Conversations With Equestrians: Lucy Davis

Look Out for Lucy
Committed, focused, intelligent and competitive, Lucy Davis is a trainer’s dream. Both natural and exceptional, the young equestrian exemplifies talent. And furthermore, she is soft spoken, kind and zen-like. A senior in high school, Lucy competes in the Big Eq and in the Big Jumpers. She not only rides in both indoor and outdoor grand prix classes, she does it a certain sense of experience that comes with natural talent. She’s won at the highest level offered for junior jumper riders, including Indoors and Young Riders, but also ribbons against professionals.

Lucy is also lucky. She not only has supportive parents – her mom ranks way up there on the horse showmom meter – but one of her best friends, Patrick, lives at home in the barn.

We interviewed her on the eve of the ASPCA Maclay Regionals in September. Since our chat just over a month ago, she has placed 7th and 12th in two $50,000 World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix classes. Back East at Indoors she was 4th in the USEF Medal Finals at Harrisburg.

Lucy Davis and Enrico, Best Pony Rider
2005 Menlo Charity HS © JumpShot
EqSol: Your start with horses?
 My grandfather works in horse racing so my mom grew up around it. When she moved to Los Angeles she started riding at Sullivan Canyon – we now live there. I’ve been riding in the Canyon since I could walk, pretty much. Just for fun but I was always around it. I started taking lessons when I was five, with Chacha Levinson.EqSol: Your firsts… First blue ribbon?
 At the Santa Barbara National when I was six. I won a flat class on my pony, Biscuits ‘N Gravy.

EqSol: First time on a jumper?
 I rode in the pony jumpers when I was about 10 or 11. But when I moved to Archie (Cox), my mom wanted me to stick with hunters and eq. I was about thirteen when I got my first jumper with Archie, Mister Mind.

EqSol: First Grand Prix?
 It was at a fall show in Del Mar a couple of years ago. I rode True Love. I think it went well, I don’t remember. [In fact it was the $25,000 CA Horsetrader Grand Prix at the 2008 Del Mar Fall Festival, and she was second behind Stefanie Saperstein] 

EqSol: And with all this Grand Prix show jumping, you are still competing in the Big Eq?
 Yes, I have a bad birthday – late October – so this is my last year for most of the medal finals. I hope to qualify tonight for the ASPCA (she did, placing 15th) and also competed in the WIHS Eq Finals (this past week) and USEF Medal Final (she was 4th).

EqSol: You have worked extensively with two trainers and recently made a change. Some history?
 I’ve ridden with Archie since I was 12 years old, when I was ready to show more and move to horses from ponies. And I still love it after six years. Archie has an intense work ethic – he is the hardest worker I know. When I was ready to focus on the high level jumpers, I started riding with Dick Carvin. That was about three years ago.

I ride every day at home. We keep my equitation horse Patrick and some of my old hunters at our small barn in Sullivan Canyon. It’s a little horse neighborhood where most of the houses have barns and we use the community arenas and riding areas. I did take lessons at Middle Ranch (where Archie and Dick both have their home operations) on weekends when I wasn’t showing.

News flash: Since our interview in September, Lucy’s jumpers moved to Sandstone in Thousand Oaks, CA where she will be working with Gaby Salick and Markus Beerbaum. Post competing in the ASPCA Maclay Finals in Syracuse, NY in early November her next show jumping competition will be in Buenos Aires the following week!

EqSol: Dick told me you were one of the most focused individuals he has ever met. Your thoughts on that?
 That’s a great compliment. I am the kind of person that gets something in my head and can focus on it intensely. I guess I am lucky to have that ability but it does work against me sometimes.

EqSol: You’ve excelled in each discipline – under Archie’s tutelage you’ve earned championships in hunters on both coasts and top medal final placings in equitation, then with Dick as your coach Young Rider victories, Grand Prix starts and last year Europe…
 I was lucky to get the chance to go to Frankfort for the European Young Masters League last December. Each of the medalists at Young Riders got a wild card spot to compete with the top 30 European riders. I was the only one that could go.

EqSol: And didn’t you win?
 [smile] I did. I got lucky. I also got to tag along with Meredith Michaels Beerbaum and established a friendship. That led to this past summer’s adventure.

EqSol: Tell us more about summer 2010.
 I spent about a month in Germany showing with Markus and Meredith Beerbaum. It was the best summer of my life so far. I learned so much, not only about technical riding skills but also on the ground about being a horseman. What tack to use, preparing the horse for the class… it was a very focused and knowledgeable environment.

I made a lot of great friends. Stefanie Saperstein and Navona Gallegos were both there and another American from Alabama who is now a working student, Christy. There was a guy from Kuwait and a group of working students from Finland, so all together it was about 10 of us.

