December 2017 - Parade of Champions

Every year we ask questions of a cross-section of stars from various show circuits throughout the year. From the 24 year old winner of the NorCal Senior Medal Finals, Kaitlin Perry, to the 12 year old Greater San Diego Hunter/Jumper Association year-end champ in two divisions, Noah Nelson, these young equestrians reflect a hard work ethic and love of the horse that bodes well for the future.

We asked:
1.    The 3 2017 competitive finishes of which you are most proud.
2.     Top horsemanship lessons and/or progress you’ve made this year.
3.     The most enjoyable non-competitive moment with your horse.
4.     Does your horse have any funny quirks? If so, what are they?
5.     What rider to you most admire and why?
6.     Do you have a favorite horsemanship or horse-related book, movie, video, YouTube channel, website, etc.? If so, what?
7.     What is your biggest riding goal for 2018?
8.     Are there any major changes you would like to see in our sport?

Kaitlin Perry

This 24 year old amateur trains with Kelly Van Vleck in the Sacramento area’s Rancho Murieta. Her horse is the 7 year old Figaro, aka “Figg.”

1. Winning the NorCal Senior Medal Finals; Second place in the first round of the CPHA Foundation 22/over finals; High point rider in the 22/over age group for the CPHA Foundation Equitation Class in the qualifying year.
2. Almost too many to count! Figg and I had many ups and downs this year, but I truly believe he has started coming into his own this past year. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching him figure it all out – from learning what work-offs are, how much he loves his turnouts and his obsession with dogs, it has been a blast. I have never worked with a young horse in this capacity, so I feel the biggest horsemanship lesson I’ve learned this year has been how to help him learn without getting in the way. All of our progress is a direct result of the patience, work and time Kelly, Chelsea and the entire Van Vleck team have put into us.
3. Every moment I get to spend with him! He has a huge personality and knows how special he is, so he definitely plays it up. Specifically, he loves to pose for photos – I really think he missed his calling as a model!
4. He’s super smart and will do anything for attention. The main thing he does – and has done since he was imported – is play with his tongue a lot (photo attached for reference!) He does it in the cross ties, his stall, grazing, etc. He also plays it up when he thinks people are watching. He’s a huge ham.
5. Mandy Porter. She grew up competing in Northern California, is an insanely talented rider, is kind and knowledgeable and is a phenomenal horseman. I’m also still obsessed with her retired mare, Summer.
6. Tonya Johnston’s book, Inside Your Ride: Mental Skills for Being Happy and Successful with Your Horse. I really struggled with nerves throughout my junior career and into college when I rode on Texas Christian University’s NCEA equestrian team. I started working with Tonya my freshman year, and she completely transformed my mindset when on a horse. I still struggle with nerves, but with Tonya’s help, I’ve learned to use that energy in a better way by focusing on my horse and how much I want him to do well and enjoy the moment.
7. Since aging out of the junior division, I haven’t really set competitive goals for myself. I go into every class, show and lesson with the same mindset: improve my riding to help Figg be the best possible version of himself. However, taking into account the way he’s been going and how much he has matured this year, I’d love to prepare him for next year’s WCE finals.
8. To continue the emphasis on the hardest working riders in our sport. We’ve seen it recently with blog posts calling for the return of the barn rat or articles highlighting the juniors that worked their way to Maclay finals. I’d love to continue seeing stories of the juniors, amateurs and professionals that focus on their horses, live in the moment and work harder than anyone to accomplish their goals.

Emma Crosbie

This 18 year old hunter/jumper rider trains with Emily Esau’s EE Stables in Rancho Santa Fe. She rides Quadro d’Ag, aka “Douggie/Douglas/Doug,” owned by Theresa Boucher.

1. Sixth in the Hunterdon Cup, 1st ASPCA Maclay Regionals, 9th ASPCA Maclay National Finals.
2. I’ve definitely gotten a lot more confident in trusting my instincts as the year went on.
3. There are so many that it is hard to pick just one. Walking around the Kentucky Horsepark (where the Maclay Finals were held in early November) with Douggie was probably one of the most memorable moments. The scenery was gorgeous and it was so nice to have a quiet moment during a high-pressure situation.
4. It’s funny because Doug doesn’t really care about anything when we are actually performing in the ring. It’s after we’re finished that he sometimes gets a little wild, especially when people clap. He knows that he’s amazing.
5. Mclain Ward and Michael Jung are two of my favorite riders to watch. Mclain is a stylist and he has a great feel. Even though I don’t event, I admire Michael Jung’s style because he has great instincts and he is an expert in multiple disciplines.
6. I absolutely love Practical Horseman Magazine because they include valuable information that I can apply working with horses on a daily basis.
7. I will be on Auburn University’s NCEA Equestrian team, so I will be kept pretty busy with that. When I have the opportunity to show, I would really like to start going into the jumpers.
8. I think that most people’s hearts are in the right place, but I think that more effort should be taken to emphasize the welfare of the horse. I feel that a lot of horses don’t get enough opportunity to just be horses because they are showing every weekend.


