Born to Ride: Future Champions of the Equestrian World

They’re young. They’re female. And they’ve all seen the unbridled success. From the fast-paced polo field to the nail-biting pressure of the show pen, these five female equestrians are hungry for horse-riding fame – and are the ones to watch in their field.

By Angela Caraway-Carlton

 

LUCY DESLAURIERS
[J U M P I N G]

Lucy Deslauriers

It’s all in the (famous) family

For Lucy Deslauriers, show jumping is a family affair. The 19-year-old faces off with the best riders in the world — and sometimes that means competing against, even beating —her famous father, veteran show-jumper Mario Deslauriers. “We’re competing against each other more recently in high-level competitions. It adds some fun to the game,” said Deslauriers about her dad, who also coaches her. “One of the things that is so special about this sport is that we all get to celebrate together. My mom was competing at a high level at my age and still has a great passion for the sport, and while my twin brother doesn’t ride, he’s my biggest fan.”

Like her father, who holds the record as the youngest rider to win the FEI World Cup Final, Deslauriers snagged her first national title at 13, beating more than 180 competitors in the 2012 USEF Pony Finals. A few years later, she won the Individual Gold at the FEI Young Rider Championships. After an unlikely match with Hester, a horse originally her father’s, she solidified her place as one of the most successful junior riders in show jumping history. “Hester gives me 300 percent every time I walk in the ring,” she said of the pair’s successes over the last five years. From her first international victory against in the FEI Welcome Qualifier at Bromont, Quebec (also the first time she beat her dad), to being awarded the Lionel Guerrand-Hermès Trophy for sportsmanship and horsemanship, to recently finishing second place in two five-star Grand Prix competitions, the young rider has literally racked up too many accolades to list.

“My father always says, ‘You can’t ever get there if you don’t try.’ Even if it’s something above what I have done before, he says that you can’t win without taking big risks,” said Deslauriers, often the youngest rider in her class.

Deslauriers will attend the University of Pennsylvania this fall, where she’ll pause training for the first semester to adjust to college life. “You always want to practice as much as possible, so it may set me back a little,” admits Deslauriers, who will commute home on the weekends to ride. “My father generously keeps my horses going and ready for me to jump back in.“When I’m at school, I completely focus on my studies. When I’m at the barn, I’m 100 percent there.”

 

CORNELIA DORR
[E V E N T I N G]

She’s the main event

You quickly realize that the eventing standout Cornelia Dorr’s life is all about her horses. She speaks of the animals as one speaks of a friend. “I’m pretty much the best horsewoman I can be for the animal. Everything comes down to the animal,” said Dorr, fascinated by a horse’s keen mind and athleticism. “They’re powerful but docile.”

Like many little girls, Dorr always wanted a pony. After moving from Rye, New York, to equestrian-rich Hamilton, Massachusetts, she got her wish. At 10, she started riding under the guidance of Babette Lenna, her decade-long mentor, and was instantly smitten with the sport of eventing. “To me, the most natural thing you can do is gallop across the field and woods. You’re just one with the horse,” said Dorr. “My dad sold life insurance and used to insure them, and I was drawn to the speed and adrenaline. I eventually decided if I can’t race, I’ll do eventing.”

Dorr has repeatedly proven herself, edging out older, more experienced riders with her horses, Hugo and Louis M. She earned a Team Gold and Individual Bronze at the FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships in 2016 and was named to the 2017 USEF Emerging Athlete Eventing program. Later that year, Dorr took home the blue ribbon at the Jersey Fresh International, her first CC12*; she’s now competing in CC13* events. Dorr has a soft spot for her longtime partner, Hugo, a Warmblood/Thoroughbred gelding. “He’s a very unassuming horse for our sport. Everyone told me he wouldn’t go higher than preliminary fourth-level, and now he’s going to the highest level,” she said.

Acheivements keep mounting for Dorr, chosen again to participate in the Emerging Athlete Eventing 25 program with coach Leslie Law in Ocala, Florida. “While I’m so happy to be on the list, I’m most thrilled to be able to work with him, so I can have his knowledge.” Every waking moment for the 20-year-old is spent grooming, tacking, and riding, while training with Sharon White at Last Frontier Farm in Summit Point, West Virginia. Dorr has put off college, and while she plans to eventually get a degree, her heart is in eventing. “I want to make a successful business of it.”

 

HAZEL JACKSON
[P O L O]

Playing for keeps

27-year-old Hazel Jackson, the third best female polo player worldwide, plays in more than nine countries a year and occasionally hits the field with Prince William for charity. “I guess I’m still aiming for the top. Numbers don’t mean anything. There are many up-and-coming ladies, and I’m always striving for more,” said Jackson, who holds a two-goal handicap in mix polo and nine-goal handicap in ladies.

