Q&A with Kelly Wilson
What is your name and where are you from?
-Kelly Wilson, Dallas, TX
At what age did you start riding?
-As long as I can remember. My mom had a horse she would put me up on (I actually fell off when I was 3 and broke my collar bone), and I got my first pony when I was 6. He was a welsh/quarter horse cross named Black Jack.
Tell us about Rio!
-Rio is basically the best horse in the world if I'm being honest. Buying him was a total crapshoot- I found his ad on FB and rushed to try him. My trainer was busy and I knew he'd sell fast, so I went without her, with only my non-horsey hubby in tow to video. He was only about 60-90 days under saddle and had just turned 5. He was lightly started due to his large size. I couldn't even get him to pick up his right lead, but I still loved him instantly. We certainly didn't jump when I tried him, so I had no idea if he would have any talent over fences. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
The first 2 years together were a bit rocky. We had terrible luck in the vet department, including a spider bite to the leg that was seriously gross, as well as surgery for a splint fracture. He also had issues with slow wound healing. I feel like we really bonded during this time though, because I did 90% of the vet care myself. Not only did I get super good at bandaging, it also provided an opportunity to focus on our relationship, and not what we could achieve under saddle. I learned so much about his personality during this time, including exactly where he likes to be scratched.
Things finally came together for us, and 2018 was our first full show year. We jumped right into the 3' adult amateur hunters and A shows, after one schooling show at 2'6. Rio acts likes a seasoned show horse 98% of the time, and I seriously can't believe I lucked out with a dude with a brain like his. We have learned so much together, and still have so much to learn. I can't ask for a better partner!
Who has been the most influential person in your horse aspect of life? Why?
-My dressage trainer when I was a junior, Debbie Cinotto. She taught me from when I was 9 until I left for college at 18. I still hear her voice in my head every ride. She taught me all the basics of truly correct flatwork, for which I can never thank her enough. I wouldn't be 1/10th of the rider I am today without her.
What horse has taught you the most about yourself?
-This is a good question. I have not owned many horses in my life yet (4 total), but I have ridden hundreds. Every single horse I've ever met has taught me something, many of those lessons having little or nothing to do with actual riding. I have learned love, empathy, and compassion from all of them. I have learned the value of trust, how easy it is to lose, and how hard it is to regain. I've learned confidence and humility in equal parts. I have learned that I have a naturally short temper, but how to have the patience of saint. Horses are not hard to love, but they are hard to lose, and I have learned about heartbreak. I honestly can't imagine what I would be like as a person without all that I have learned from horses.
What horse has taught you the most about riding?
-My eventer from my junior years has taught me the most so far. He was a palomino paint that we simply called "Pal". He was my dad's heading and healing horse for years before I started riding him at around 13 yrs. I had outgrown my prior horse (a lovely yet small Arabian that I did low level dressage on and then passed on to my trainer's daughter) and there wasn't really money in the budget for something already trained. Since Pal was already in our pasture and not doing much work anymore I started to ride him. He didn't even have basics such as leads, but he was bigger and available. I could have never guessed at that time where we would go together. In a span of 5 years we made our way to 2nd level in the dressage court, and multiple wins at training level horse trials. The horse had a heart of gold and would do anything for me. Sure, my friends had fancier mounts that I sometimes longed for, but Pal taught me what was truly important in a partnership- trust.
Do you have long term goals for riding? If so, what are they?
I try to not focus too much on competition goals. Rio's various injuries have taught me not to get bogged down by timeline specific goals, you just never know with these fragile, beautiful creatures. But, I can't help but daydream occasionally about what I would like to accomplish someday. I hope that Rio and I get the chance to compete in a National Derby at some point. I would like to move up to the 3'3 AO's some day, and maybe even the 3'6. I honestly don't have huge dreams of doing any of the "big" shows (such as indoors or WEF) because I don't see it every being in my budget. I really don't mind though, I am happy going to any shows where I get to enjoy my horse.
What is your most memorable moment with Rio?
-My first every A show with Rio. We jumped around the 3 ft adults. We were far from perfect, but after all of our vet struggles, I just felt in awe of the fact that we were in the show ring doing what I dreamed we would one day do. Remember, he didn't even know how to jump when I first bought him, and had certainly never been to a show. I remember thinking that the green as grass horse I had bought and I were cruising around the hunter ring looking like we belonged there. I felt so incredibly happy and proud. We have made it in the ring a few more times since then, and I still get that feeling every time. I just feel so lucky to have ended up with him.
Has there ever been a time where you were around horses and felt so happy that the rest of the world just faded away?
-Yes! Almost every time I am at the barn actually. There is literally no place in the world that I am happier then when I am with my horse.
Does anyone else in your family ride?
-My mom rides casually. Pal (my retired eventer) still lives with her and they go on the occasional trail ride, even though he is 31 now! Both my sisters learned when they were kids, but neither kept up with it for more then a few years.
What are your biggest achievements?
-This is a tough one. I haven't really done many "big" shows in my riding career, which is normally where people's minds go when they think of "achievements". I would say that taking Pal from a basic trail/cow horse to a well educated dressage horse and eventer is what I am most proud of to date. Other then 2 months with my dressage trainer in the very beginning, Pal basically never had pro rides. Yes, I took frequent lessons, but all of the actual riding and showing was done by me. I am also quite proud of how far Rio has come so far, but we haven't been together very long yet (not quite 3 years). I also have lots of help with Rio compared to Pal- he has always been in some type of professional training program and has been shown by several pros, so I really can't take all the credit for how amazing he is. I look forward to what we will achieve together in the future!
Any advice for beginner riders?
-Do not compare your progress to other people. Everyone is on their own journey. Horses are a life-long passion, so don't get caught-up with a specific time line. Their are riders in the Olympics in their 60's and even early 70's. Not saying the Olympics is everyone's goal (certainly not mine), but just as an example. You learn every single time you are around horses, regardless of whether you feel like you are progression or not.
What is one piece of knowledge that you feel should be passed along to every equestrian?
-Always try to put yourself in your horse's shoes. Horses are never "bad" on purpose. They are not trying to spite you, or be naughty for no reason. If you aren't getting the reaction you want from your horse, always look to yourself first. Are you being clear with your aids? Is your horse in pain? Bad rides are NEVER the horse's fault, and I cannot stress that enough.
A massive thank you to Kelly for agreeing to do this! Go check out @hunky_hanoverian to see more pictures of her and Rio!
-Paint Me Dappled