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.
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.”
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 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!”
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!”