Competing in Europe has such a great feel. The shows have so many spectators, and not just horse people. One show the entire town came to watch, it was a big event. Equestrians are treated like pro athletes over there. I competed in three shows and it was an awesome experience all the way around. It all came together at my last show, especially with my younger horse Hannah.

EqSol: Your favorite spot in Europe?
 Madrid by far. I will live in Spain sometime in this lifetime.

EqSol: Your favorite equestrians?
 Meredith of course. The French rider Penelope Leprevost. And Laura Kraut, she’s also a really nice person.

EqSol: Now that you’ve had international experience, if there was a horse you could ride who would it be?
 It would probably be this fabulous horse I saw in Frankfurt ridden by Marco Kutcher, Cornet Obelinsky. A big white horse that floats over the jumps, it is just amazing to watch. And I think everyone would like a chance to ride Shutterfly. It’s probably true that only one person can ride him, but it would be fun to try. He’s 17 years old and just did the Grand Prix at Aachen. He loves his job and is definitely still in the game. Meredith and Marcus take excellent care of the horses.

Lucy Davis and Nemo 119
2010 $35,000 Blenheim Spring
Classic II Grand Prix © JumpShot
EqSol: And your jumpers?
 Hannah is nine-year-old mare. We bought her about a year ago and we’ve both been working on getting comfortable at the bigger heights. We’ve both blossomed and she’s really coming along. I was happy with her last night [in the World Cup Qualifier]. We had two down, but nothing disastrous – just little things we can work on. She’s been confident at the bigger jumps and I’m really proud of her. Nemo 119 is a more rambunctious and feisty type. I’ve only had him since January; he is more experienced in the bigger classes than I am. Really a sweet horse at the barn but he gives me a hard time in the ring. He really makes me work for it. He’s a character, to say the least.EqSol: What are your college plans? Horses?
 I graduate this year in June. I set really lofty personal goals, and I did that with college too. I don’t want to jinx anything so I’m hesitant to say where. It is so competitive these days, the counselors at school say that 80% of people who apply to the best schools are fully qualified, but only 6-9% get in.So it’s a crapshoot. Once I do go I’ll probably be on the five-year plan. I’m a perpetual learner. And yes, I’d love to ride while in college.EqSol: Your riding goals? Career goals?
 I want to start doing better at the Grand Prix level. I definitely need experience in small indoor rings with big jumps. It’s pretty hard actually. I’ve jumped a big course but when you put them in a tight space there’s not a lot of room for error.My dream is every aspiring rider’s dream – to go to the Olympics. And also to compete at Aachen. I went to watch this summer, it was an amazing event.I don’t think I have the patience to be a trainer. I will have to see after college. I think if I were to choose it would be film director or writer but I do want to see how far I can go with riding. If I am at a place where it is realistic to keep going and do well at some of the highest levels I will pursue it. Riding is my passion. As of now riding is a big priority. But I will go to college.

EqSol: We find that behind most superb young riders is an awesome parent or two. Tell us about yours.
 [smiling] My mom is definitely awesome and my dad loves it too. He comes to a lot of the horse shows but stays low key. My younger brother Clay (almost 15) is an all-around sports guy and has been coming to the shows for ten years, not necessarily happily. As much as he feigns he hates it, he’s really a softie and very supportive. My mom is totally committed, I think she has spent at least three birthdays at Harrisburg. That says a lot. She is not just there for me, but she is really curious about how it all works and always eager to learn. At the same time she stays behind the scenes, she is never overbearing. I really admire that about her. She has my old hunter Gallatea and takes lessons for fun.

Lucy Davis and Patrick
2009 Del Mar National © Rick Osteen
EqSol: And finally, who is your best friend that lives in the barn?
 We’ve had Patrick since he was five and now he’s eight. He’s lived at our house since the beginning and we’ve established a good relationship. He is one of the sweetest horses I have ever met. Whether you’ve had a good day or a bad day, you can go into his stall and cuddle. Patrick is a great friend.What an exciting time for you – ending your junior career and finishing high school. Already into the grand prix show jumping chapter of your riding and then college… We wish you all the best and look forward to hearing about your future successes!

The History Of The Big Eq

By Erna L. Adelson

The Search for the Best is Back

As the qualification period for the USEF Talent Search gets underway, rankings reveal the top of the nation’s leading equitation contenders. Each day spent training, preparing and competing will culminate, for some, in a mark on the storied history of the sport. Equitation has certainly evolved over the years, from the days of Jackie Kennedy Onassis to last year’s Sophie Benjamin and Hannah Selleck, though competitors remain true to the heart of the sport—the bond between horse and rider. It is this special bond that defines the membership of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF). Since 1917, the Federation has been dedicated to pursuing excellence, promoting growth and providing a safe and level playing field for both its equine and human athletes. In this tradition, the 2009 USEF Talent Search will, of course, reveal the potential bearers of the crimson coat in international competition, but it will also indicate something more, something innate that materializes with the chemistry unique to horses and riders.

