s very inspiring to see a woman in that position as a Master. She loves having younger members of the hunt. Melanie Harper is my current trainer who found George and who is helping us grow together and move through the eventing levels. She’s always supporting George and me. Molly Hopton always helps me with foxhunting. She gives me advice, loans me her vintage hunting coats and answers all my questions about horses and foxhunting. Nicole Zardus also helps me make sure George is happy, healthy and well behaved where he’s boarded. I’ve had the opportunity to lesson with Bobby Costello and he is just fantastic and has an inspiring career.
How do you juggle school, horses, and regular life?
It’s hard to juggle everything. I get out of school at 3:15 p.m. In the fall, I have volleyball and in the spring, I have soccer after school. My barn isn’t too far from school, so that makes it a little easier. Luckily, I know my game schedule early on and can juggle my horse activities around that. I also make sure I spend time with my friends who don’t ride and enjoy everyday activities with them.
What are your goals for the future?
My goals for the future are to continue to grow with George and move up the eventing levels with him. I’d also like to start foxhunting him. With volleyball and soccer, I’d like to keep playing for The Oneal School and having fun with my teammates. I want to keep riding through college and hopefully attend Penn State.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’m grateful for George and all the ups and downs of owning a baby horse. I would encourage people to always push through the downs, because horse ownership and riding is not always easy but, in the end, it’s worth it to have such a beautiful animal in your life helping you reach your dreams.
Lastly, I am thankful for my parents, the equestrian community in Southern Pines, my MP Sporthorses team and Moore County Hounds, including our awesome juniors group for helping me along my equestrian journey.
Photos by Pam Jensen, www.pamjensenphotography.com