Jackson is from the New Forest, south of London, where she became addicted to playing Pony Club polo at nine years old. “It has been a dream come true that I never thought would be possible,” said Jackson. She captained the British Ladies Polo Team, clinched the Most Outstanding Lady Player Award 2017 at Guards, and plays ladies and mixed polo competitions. “I love both. In women’s polo, I would be captain of the team or running the team, so it’s more pressure. In the higher-level men’s, it’s faster and more of a challenge. I feel like I learn more from the men.” However, she feels women are overlooked. “I think they fully respect us, but maybe the men underestimate the girls. It’s not a huge divide, but it would be nice to see more women in the higher level given more opportunities.”

Jackson’s lucky number eight is inscribed on her sticks and saddle. “I had the most amazing year when I was eight. I went to Disney World in Florida.” It was also the year before her father passed away. “I would love for him to see where I am now. He would have been very supportive,” she said, adding, “but maybe it’s been good not to have a father figure because it’s taught me to be very independent.” Besides her mother, Jackson relies on her husband Ivan Gaona, Argentinian polo manager and rider. “He keeps me calm. I love having him at my games, and he’s very honest. If I have a bad game, he’ll tell me but with very positive vibes. We also make an effort to talk about other things than polo. We both love the beach, yoga, and eating sushi.”

Jackson trains six days a week on her quest to be the best polo player in the world. “I won’t let anything get in my way. You have to be selfish in this sport and take the best opportunities.”

 

CALLIE JONES
[D R E S S A G E]

Jonesin’ for more

One simple trail ride, and Callie Jones was hooked on horses. “My parents thought it would be something fun to do, a one-time thing, but I immediately wanted to go back for lessons,” says Jones, who was seven years old when she took her first riding lesson at Blue Moon Stables in Kentucky. “I was very shy as a kid, and I thought this would help push me out of my comfort zone.”

Th e girl started riding jumpers, but when her horse suffered a career-ending injury, her now-trainer Angela Jackson encouraged her towards a different discipline. “I thought jumping would be my riding career, but that’s when Angela approached me and told me that I had a true talent that could go far in the dressage world.” By 14, Jones competed in her first regional dressage championship in Illinois, placing eighth and reinforcing dressage as a talent. Jones since qualified twice in the North American Junior and Young Rider Championship. Th is June, the 20-year-old was one of three U.S. contenders selected for the 2018 Dressage European Young Rider Tour. Jones finished third in the Kür Kleines Finale with her Hanoverian gelding, Don Philippo.

“She is a very skilled rider, and as a competitor, she is very cool. She is a thinking rider who goes into a competition with a strategy and follows it,” said USEF Dressage Youth Coach and Chef d’Equipe George Williams. “One of the comments we always hear about Callie is that she’s very harmonious with her horse.” Of Jones’s chances of competing in the FEI World Equestrian Games one day, Williams says, “Quality experiences like competing in Europe will help prepare her. She definitely has the talent. It’s always a matter of working hard to develop skills and making sure you have the right horse.”

Jones adamantly hones her skill. “I ride multiple horses a day, and they all have a different feeling, so I learn something new every day,” says Jones, also focused on college. Last semester, Jones took classes online. Th is semester, the junior will attend Murray State University, studying agribusiness. “Th e campus is only two hours from where I live, so I will drive home after class and ride,” she says. She hopes to compete in the U25 level and dreams of being an Olympian. “I have a long way to go, but riding will be part of my life for a very long time.”

 

EMILIA REUTIMANN
[R E I N I N G]

Reutimann reigns

With a mom who showed pleasure horses and a NASCAR driver dad, Emilia Reutimann inherited a love of horses and fierce competition. At four years old, the Sherrills Ford, North Carolina native started riding lessons on a pony. Th at Christmas, Emilia received every little girl’s dream gift — Shotzy the pony.

When Reutimann was 10, she got her first taste of reining. Starting in 2015, she trained with superstar trainer Shawn in Ohio on weekends and summers. Her first big win came in 2016 when she was named Quarter Horse Congress champion. “It was always a dream of mine to do well at Congress. It was a big confidence booster,” she said of the victory. “It can be scary and intimidating to compete against kids that have won a lot of titles, but it showed me that I had to the ability to do well even though I had just started out.”

Th e teenager has since clinched the 2017 National Reining Breeders Classic Youth Champion. Reutimann was also one of three youths to represent Team USA at the SVAG FEI World Reining Championship in Switzerland last year, earning a silver medal. She also placed sixth in the Individual with her horse Black Hails Gold. “I just love that horse. He’s done so much for me, and it meant a lot to be there with him. It was also incredible to be on the podium with my friends and represent our country,” said Reutimann.

“Emilia has quiet confidence and assurance about her ability, which makes her a tough competitor,” said Chef d’Equipe Jeff Petska, who coached Emilia during the competition. He credits her parents, Lisa and David Reutimann, for the teenager’s dedication.

Th e 16-year-old dreams of being on a college equestrian team, verbally committing to ride for the University of South Carolina Equestrian Team in 2020. “I connected with the coaches at South Carolina. I felt like I could talk with them about anything, and they really believe in me. The school is also close to my home,” she said. In regards to the future, Reutimann said, “I don’t want to be a horse trainer. My dad told me that one thing can be your passion, but when it’s your job, it’s not as fun. I always want to be excited to ride.”