Making Memories—A Look Back At Equestrians’ Favorite Moments of 2016

PHOTOS: (Top right) Courtesy of Jennifer Jelich; (Top Left) Brant Gamma Photography; (Bottom Right) Jane Carlton

PHOTOS: (Top right) Courtesy of Jennifer Jelich; (Top Left) Brant Gamma Photography; (Bottom Right) Jane Carlton

2016 was certainly a year to remember—with the Rio Olympics, Michael Jung winning the Grand Slam of Eventing, and the first $1 million prize check handed out in show jumping, equestrians had plenty to celebrate. Equine Journal asked top riders and trainers what qualified as their most memorable moment of the year.

My favorite moment of 2016 was as I prepared to enter the dressage ring at the world championships in Breda. I picked up the reins and asked my team to start trotting and all four horses simultaneously picked up a perfectly balanced rhythmical trot with ears pricked waiting for directions. Total harmony. 

This made it difficult to concentrate on the test and not just jump out of the carriage and hug them. To place in the ribbons at the world championships having only started driving a four-in-hand of horses two years ago was a dream come true.
– Allison Stroud, seven-time Pony Four-In-Hand National Champion based in West Grove, PA.

Though there have been many favorite moments throughout 2016 for the Murphy Eventing team and all of our clients, the pinnacle was at the Fall 2016 Virginia Horse Trials where my gelding Esccord RGS competed at the CIC**. “Garth” is self-made by me, and he shows a promising future at the FEI two-star level and beyond.
– Katie Murphy, accomplished eventing rider and trainer of Murphy Eventing based in Epping, NH.

I was hired by the New York Court System to assist receivers in the placement/disbursement of 64 of the finest Morgan breeding horses in the country! It was a very sad situation that turned into a success story of a wonderful group of Morgan people all over the country and Canada who stepped up to make it all happen.
– Chris Cassenti, manager and lead trainer at Chrislar Farm in Rowley, MA.

Gosh, there were so many moments. I am going to say, for me, it had to have been the Olympic medal ceremony—when we dismounted and walked up, they asked us to step up on the podium, and we were there with the Brits and the Germans. 

When they started putting our medals on, they put mine on first—I was the first one on the American team to get mine—and Laura [Graves] had her hand on my shoulder and she started crying. When I saw her start to cry and they moved on to put her medal on her, I started crying. The whole thing, the joy that we felt as a team, it was just incredible.

Everyone worked so hard to get to that point and to actually be on the medal podium as one of the top three teams in the world was just indescribable. It is hard to put it into words. I think the love, respect, camaraderie, and just joy that we as a team felt for each other and all the people that helped us to get to that point— which there was a real army of people, I mean it really took a village between coaches and our chef Robert [Dover], the grooms, the vets, the farriers, all the staff at USEF, the horse owners, and everything else. It all finally paid off in that one moment.
– Allison Brock, USDF Gold and Silver medalist and Bronze Olympic medalist, seasonally located in Wellington, FL and Keswick, VA.

This is tough because we have such a large show team and nothing makes me happier than seeing my students succeed—and so many of my students had great shows this year. One moment that stands out was when Kiki Basta won her first big trophy class, where a cooler was the trophy. She had been chasing after the cooler for years, and with tough competition and a hard equitation pattern complete, she nailed her pattern and won the class!

She is such a hard working student at my farm and spends dozens of hours helping with all the horse care needs and works super hard in her lessons. All her hard work and dedication paid off!
– Jennifer Jelich, owner and head trainer of Jelich Farms in Lexington, MA.

It just happened at [the Pennsylvania National Horse Show] watching Taylor Griffiths, who’s about to become my stepdaughter (editor’s note: on December 10!). She did an amazing job [in the Medal Finals]. The horse spun on her at the in-gate, so she was out of getting to the second round. But her execution of a very difficult course was unbelievable. It was just one of those moments when you think, “She’s really starting to get it.” It’s not just that she’s about to be my stepdaughter—I would be that excited for any kid who had the capacity to think that clearly in a national championship. That was a big highlight of my year.
– Frank Madden, top hunter and equitation trainer based in North Salem, NY.

In April of 2016, I picked up my new mustang for the Extreme Mustang Makeover. In fact, it was the day of the third anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. I spent that car ride thinking about all the dreams I had that I was lucky enough to pursue, and reflected on the dreams the three killed [in the bombings] could never fulfill. I dedicated my competition Freestyle to the families of those who lost their lives and I named my mustang Krystle-Lu Martin’s Boston Strong in their honor. 

Krystle and I came in third and were named Fan Favorite, and I knew then I had to bring my dream of helping the Mustangs to life. In the summer I launched Kaitlyne Wadman Mustangs, where I take BLM third strike mustangs and retrain them for a new career and a new home. I started with four, and have already placed two! 2016 is the year my passion has become reality.
– Kaitlyne Wadman, AQHA Professional Horsewoman, founder of Kaitlyne Wadman Mustangs and co-owner of Milestone Equestrian Center in Haverhill, MA.

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