By Lyssette Williams
Portraits by Kristie Nichols
Young eventer Avery Daigle’s star is on the rise and it’s hard for her not to get excited talking about her goals and dreams. At 17 years old, she knows exactly what she wants: to compete in the upcoming 2* Young Rider team challenge and the North American Youth Team Challenge Finals. She is also excited that she will be riding on the eventing team for Texas A&M in the fall, and like most teens, Avery will be chronicling her horse journey on Instagram under the username eventing.my.mares.
“I’m a social butterfly – so Instagram is my favorite thing,” Avery said. “It’s fun to grow the account, but I really love interacting with people and seeing what they and their horses are up to. I have made so many friends through Instagram, including my very best friend!”
While she loves to share her horse show exploits and podium dreams with her 5,500-plus followers, it’s more than just picture perfection scrolling through her feed, but also a deeply felt love and gratitude for the horses and people in her life supporting her on her journey.
“The sky’s the limit for Avery,” said Rebecca Brown, Avery’s trainer. “Avery has the potential to go as far as she wants in the sport of eventing. And she has a very supportive family and team around her.”
Get the Girl a Pony!
Growing up in Austin, Texas, Avery wasn’t born into a horse-showing family when she came into the world in 2003. She nonetheless found herself drawn to them.
“I first sat on a horse at the age of 3,” Avery said. “My grandparents have a ranch with horses in Louisiana and we’d visit them often. I was hooked from that moment.”
Avery’s deep love for animals was encouraged by her parents’ work as veterinarians. Her mother, Janice, specializes in veterinary dermatology and her father, Shane, works with everything from small animals to show hunters in Wellington and racehorses in Louisiana.
Both of Avery’s parents could see the telltale signs that they had a horse-crazy girl on their hands. “My parents knew I was absolutely obsessed because I used to try and ride our dogs,” Avery said. “They turned to each other and said, ‘We’ve got to get her a pony!’”
Avery’s first riding lessons were from a client of Avery’s dad, Vanessa Connor, who had an appropriate first lease pony. Just a few years later in 2010, the Daigle family purchased a palomino Pony of the Americas mare named Sprinkle of Pixie Dust, known as Pixie.
“Pixie was an incredibly sassy pony,” Avery said. “She was always finding a way to dump me off. She really taught me how to hang on and ride!”
Aboard Pixie, Avery attended her first schooling horse trials and dressage shows in Texas. With each successive lesson and show, Avery’s love for eventing grew.
“I love putting all three phases together into a cohesive performance,” Avery said, “though I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie and absolutely love the thrill of cross-country!”
In 2015 she attended her first USEA-approved show, the Texas Rose Horse Park horse trials, and competed at Beginner Novice.
“I was 10 years old and extremely nervous,” Avery said. “I kept looking down in the show jumping warmup and not paying attention to where I was going. Pixie was being a good girl and ignoring me, and kept jumping whatever I pointed her at. My trainer yelled at me to look up, and when I finally did, I fell off!”
Unfazed by knocking one of her teeth out, Avery dusted herself off, handed her tooth to her trainer, climbed back on Pixie, and went in the ring for her show jumping round. While showing incredible grit, the pair was eliminated from competition during show jumping. Avery wouldn’t let that keep her down and spent the next year diligently working on her skills in the saddle before making her USEA comeback the following year at the Pine Horse Trials where she and Pixie placed third.
Growing Up and Moving Up
After several years of competing aboard Pixie at Beginner Novice, Avery was ready for a new challenge. She set her sights on moving up with the goal of competing at the Preliminary Level. In 2018, Avery’s family bought FR’s Check It Out Now, aka Billy, who had run Training and Preliminary with his previous rider.
“Billy was a puppy dog, in-your-pocket type of horse,” Avery said. “He had a bit of sass, which kept things interesting. He taught me so much.”
With Billy’s help, Avery moved up from Beginner Novice to Novice in 2019 and even showed in the jumpers at the Pin Oak Horse Show in Katy, Texas. It became apparent, though, that Billy’s chronically loose stifles would keep him from being Avery’s upper-level mount. The search was on for a horse who could go the distance.
Her next partner ended up not being a horse at all, but another pony: Fernhill Tick The Box, or Tick Tock. “Tick Tock loved cross-country and was super brave and game for anything,” Avery said. “He loved his job and would try his heart out at every event!”
Avery and Tick Tock had a lot of success as a team, even placing second at Pine Hill Fall Horse Trial, their first event together. With the end of high school looming before her, Avery knew she needed to make a change to kick her goals into high gear. After spending 13 years with her first trainer, Vanessa, Avery began working with four-star rider Rebecca Brown of RB Riding in Dallas, Texas, in early 2020.
“I was sad to leave, but it was time,” Avery said. “Vanessa was a great trainer, and I loved working with her.”
Under Rebecca’s tutelage, Avery and Tick Tock placed first and second at Novice several times in Florida and Texas. While Tick Tock was brave and he and Avery worked well together, he was still too green to be a reliable upper-level mount for Avery.
Making Dreams a Reality
With Rebecca’s help, they found Fernhill Fierce, or Rizzo — a horse that will hopefully take Avery to Junior and Young Rider Championships for eventing.
“She’s a character!” Avery said. “It has been amazing to work with her. She has no bolt or buck in her, and is an extremely honest and forgiving teacher.”
To get a feel for each other, Avery and Rizzo competed at Novice twice and won both their competitions before moving up to Training over the summer of 2020. The pair also spent a fair amount of time in the dressage court at USDF shows, qualifying for Region 9 Championships where they came in first in the USEF Training Level Test 3 Junior/Young Rider class. At her second start at Preliminary, Avery and Rizzo earned second place.
“Rizzo and Avery are an amazing team,” Rebecca said. “Avery is wonderful to coach and be around; she has a great work ethic for eventing and is very dedicated to her horse. She’s a talented kid and put in a lot of work before debuting at Preliminary with Rizzo, who has accepted Avery as her person.”
While Avery’s dreams finally feel within reach, managing her time has been the biggest hurdle to overcome. “I’m in school full time in Austin,” Avery said, “but my horse and trainer are both three hours north of me in Dallas. I spend a lot of time on the road.”
The push to move school online during the pandemic created flexibility and mobility in Avery’s schedule. It freed her up to spend two weeks of every month training in Dallas and allowed her to train in Florida for seven weeks before moving up to Preliminary.
“My time in Florida was amazing,” Avery said. “It’s so much fun having these amazing riders and trainers all wintering in the same place, with access to horse shows and clinics every week. Not to mention having a cross-country field in our backyard is absolutely wonderful!”
Being able to juggle all her interests gives Avery hope that she will manage to fit in riding and her studies as she starts college. Following in her parents’ footsteps, she’ll be studying veterinary medicine at Texas A&M this fall.
“I love Texas,” Avery said. “And I’m happy that I can chase my dreams here while still being close to family and friends.”
Follow Avery on Instagram @eventing.my.mares
Photos by Kristie Nichols, moonfyrephotography.com, unless noted otherwise