The OG of the Big Eq
Before the name George Morris was synonymous with horsemanship, the second president of the Association of American Horse Shows, Mr. Alfred Maclay, was the authority on the rules and regulations used to license members and venues. In 1927, these policies filled a six-page pamphlet. Though now they are much more extensive, the original sentiment is still referred to upon evaluation of candidates today—and Maclay’s legacy as a horseman lives on in the medal final that bears his name.

Much of the terminology surrounding the Talent Search stems from the days of Maclay’s tenure. The nickname for equitation classes as ‘Medal Classes’ has stuck almost 80 years since riders were first awarded medals for their achievement in winning an equitation class. The newer nomenclature, the “big eqs” refers to the classes in which riders show to qualify for several national championships, especially the historic and coveted USEF Talent Search, USEF Medal and ASPCA Maclay Championships.

The Star Search is Born
The USEF has several fundamental responsibilities as the governing body of US equestrian sport: The USEF trains, selects, and funds our United States Equestrian Team, licenses equestrian competitions of all levels across the United States each year, and encourages growth among newcomers as well as the coming generation. The Talent Search was started in 1956 by the U.S. Equestrian Team (now the USET Foundation) as a USET Medal Program in order to fulfill the cultivation aspect of their duties. In 1982, the Medal Program incorporated year-end finals as a further goal. In 1994, the USET decided to combine the USET Medal Program with the USET Show Jumping Talent Search Program. This name change better reflected the focus of the program by asking developing riders to meet a more difficult set of standards than required in other competitions, thus helping to prepare them for berths on future international show jumping squads.

The Show Jumping Talent Search Program became part of the USEF’s Show Jumping High Performance Program in 2005. The Platinum Performance / USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals attracts the nation’s top Juniors and Young Riders in head-to-head competition. The Finals are open to U.S. citizens 21 years old and younger who have qualified through their placement in Platinum Performance / USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Classes and include a matrix of phases to test entrants’ skills in the show jumping arena, including equitation, speed over difficult courses and gymnastics, derby-style terrain, and a ride-off.

Graduates of the program include some of the top competitors and trainers on the circuit today, each doing their part to inspire and train the next generation of equestrians.

In this week’s final 37 riders will vie for the title. Last year’s West Coast winner, Hannah Selleck, just returned from the Spruce Masters where she competed against the best and brought home prizes. On the East Coast qualified riders will compete on the weekend of October 4th-5th in Gladstone, NJ. Now a sophomore at Princeton, California-based Sophie Benjamin won the coveted East Coast Finals in 2008.

Highlights from the ASPCA Regional Finals Saturday evening – September 12, 2009

The ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship class was first held 76 years ago, and has remained one of the most prestigious competitions for junior riders (ages 17 & under). Past winners and top finishers include recognizable West Coast names such as such Bernie Traurig (1961), Fred Bauer (1970), Francie Steinwedell-Carvin (1977), Lauren Kay (1990), Keri Kampsen (1997), Nicole Shahinian Simpson (1992), Richard Spooner (Reserve Champion, 1988), Matthew Sereni (2003) and Jamie Taylor (Reserve Champion, 2002). Riders who competed in the Region 8 (CA, HI, NV) Maclay Regionals on Saturday qualified by earning 25 points as of August 31, 2009.

Medal riders had to pick and maintain a marching pace to master the course that Scott Starnes set for Saturday night’s Regional Finals. Of the twelve efforts, the toughest part seemed to be fences four through eight, which included a short turn off the corner to a hay bale vertical in three long strides to an oxer-vertical one stride directly to another three stride line, followed by a right hand turn to vertical-vertical one stride combination to a sharp right bend in a long five to a fan oxer.

After thirty-four rounds, judges Chrystine Tauber and Leo Conroy brought back twenty-eight riders in two groups of fourteen for the flat phase. In this final the flat counts for 50% of the total score. At the conclusion of the second group, five riders were asked to remain in the ring – Jocelyn Neff, Lucy Davis, Saer Coulter, Theo Boris and Cayla Richards. The work-off included six jumps, a difficult counter-canter turn, a halt and a hand gallop to the last fence. Neff nailed it. Surprisingly Davis had some trouble that included losing her counter canter. Coulter also lost the counter lead in the final two strides. Boris rode in his usual soft yet confident style. However his halt was a bit brief and his bold hand gallop took him slightly past his distance. Fresh off her CPHA Medal Final win, Richards kept her cool and performed all the tests flawlessly for the win.

Click the results link for a list of the 16 top placings, who are invited to compete at the National Championship held at The National Horse Show on October 31st in Syracuse, New York. Good luck to all those who are heading east later this fall.