By Kendall Westgate, WestgateK@Findlay.edu
After a successful 2023 show season, senior Grace Ransom earned the USEA Intercollegiate Training Level champion with her partner, UF’s Bright Prince.
“This award means more to me than words can describe,” Ransom said. “When I saw my name at the top of the ranks, I was so beyond proud of myself. However, it was just the beginning. It wasn’t until after I shared this news that it really felt more than just something I’ve earned this year alone. The village of people who congratulated me and supported me through it all made it feel like gold.”
Ransom competes in eventing, which is a horse competition including three different phases: dressage, stadium and cross country. This discipline comprises different levels, in which Ransom showed at training level. Training level consists of a dressage test introducing trot and canter lengthenings, cross country with about 20 obstacles at a height of 3’3” and stadium with a max height of 3’3”.
“I’ve gone a lot further than I have ever imagined in this past season,” Ransom said. “We competed at our first national championship together as well as a classical format in November. The classical format was one of the most educational experiences. Being able to compete in an event that mimics the beginning of the sport of eventing gives you a whole new appreciation for it.”
Ransom majors in English Equestrian Studies with an emphasis in eventing along with an English Business major. She started riding competitively at age 12 but started the United States Eventing Association (USEA) events her sophomore year of college. While at the University of Findlay, she trains with the eventing trainer, Sue King.
“Grace came to me with limited eventing experience. She worked hard and preserved when things got tough. I loved watching her skills grow,” King said. “She took a few spills and when that happened, she sat up, pulled herself together and hopped right back on. She was determined to figure things out no matter how hard it was. She learned that competition was an assessment on where they are doing things.”
Ransom was paired with UF’s Bright Prince in January of 2022, who is a 16-year-old off-the-track-thoroughbred. The pair traveled to work with Carol Kowlowski in Mothersfield in Avon, New York for the past two summers. To be successful at shows, Ransom made a priority to create a bond and partnership.
“The relationship I’ve created with Bright is like no other I’ve had before. It took a while, just like any horse, to get him to trust me. I spent a lot of time with him out of the saddle, such as hand grazing and grooming to strengthen that bond even more,” Ransom said. “A huge part of our bond I have to give to our summers spent together. We had a lot of fun exploring Mothersfield, their meadow, and the trails close by which put a test on the trust we have with each other. The gallops on the trails and in the meadow helped our addiction too.”
Besides building a partnership outside of the saddle, they worked hard under saddle to place well at shows.
“The basics are the most important part of training horse and rider. Grace understands the value of those and we worked hard on them,” King said. “Bright tends to get anxious and tense. The result is he shortens his neck and hollows his back. It is very challenging for the rider to understand the concept of pushing the horse forward into the contact when she/he feels like the horse is running away. The tendency is to hold on for dear life when in fact you have to put your leg on and send the horse into contact. We worked on balancing Bright to and after fences. Another important aspect of their training was preparing both horse and rider to ride a balanced forward gallop. The increased speed at the training level needs to be ridden and adjustable.”
Ransom also shared the people who inspired who to strive for greatness this past season. As co-captain of the eventing team at UF, she has built many close friendships and relationships with her teammates.
“Some inspirations of mine have to start with my teammates and friends; they have always been so supportive of not only myself but the community that is at the farm. I’ve heard time and time again that I am an inspiration to them, but I want them to know that they made even the smallest of wins feel like the world. The relationships I have built here, both with Bright and some of my best friends, is one I will always be grateful for,” Ransom said. “Sue King has had the biggest effect on my career thus far. She not only sparked the partnership that I have with Bright but pushed me when I was at my lowest. When I thought I had nothing left to give to this sport, she knew that I wasn’t done.”
Some other season highlights are as followed: second place at Winona Horse Trials, first place at Genesee Valley Hunt Horse Trials, third at Hunting Farm Horse Trials, second at Flying Cross Farms Horse Trials, eighth at Area VIII training level championships, American Eventing Championships competitor and Hagyard Midsouth Classical Training three-day competitor.
“I am so proud of Grace and Bright. To win the intercollegiate training level award is a huge accomplishment,” King said. “I am looking forward to working with the pair this semester and seeing what the future holds for her. I know our paths will continue to cross throughout the years.”