Noah Kai Nelson

Noah, a 12 year old hunter/jumper rider trains with his mother, Leslie Pinkerton Nelson, at her Sterling Silver Stables in Santa Ynez. His horses are Rodin, aka “Roy Da Boy;” Louie Louie, aka “Da Louis;” and All About Me, aka “Ri Da Guy” or “Razzles.”

1. One of my top three experiences I am most proud of this year happened at Greater San Diego Hunter Jumper Association Finals. I was tied for year-end champion in two of my divisions (11 & under Equitation & 12 & under Low Childrens Hunters) going into the finals. During finals, I ended up Champion & Reserve Champion on both of my horses, Rodin and Louie Louie, securing me the Year End Championship Low Childrens Hunter, 11 & under Equitation as well as the Green Rider 12 & under. It felt like a dream.
Another favorite experience was at the Del Mar Horsepark when I rode All About Me in the Open Hunter Derby and placed fourth. That was my highest placing finish in a derby and it was so exciting!
My third proud moment would have to be during the Orange County Horse Show Association Finals at the end of October. I was Champion on Rodin for the Childrens Hunters 13 & under and it was only the second time I had ever shown at 2’9”. I qualified the week before. I also was Champion on Rodin in the Low Childrens Hunters and the 11 & under Open Equitation. We decided to go at the last minute and I’m so happy we did! My proudest moment was Reserve Champion in the Hunter Classic. I was sitting first and second going back for the second round, however made a huge mistake on Louie and a bit of a mistake on Roy and was so happy and proud to win Reserve Champion! My horses were fantastic! I was very happy for the girl who won. She had two very nice rounds. The victory gallop was the best part.
2. I have learned over the year how important it is to spend as much time with my horses as possible. To earn thier trust and respect in order to become the very best partnership possible. It is never just about me, we are working together as a team! At the beginning of the season I moved up to the 2’6” division and it was a little frightening. At my last competition of the year, the OCHSA Finals, I competed in the 2’9” Childrens Hunters. It was such a thrill! I scored an 86 and an 85 to win the class.
3. My most enjoyable non-showing moment happened at home on All About Me. During my lesson my Mom and trainer asked me if I wanted to jump a very large roll top with a flower box on top of it. At first I said “heck no!” then I decided why not? I challenged myself and we sailed over it with ease! The jump itself was 4” and my horse over-jumped it by a good three inches.
4. Ohhh Yes! My horse Rodin has to let out a big whinny either in the beginning of my round or at the end! Past owners and riders have told me he’s always done it. It always makes me smile! I tell him he’s brave and not to worry.
5. This is easy: I have two. My mom, because she is an amazing rider and has taught me most of what I know. Also Sean Leckie, who has recently started schooling me at horse shows. He has helped me better my equitation and my all-around horsemanship. Every time I watch Sean ride I want to be more like him. He is my role model. He is a gifted rider and teacher. He is also very funny!
6.Harry & Snowman: I read the book before I saw the movie and even did my book report for school on it.
7. To win a hunter derby and to qualify for Onondarka Finals.
8. I would love to see Hunters as an Olympic sport.


Katherine “Kate” Mathews

This 14 year old dressage rider trains with Marie Medosi in Rancho Santa Fe. Her horse is Roosevelt, aka “Teddy.”

