Ending a partnership on a high note

By Kendall Westgate, WestgateK@Findlay.edu

A strong end to a year-long partnership ended with successful year-end awards for junior Eva Reynolds and her mount UF Ballyknock On Time. This pair finished their 2023 USEA eventing season finishing in fifth place overall for the Beginner Novice Young Adult Rider and third place overall Beginner Novice Intercollegiate leaderboards.

“There have been so many amazing moments this season, but I think my favorite part was running the Novice Area Championships at Jump Start Horse Trials,” Reynolds said. That was by far the most challenging show either of us had attended. The cross-country course was particularly technical, but it felt so amazing to work through every question together. Charlie really gave me his all during that ride and finishing double clear was such a huge accomplishment for the both of us.”

Reynolds began riding on-and-off when she was six-years-old; however, she rode in the hunter/jumper discipline. When attending the University of Findlay, she tried out for UF’s eventing team, which sparked her interest.

“In the spring semester of my freshman year at UF, I was able to accompany UF’s eventing team to an event as a groom; I instantly fell in love with the sport,” Reynolds said. “Now, as a junior at UF, I have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to compete at three different levels of eventing within the past year and a half.”

During the fall semester of her sophomore year, she was paired up with UF Ballyknock On Time, otherwise known as Charlie. He is a 20-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, who was welcomed into the University’s program in 2018. Reynolds described Charlie as a straightforward horse with a friendly personality that is easy to get along with; yet, they did have challenges to overcome.

“However, we had some challenges under the saddle. A lot of people don’t realize that Charlie is an emotional guy. All he really wants is for the rider to listen to him and work with him rather than calling all the shots,” Reynolds said. “Charlie didn’t have a lot of trust in me at first and if he doesn’t trust you to make decisions, he’s going to get mad when you do. In the beginning of our time together, we had to figure out how to get on the same page in all three phases of the discipline. It was tough and took a lot of time, but I think just spending a lot of time together helped us to bond so I could earn that trust. I think horses know when someone is taking good care of them and going that extra mile. They want to create a bond because they’re herd animals. You just have to show them that you want them to be happy and comfortable. So, I gave him pets when he wanted them and respected his space when he was feeling grumpy.”

Besides getting to know each other under saddle, Reynolds also stated another challenge was fitness. To help overcome this, they participated in roading over the summer, which is a pre-season exercise for foxhunters; the horse and rider teams work with hounds outside of an arena.

“Charlie and I were able to go roading a few times during the summer and it was a blast. Charlie used to be a mount for a foxhunting club before he was at the University, so he knew exactly what to do,” Reynolds said. “It was a fun way to get to know another side of him, too. As soon as the hounds came out, his ears were perked up and his eyes were glued to them. He gained a lot more stamina and overall fitness through that experience, and we were set up for a really great fall semester with successful rides at AECs and at Jump Start.”

When asked who her greeted inspirations were, Reynolds stated that her competitors pushed her to be better before, during and after shows.

“I love this sport so much and enjoy being able to learn more about it as I go. I want to see how much I can achieve and learn. I think that motivation comes from my extremely supportive parents as well as my trainer, Sue King, who continues to push me towards excellence and achieving my goals,” Reynolds said. “I am most inspired when I go to shows. Seeing the quiet focus in the dressage ring, hearing the loudspeaker announcing cross country updates, and feeling the tension in the stadium ring; it’s so electric. My greatest inspiration is my competitors. The beaming smiles across their faces, their friends cheering them on the sidelines, knowing that feeling they have crossing the finish line on cross-country; these are the things that keep me coming back for more. These things inspire me to be the best I can be and get as much out of this sport that I possibly can. The USEA community is vibrant and strong and I am grateful and proud to be a part of it.”

Starting this semester, Reynolds and Charlie ended their partnership. She is now assigned to a new horse named Willa. Charlie continues to teach and learn from other riders in the English Equine Studies program.

Thanks to my parents and loved ones for this generous and unwavering support. To Sue King for taking a chance on me and pushing me beyond my goals and Kait Schultz for her indispensable support and guidance,” Reynolds said. “Thanks also to my teammates for making this such a fun season at home and during shows. Thank you to Charlie for having such a huge heart and letting me make the decisions sometimes.”