May 2016 - The Evolution of an Olympic Dream

Eventer’s road to Rio began in Central California and is filled with family and friends.

by Lauren Billys

The spark of commitment was probably started while attending the majority of my college classes in riding clothes. stomping into class in breeches and boots, and packing my truck with biochemistry study notes and cross-country schooling gear.

Where and when the dream began.

Where and when the dream began.

Working towards my degree while learning to compete my horses at the FEI level, ending the day by going home to my sorority house, peeling my boots off and leaving them in front of my room at my sorority house – I think that may have been when I knew I couldn’t shake it. (Lauren graduated Cal State Fresno in 2013 with a double major in chemistry and enology – winemaking.)

My passion for horses and my perseverance to pursue this dream was too stubborn to get kicked to the curb.  It was during this time in my life when moments like driving home from a horse show knowing I wouldn’t be home until midnight and having a chemistry test the next day that I truly thought, “I could do this horse thing for the rest of my life.”

But I know this dream has been influenced from my experiences that led up to that point. Growing up riding in California’s Central Valley, in the heart of a farming community, I met my best friends while learning about the sport of eventing.

My love for horses has always been deeply tied to the people I love to spend life with.  In an environment where horses came before boys and horses helped us grow into the women we were intended to be, we were riding in tennis shoes and boxer shorts, learning to barrel race, and swimming our horses in a local river. I grew to love and respect all that horses can give. They can give you dreams, peace and unbreakable friendship.

Sister, Alyssa and I.

When I look back now at this history, I know at any moment in time I would never have guessed how I could be where I am now: preparing to attend the 2016 Olympic Games, but I can see how each piece has shaped me for this opportunity.


Taking The Dream Full Time

In January of 2015, I made the push to start pursuing this dream full time. I wanted to earn one of three individual spots given to the western hemisphere to represent Puerto Rico at the 2016 Olympic Games in the sport of three-day eventing.

I moved away from my business in Fresno to be closer to my coaches, Bea and Derek DiGrazia, in Carmel Valley and I sold two of my top horses. So Purdy and I packed up our things to start on an unknown journey to pursue the biggest goal I could think of.

Castle Larchfield Purdy wants in on the party after securing an Olympic opportunity at Twin Rivers in March.

The year of 2015 is one I will never forget and my best one yet.  My two horses and I competed in 10 FEI events (three CIC**, two CCI**, three CIC***, and two CCI***) all with qualifying results, no cross-country penalties and eight top 10 finishes. Within the year, my horses and I also got the opportunity to compete at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Jersey Fresh International Horse Trials, Rebecca Farms International Horse Trials, and

Galway Downs International Horse Trials, to name a few.  To say the least, it was a year packed full of new experiences.

One moment of the year I will never forget was at the Woodside International Horse Trials in October. At this point, I was really uncertain that my Olympic dream would become a reality. Purdy and I were competing in the CIC*** class and I knew in order to really get a firm position to try and go to the Olympics that I would need to finish top three at the event. The weekend was a culmination of many firsts: Purdy’s best dressage score at the level to win the dressage, his first double clean show jumping round with me at the three star level, and a first place finish.

One Of Our Own

At the awards ceremony that evening, Robert Kellerhouse (the event’s organizer) got up to introduce the winners of the classes and started by saying, “Today one of our own [Californian] riders has made a huge international push to make a mark in her efforts to attend the Olympic Games.  Congratulations Lauren Billys!”

Dyhane Hawkins and I. A long time supporter and behind the scenes lady!

With my mom, Betsy.

In that moment surrounded by my West Coast eventing family, everyone stood to their feet and applauded. I never have felt more honored or humbled as many of the people surrounding me were family, peers and people I have aspired to be more like in my riding career. Moments like this remind me of the number of people who have helped me get to this place, their encouragement and investment in my future has brought me here.

At the end of the year, I could honestly look back and know that I had no regrets in giving this journey everything I have. The year of 2015 and the Purdy Syndicate gave me the opportunities that my “12 year-old self” could only have dreamed of.

In March 2016 at the Twin Rivers CIC***, a win would help seal my fate and give me a spot to compete at the Olympics. Purdy showed up to play and won the event outright.

My family and friends surrounded my stall at the conclusion of the event to celebrate and in the morning when the news was final, my dad, mom, sister, and I hugged with wet tears of relief and disbelief that this one crazy dream just turned into a reality.

Now I can bubble wrap my horse, paying attention to every detail knowing that he and I are the only pair in North America guaranteed a spot to the Games and the only woman for South America who will go this year!

These moments are only as sweet as they are because of the people who I can share them with. I can’t wait to take you all on this journey with me and my team as we travel to the south side of the planet to compete in the biggest event of the year.

Go Purdy and Puerto Rico!


Join The Team

A May 14 fundraiser in Clovis is one of many ways to support Lauren and Purdy’s Rio run. Set for 5 pm at Silver Rose Ranch, the event will feature the pair demonstrating dressage and jumping, with a chance to meet horse and rider up close and personal.A ringside dinner and silent auction are part of the evening. For more information on the event or on donating to Lauren’s quest, visit www.laurenbillys.com. (Silver Rose Ranch is located at 11233 N. Newmark Ave., Clovis.)