1. The first of my most treasured 2017 finishes was at The Dressage Affaire at San Juan Capistrano, the fourth time I’d ever shown on Teddy. We’d only gotten Teddy in a lease at the end of 2016, and bought him in February of 2017. That was the show where I got my first 70%! The all-around score was a 68.325%, and the class was a freestyle, but two judges gave me scores in the low 70s, and I was thrilled! Getting your first 70 is really something to remember. I recall crying with joy, too!
Although I am proud of many classes I competed in this year, the second of my favorite finishes was when I got a 77.5% in my freestyle class at the CDS San Diego Chapter Summer Show at Del Mar. I’ve never received a score higher than that one (yet!), and I am extremely proud of how we placed!
My final favorite is being placed as fifth in the nation in the FEI rankings for a while, and ending up as sixth in the nation as of early November! I’ve only been doing Junior Level for a year now, and I jumped up from First level to Third level within that time! To have made so much progress with my team in the time we’ve spent together is amazing. I am so excited for what will come in our next year together!
A bonus favorite is riding in a costume freestyle at the Spooktacular show, where we won first in a class of six with a 72.3%! I rode in a dress as Belle, and Teddy wore a “beast Sleazy” as… well, as the Beast!
2. A big lesson I’ve learned in the past year is gaining my confidence in the saddle. Last year, I had a very difficult horse who would spook with no correlation or sign as to why he did it and when. I was constantly tense and nervous in the saddle because of the spooking, and it took me a while to gain confidence in Teddy and my own riding abilities. As a joint issue of nervousness, I would pull up on the reins and avoid going forward (or even at a decent pace, as my trainer would say!), even if I was in control.
Thankfully, I have close to broken both habits and now am more aware of how I use my body and am much more confident going forward. So much so that now, whenever allowed, I gallop Teddy around the big arena after lessons. I can also walk him around on the ground with a completely loose rein without too much worry. Oh, how far we’ve come!
For my journey, I would love to thank my incredible trainer, Marie Medosi, who has spent so many hours training Teddy and I and making our freestyles. There is plenty more to list, but she has not only been an amazing advocate for me, but an amazing friend, and she is like family! I would also like to thank my Mom, who has always supported me and done everything in her power to make my dreams possible. Nothing would have happened thus far had it to been for her! I would also like to thank Christine Traurig, Guenter Seidel, Robert Dover, Charlotte Bredhal, and George Williams for giving me incredible lessons, and Steffen and Shannon Peters for allowing me the amazing opportunity of training out of their facility! The opportunities I have gotten, thanks to all of you, have gotten me as far as I have today. And we’re just getting started!
3. Gah, there are too many. There is never just a single moment! I would often catch Teddy lying down in the stall, and he trusted me enough to sit down next to him and groom him while he was down. As said above, I also love galloping around on him after lessons to loosen him up. I am nicknamed “Jockey Mathews” by my trainer because of it! My final favorite is being able to walk around, without holding my reins, and having Teddy follow me around.
4. Teddy, in the first half of the year we had him, would always lie down at some point in the day, everyday. I was always lucky when I caught him doing it and would join him! He also has a natural disregard for everything around him, as well as a tendency to passionately bob his head, so those two quirks put together was always a disaster waiting to happen. Every one of us has been hit in the face once by his nose, but no noses broken, thankfully! He really has gotten better about awareness, though.
5. There are many riders that I admire, and have been lucky enough to meet a lot of them, but my inspiration is Charlotte Dujardain. That seems like a given, saying that she has gotten the highest dressage scores in history, but her journey and bond with her horse is incredible! Valegro wasn’t always a desirable horse, and she and Carl worked hard to get him where he is today - at the top! Charlotte is now cleaning up on every horse she rides, and is an incredibly beautiful and effective rider herself. Her journey and where she is today is incredibly inspiring and uplifting.
6. I love Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty. It’s such a beautiful, moving book that completely sucks me in when I’m reading it. I completed it while reading perpetually for two days, and enjoyed every second. It’s definitely one of my favorite books in general. I also love The Black Stallion, book and movie, even if I haven’t finished the book yet. Two horse-related movies that I love are Secretariat and Seabiscuit, both legendary racehorses whose mark on horse racing will never be forgotten. Both last race scenes give me goosebumps! And no one can forget the childhood favorite: Spirit, Stallion of The Cimarron. I will always love that movie, and I think most people in my generation do too. We’re all children at heart! The Horse Whisperer is also an incredible film. So moving. And finally, Heartland, the TV show, is one of my favorite horse-related entertainment shows. And the show is still running.
7. My biggest riding goal is to make it onto the 2018 NAJYRC Region 7 Junior Team. I was the alternate this past year, and I hope to be one of the main riders next year. Because I’m ambitious, I really hope to win some golds, and will work as hard as I have to in order to reach my goals.
8. I would love to see younger generations (18 and under, like me) join dressage, because the youngest are truly the future of the sport. If we want this sport to survive, we’ll want a lot of younger people to get involved. The more kids we get in the sport, the bigger dressage will grow. I also know that there are many girls and boys my age, younger and older, who truly do love horses, but never have the opportunity or the support to pursue riding. I believe that there should me more opportunities made in order to help this happen, whether it be scholarships, a free lesson, etc. Even a mentoring program, where riders can sign up to be paired with a professional trainer. I know this is also something that should include other disciplines, even if dressage is my main focus. Even a program to help that someone pursue their dreams in riding. I truly do hope that more kids and teens will become inspired by dressage and want to be a part of, because it is truly an amazing sport, and its beauty and difficulty should be shared. There is so much hard work and grace that goes into this sport, and that makes it all the more beautiful.