Emily and Goose – Journey to the National Dressage Pony Cup

I recently wrote about the connections I have made with riders from across the world via Instagram, one such rider is Emily Grimstead. The first thing you will undoubtedly notice when you scroll through Emily’s feed is her spunky, spotty pony Goosebumps or Goose for short. 


Emily and Goose recently returned from a very successful trip to the National Dressage Pony Cup, where they competed in the USDF Training Level and musical freestyle classes.

Despite growing up with a horsey mother, it took Emily a few years to overcome her fear of horses and start riding at the age of 10, “I think I was just nervous about riding something so high off the ground. I was a timid rider for a long time. I’ve always been more comfortable on smaller horses and ponies”.  

During her years as a rider Emily has tried her hand at most equestrian sports from showing her first horse, Cory a purebred Arabian (who is now 30!) to Western pleasure to hunter/jumpers and found dressage accidentally. “There was a dressage clinic at the camp on Valentine’s Day in 2015 and I just fell in love with the sport! Now, I could never go back to a different discipline. Dressage is just so fun and challenging; there is just so much to learn!”

Although Goose, now 17, keeps Emily on her toes as he continues to come up with new ‘tricks’, he has come a long way from the dangerous pony that Cindy Bellis-Jones rescued from slaughter. Cindy said, “There are just ponies that through no fault of their own have travelled down the wrong path and find themselves in a bad situation. They come in all colors, but share a common denominator of needing a helping hand to get back to a better place. Goose was one of those ponies. I tried to look past the surface and instead see what the pony really was. Goose needed a purpose. That is what I saw. His color, although quite neat, really didn’t influence my decision [to save him]. He would have travelled back to my farm in any color.”

Goose when he was purchased by Emily’s mum
The first meeting between Emily and Goose happened by chance, as he was agisted at the barn where Emily was riding.  Although she didn’t ride him at the time, it was love at first sight, “He just had the sweetest personality!” When the owners put the barn and horses up for sale some years later, Emily’s mother, who teaches begginer riding lessons at a Girl Scout camp, purchased him with the intention of using him in the program. However, this wasn’t quite the right job for Goose who true to his pony nature would be naughty and quite difficult for the young riders to manage. So Emily took him on as her own project, and he flourished with the consistency of one rider. 

The journey from rescue pony to Breed Champion at Pony Cup was not without some bumps in the road. At their first competition together, Emily recalls, “Goose was so naughty that he had to be led into the arena by my husband! We also had some serious trailering issues that we had to work through to get him there.”

Emily and Goose at their first competition
Emily discovered the National Dressage Pony Cup when investigating what opportunities existed for adults who ride dressage ponies. With this goal in mind Emily went from being a weekend rider to working hard and riding about five days per week. She says that “The prospect of going [to the National Pony Cup] really motivated me to push harder as an equestrian and to try to be a better rider”.

For Emily the highlight of her time at the Pony Cup was receiving the high point Appaloosa pony breed award at the competitor’s dinner. “It was a complete surprise and I am so thankful. Having Goosebumps win a beautiful champion neck sash was just a dream come true!”

Emily and Goose competing at the National Dressage Pony Cup
I asked Emily what she has learned during her journey and her response could not have been more perfect, “Have patience. Correct training takes a lot of time and it is just as strange and difficult for our horses to learn new things as it is for us as riders. I feel like it has taken over two years just to get to a place where a lot of other riders start out. But accomplishing a goal on a pony that you trained yourself? There is no better feeling!”

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8 Comments

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  1. Emily is just a great person inside and out. I am so proud and happy for her and Goosebumps! Thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute to her hard work.

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  2. Wonderful story. Thanks for posting this.

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  3. Goose is gorgeous! I love Appaloosas. Nice to “meet” you Emily and congrats on overcoming your fears and following your passion.

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  4. I think there is no better feeling than training a horse yourself and competing on it, whether it be a winning day or not!
    My Freddy and i spent two years in Preparatory dressage as we just couldn’t get the right canter lead, he didn’t know how to balance that way and also i lean to the right which didn’t help. It was 100% my fault though and i have learned how to set him up for success using corners and my weight etc. He tries so hard. I love how emily points out how hard it is for horses and us, that is so true and why our sport is such a relationship with our animal. Goose gave me goosebumps, he is so damn handsome ! 🙂
    mel x

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    • Absolutely Mel, Dressage is a marathon not a sprint and there is nothing wrong with taking our time and making sure we really have a solid foundation before moving on!
      Emily and Goose are a wonderful partnership, I am so glad you enjoyed their story

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    • I’ve had similar experiences with the horse I have now Mel. It took me a long time to realise that there is no timeline for progressing up the grades, there is no such thing as too long to stay in one level, unless of course you and your horse are no longer being challenged enough.
      Goose is a super spunk and Emily is doing such a great job with him. It’s been awesome to watch the two of them develop.

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