Conversations With Equestrians: Mavis Spencer

By Laura Ware

One of the many important classes at The Oaks Spring Tournament was the $5,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, also the first North American Young Rider Trial. The North American Young Rider Championships is a competition consisting of two teams: an “A” team with 1.50 meter fences for riders ages 16-21, and a “B” or “junior” team with 1.40 meter fences for riders ages 14-18. Both teams consist of four riders and an alternate from each US Zone, each Canadian Province, Mexico and the Caribbean. This competition includes Eventing and Dressage along with Show Jumping, and is run under F.E.I. rules.

Making either of the teams is an honor, and is a highly sought after goal for many riders. Southern California rider Mavis Spencer, the winner of the first trial, was kind enough to speak with us.

Laura: When did you start doing the 1.40 meter classes?
Mavis: I started doing the 1.40m with my mare early last year but unfortunately she was off for a bit after. I was only able to ride her at Spruce and at the November LAEC show, in the 1.30m. At Pebble Beach last summer, though, I got to ride Paris Sellon’s junior jumper Syndication in the 1.40m and I was also given the ride aboard Francie Steinwedell’s horse Naranco. It was very helpful riding those two horses because they were both really experienced in the larger classes and it boosted my confidence a lot. I am so grateful to both those owners for allowing me to ride and show their horses.

Laura: Please tell us a bit about your horse.
Mavis: My horse’s name is Winea Van’t Vennehof. I bought her almost two years ago. and she had never shown before. We shipped her straight to Spruce, and started her in the 1.20m. As my trainer, Dick Carvin said, she was either going to crack or jump and never look back. I guess she really jumped into it! When I first bought her, she was very skittish and head-shy and also kind of point and shoot. Thanks to all the help I’ve gotten from my trainers, though, she is now awesome and really ride-able. She is very headstrong and mare-ish but she fights for me and I can always trust her to leave the ground and not have a second thought about it.

Laura: How did the course ride in the trial? What was the jump-off like?
Mavis: The course was designed by Leopoldo Palacios so there were some obvious challenges, but I thought it was a very fair. Seven in the jump-off, all good riders. Saer Coulter and Paris Sellon were both coming off of some big wins during the winter circuits, Brenna Riddel I’d seen during Spruce and she is a great rider, as is Alicia Jonsson who I had seen go in the Grand Prix the night before and in the Olympic Trials so I knew she would have experience jumping tougher tracks. Taylor Coe and Katie Gardner are both fast riders so my plan going in was to try for a clean round while leaving out strides in some places. The rounds went so quickly in the jump-off that when I went in to the ring I didn’t know what time or how many faults were leading. I saw the long galloping option to the first jump and just went with it. After the last jump I wasn’t sure where my round put me but I knew I was clean and fast. Of course, I was thrilled to hear that I was leading! My horse has just been amazing and kept improving all through Florida. We were both really confident together after having some solid rounds in the bigger classes there so it’s nice to come home and see our hard work translate here.

Laura: How do you manage riding and school work?
Mavis: My school has been wonderfully supportive of my riding. This year they allowed me to take a two month leave and ride in Florida. I also get out of school at 1:00 every day which gives me have plenty of time to ride.

Laura: What do you do to keep your horse prepared for these big classes?
Mavis: To keep my horse ready I hack her and sometimes lunge her with the Pessoa rig. Dick gets up there sometimes to help make her really work and think hard. Then she also hand walks a few times throughout the day. As many people have noticed, she doesn’t have much of a tail, and while we are always trying to make it grow, I guess a certain amount of prep is just keeping her the way she is and happy.

Laura: What are your riding goals and plans for this year?
Mavis: To be honest I haven’t thought that much about riding goals. I’d like to make the Young Rider team and I’d like to do well at Spruce, but for right now I’m just concerned with learning, riding consistently and keeping my horse happy and healthy. In my eyes once you have all that, the rest will follow.

Congratulations, Mavis, and good luck at the rest of the Young Rider Trials and Spruce Meadows!

Laura Listens is brought to you by Laura Ware. Winner of the 2007 LAHSA Junior Medal Finals and a recipient of the 2008 WCAR Jumper Rider Grant, Laura rides with First Field Farm and often trains with Archie Cox. She is very successful in the all three disciplines on her own mounts as well as catch riding other horses.