I am a highly competitive person by nature, so the words were barely out of my friend and colleague Sarah Andrew's mouth when I jumped at the chance to ride in the third annual Real Rider Cup. A full day off work so I could jump on an OTTB, gallop around a show jumping course and raise money for two fantastic causes? Count me in! Coming from a hunter/jumper background and spending most of my junior career away at horse shows, I already felt like I had an edge—that edge turned into a little bit of cockiness when I started thinking back to my exercise riding days and how I could combine both of those riding skills for the win.
Then reality set in.
The Teams at the Real Rider Cup are divided into Farm/Racing Managers (Sergio DeSousa better not send his incredibly talented daughter Isabela to show in his place!), Freestyle (has Clovis Crane's video gone viral yet?), Jockeys (now I'm just wanting to crawl under a hedge—I have to compete against Robbie Walsh and Demonstrative? This is rigged.) Race Track Kids (these kids could ride laps around me before they even knew how to walk) and the team I will help represent, Racing Media. Thank goodness for Penelope Miller, who finished second overall last year!
Being the competitive soul that I am, I usually agree to a challenge first and then think of the details and repercussions of my acceptance second. As the teams for the RRC formed, I found myself wanting to back out. I gave Sarah a list of excuses—I'm not famous! I don't have anything to ride! I don't have any social media to promote myself! I haven't ridden over the pace of “trail ride” in years! ROBBIE FREAKING WALSH is going to be there, amongst many other super-talented riders and idols of mine! With each excuse I made, Sarah came back at me with the best reason I should kick on: I did, after all, secure the highly coveted silks of Stonestreet Stables. It is such an honor to be able to wear those silks and represent a farm and racing program that has given us some of the best racehorses of my generation. I have been a big fan of Stonestreet since I spent a few years at their training center in Ocala, Florida breaking 2-year-olds. They do everything right, and Barbara Banke is very generous to aftercare and a strong supporter of rehoming OTTB's.
Since my current mount is still learning how to clear 18″ fences and not treat them as soccer balls, Maggie Kimmitt arranged for me to meet up with Lia McGuirk and Forrest Kelly to go for a ride on the horse they would be donating for the show. I get to have the ride on Manchurian High (The Daddy), who I'm actually familiar with from my days working as a vet tech. He made over half a million dollars and won back to back editions of the Sunshine Millions Turf S. After our schooling session, my confidence came flooding back. I couldn't stop smiling all afternoon as we jumped, turned and galloped out on the cross country field. Manch and I clicked right away, he's just my type of ride, and quite handy!
With under a week to go, the excitement is beginning to build. My boots are polished, the gold and maroon silks are folded as neatly as a Super Bowl game jersey, my mount is prepped, the donations have poured in and hopefully I'll get to take home a blue ribbon and a few selfies with my idols.
It's not too late to make a donation! All proceeds benefit the Retired Racehorse Project and New Vocations.
To be continued…