Lemme tell you a little story about something that happened recently.
First, the cast of characters: a 12yo girl at my barn, and her pony. Devyn is a total kickass barn rat (she’s my go-to rider for Francis and her equitation is out of this world), and she’s had Sadie Pony for 6 years. They qualified and competed at Pony Finals this year where they finished top 20 in their division and top 10 over fences. So clearly both Kiddo and Pony are really talented.
But Sadie is also starting to get a little older, so Devyn and her family decided to step down her workload after Finals. They’re looking for someone to lease her for the lower levels so that she can keep sharing the joy with another kid, without stressing her body by continuing to compete at full division height. So while she’s been in work since Finals, it’s been fairly light and she hasn’t jumped at that height in several months.
Fast forward to last weekend: Devyn got a notification that she and Sadie Pony had unexpectedly qualified for the WIHS Pony Eq, to be held 3 days from that notification. She was elated to hear this, but also shocked to hear so last minute.
So she and her mom- both a bit overwhelmed- immediately reached out to Trainer to talk about pros and cons. After going back and forth for a little while, Trainer stepped back and said: “I trust your judgement as a horsewoman. What do you think you should do?”
Without hesitation, Devyn said that she felt it would be unfair to ask her pony to go compete at that level without giving her the fitness and stamina needed to perform. She said it wasn’t worth risking her health.
So to recap: this 12 year old got a chance to compete at one of the biggest shows of the year, and turned it down because she put her pony’s health first.
I certainly don’t think I had that level of maturity at that age.
In the face of so much controversy in different disciplines about the next generation of horsemen and horsewomen, I am so incredibly proud to ride with such an excellent young horsewoman. One who works her butt off and seeks out opportunities to learn, and always loves her horse more than she loves competing. I’m proud of her family, for nurturing that love of learning and supporting her decisions. And I’m proud of my trainer for giving her students the education to make tough calls, then trusting her students to make healthy choices.
Next time I’m faced with a difficult decision, I hope that I can see as clearly as Devyn did.