Riding For Christian Kennedy 2019, Part 1

Winter of 2019 is the first winter I have ever been to Wellington Florida. Thanks to Lendon Gray and the support from the generous Christian Kennedy Scholarship made it possible for me to have this amazing experience. I have only been here for a little over a week and the first word that comes to mind is “wow”.
Wow to the people I have met and all the girls in the WIT program that I will be helping teach this winter. Wow to the horses and riders I have already been able to see and being around them has helped me ride better already! Wow to the generous Oded Shomoni for helping my horse and me achieve great things, I have only taken two lessons and I am so excited for more! And of course wow to Lendon for believing in me enough to invite me down here. I am excited about this journey and would love to tell you all about it. I am also taking this opportunity to ride for Christian, for such an amazing rider and person and for me to be given this opportunity I believe that he will be with us every step of the way and my goal is to make him and his family proud.

So to start off my blog, a little background about myself; I am 24 years old I own an amazing 13-year-old Morgan gelding. We have shown the Grand Prix and working towards raising our scores in hopes of earning our gold medal together. We are in Wellington until the end of March and then will return home to Ohio where we reside.

Kahlaua on a walk in Wellington, Florida with Emily Gill Dressage

The journey down to Florida was very un-eventful which I was grateful for. I was also grateful to my dad who took the trip with me. We started on an early Friday morning and made it to our halfway point in Santee, South Carolina, where we would stay for the night. This is my first trip down to Florida and this was my first experience leaving my horse overnight somewhere new, and I couldn’t have picked a better place than the Santee Horse Hotel. They were so hospitable and texted me later to let me know Kahlua had drunk his water. And I was very appreciative for their kindness. Next morning we took the second half of our trip to finish in Florida. We got into the state fairly quickly and then just cruised along the coast until we reached Wellington. Also made it through the agriculture check when first arriving in Florida, which was a new experience for me as well but quite easy as long as you have the horses Coggins and health certificate. So as my dad and I changed from jackets and long socks to short sleeve and shoes we finally made it to the barn to unpack and meet everyone. Luckily Kahlua settled in just fine.

Emily Gill training dressage

The beginning of this program has been super smooth going, getting to know all the girls has been truly a blast! I think we have a really fun group and we have already been able to have some great laughs. Fitness and riding have been on the agenda every day. Also, I have gotten to ride and teach some of the girls and help them with their mounts, which has been super fun for me and I am looking forward to watching them grow throughout the next couple months. The first weekend we got to visit Ali Brock’s farm and watch her ride a horse and then teach a lesson. I loved every second of that, just because I love to watch Ali ride and to hear what she had to say about the horses and how maybe they were a little different than a ‘typical’ dressage horse. She talked about how if you have a horse that seems to be willing then why not pursue it and see how far it can go. Maybe the horse doesn’t seem to have the correct conformation or isn’t a typical breed for dressage, she still kept going with their training. That was very relatable to me having a Morgan in this sport because to me there is no ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ horse that is supposed to do it, if you have a horse with the heart to do it, might as well give it a go! So it was very cool to hear how Ali and other professionals appreciate any type of horse in the dressage arena.

Due to the Christian Kennedy Scholarship, I have been able to not only train with Lendon but also Oded Shimoni. I have had two lessons so far and I am already hungry for more! One of the biggest struggles my horse and I have is the piaffe. It tends to get very quick and he tends to step on himself. I have tried many different ways but have yet to find something that clicks. I am excited to say that already working with Oded my horse is taking the whip on the ground and stepping under himself quite well. These training sessions have already made leaps and bounds towards one of our goals, which is to achieve our gold medal together. We need two scores above 60% in the Grand Prix. After attending my first Dressage under the lights Friday evening of Grand Prix Freestyles at Global, and watching Laura Graves ride I had goosebumps all over. I am hoping that if I keep watching rides similar to that, it will help me channel the picture that I want to create when I am riding.

Stay tuned for more!

~Emily Gill