Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Although horse trials are scarce in her home province of New Brunswick, Kelsey Currie has pursued her passion for eventing. Kelsey, 17, hopes to become the first east coast rider in 20 years to compete at the 2012 North American Junior and Young Riders’ Championships in Kentucky this July with her 10-year-old Thoroughbred/Welsh cob gelding, Co-Pilot (a.k.a. Ziggy).
Kelsey was introduced to riding by her aunt, who had a friend with Shetland ponies. She started competing in the jumpers and her first mount was an aged Arabian pony. Her appetite for eventing was whetted by a family friend, 1992 Olympic eventer Rob Stevenson, the last east coaster to make the Young Riders’ team. She worked at his barn and took a clinic there with 1996 Olympian Ian Roberts. Roberts and his wife, Kelly Plitz, accepted Kelsey as a summer working student and in 2010 at age 15, she came to their Dreamcrest Farm in Ontario for the first time. She has returned every summer since.
“I had a crazy off-the-track Thoroughbred and Ian said “don’t bother bringing that. We’ll find something for you,” recalls Kelsey. Soon afterwards, he called me up and said “I’m sitting on your next horse.”
Ziggy, a former show jumper, had a doubled-sided mane and feathers on his legs. I said to Ian, “I can’t believe this is the horse you want me to buy,” “ but I got on him and absolutely loved him.” A week later, Kelsey was competing in her second-ever pre-training horse trial on Ziggy and placed in the top 10. But training division was another story.
“I started to have doubts and we didn’t make it around many courses without a quit. We didn’t have a friendship yet and I was expecting him to do things he’d never done before – or that I’d never done before. Ziggy has really big trust issues,” she says.
Ziggy, a solid 16.2 hands, and the five-foot-tall Kelsey finally started to click and when they moved up to pre-liminary, the horse became a cross-country machine as well as a solid stadium jumper. Last October, she and Ziggy finished third in the long-format preliminary division at the Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event in Lexington, KY. As Ziggy was being loaded for the trip home, Roberts noticed the horse’s leg was inflamed. He was diagnosed with cellulitis. “I was spending nights in the barn and was on the phone with Ian for hours,” recalls Kelsey.
Ziggy was off from October to February, but recovered in time for Kelsey to head to South Carolina with Roberts in March. After just 30 days back in work, Ziggy and Kelsey placed fifth in the preliminary division at their first event in the south and put in solid efforts at three others. Kelsey was hoping for another positive outing at Bromont in June, the last qualifying event for the Junior Young Riders’ team.
Ziggy still has his “pony” moments of bad behavior and stews when Kelsey’s not around. “He has a little bit of an attitude, kind of like me, but he’s my type of horse.” Dressage is their weak point and Kelsey is working toward “getting out of her head” and improving their scores.
In September, she and Ziggy will move to Fredericton, where she will study criminology at university. Whether she makes the Young Riders’ team or not, Kelsey intends to keep eventing.
“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without Ian,” says Kelsey. “I don’t know how he does it. He’s a great coach. He must have secrets he doesn’t tell people. When you think of all the combined time I’ve spent training with him, it’s not even a year and he’s taken me, with hardly any eventing experience, from pre-training to one-star on a horse that had never evented before.”