December 2016 - Eye on Eventing
Written by Lauren Billys
Friday, 02 December 2016 00:29

Young rider’s first experiences embody the sport’s joys.

by Lauren Billys

Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to help a young student, Maddie Hale, pursue her dream of teaching herself and her Halflinger pony to become a fierce three-day eventing team.

She comes from a rich riding background. Maddie’s mother, Brynn, grew up riding with and for Susie Hutchison in Southern California. At 12 years old, she has shown in the hunter and jumper arenas, but when I moved to their barn to train, I began giving Maddie and her pony, Noble, some dressage lessons until one day we were out cross-country schooling.

Maddie Hale and Lauren Billys

From a coach’s perspective, I have had the opportunity to share the amazing sport of eventing with a number of students, but to see each of these students leave the startbox for the first time is such an emotional moment. I realized when Maddie left the box for the first time, with her mom feeling close to crying, that it was just Noble and Maddie out there with no help and a challenge they had never fully experienced. It was easy to see that when she came through the finish that Noble, mom and Maddie were hooked! The smile on everyone’s face and the whinny Noble gave after he caught his breath said it all. They would be back for more.

I asked Maddie to write about the experience and I hope you enjoy her story!

Maddie: I remember my first time cross-country schooling. It was exhilarating, magical and joyful. I can bring back the memories of doing my first ever cross-country jump and how special it was. I could feel the wind blowing against my cheeks as I soared over the tiny log. I also remember my first time going through the water on my pony, Noble. I  immediately realized that I had to keep squeezing because my pony likes to play in the water. The ditch was one of my highlights of my first cross-country schooling. My pony loved to go over the ditch, he also liked to dislodge me from my seat while going over!

While having all these happy memories I also have gotten amazing learning experiences. My trainer Lauren Billys has taught me most of these experiences with her superb teaching abilities.

My first event was a very fun time enriched with the best memories. To start things off, on the Wednesday before the event, I fell from my horse Spanky. I was left with serious road rash and some severe bruising down my inside and outside my leg. The next day, Thursday, my mom and I drove up to Twin Rivers in Paso Robles to school. When I went to change, my pants were stuck to my bad leg so I wasn’t able to ride.

Columnist Lauren Billys contested the 2016 Olympics in Rio, on behalf of Puerto Rico, and has written about that remarkable experience for us since early 2016. She continues to compete and is accepting students and horses at Lauren Billys Eventing on the Monterey Peninsula. Visit for more info.

Luckily, Lauren was able to ride and school my pony in the dressage court. That night my mom wrapped and soaked my leg so that I was able to ride on Friday. My entry was delayed in the mail so I was on the waiting list for Jr. Beginner Novice. At 1:45, we got the fantastic news that I was able to compete. The only downside was that my ride time was at 2:49.

We quickly got my pony ready and I was able to ride dressage. My dressage went better than expected and he didn’t jump out of the dressage court. That was one of my nightmares of doing dressage for the first time. Even though my pony was naughty during show jumping, I finished and got to move on to cross-country the next day it. Cross-country was a blast and my pony and I went around clean. Throughout the year my pony and I have learned many important lessons. We have learned them from Lauren and from members of the eventing community.

Over the past year I have competed in four events. I love the dynamic of how organized all the times and rankings are. I also like how you have to take care of your own horse and help all the other riders and horses on your team.

One valuable lesson I learned was not to go too fast on the cross-country course. I never would have guessed that my pony, Noble, would be able to go too fast.  He did, but I got speed faults. At my next event, Lauren taught me how to use the watch and I went clean in cross-country.

I feel that I would not be having fun in this sport if it were not for Lauren Billys and all the eventing community that has supported and cheered me on.