I’m very excited to announce that I got the chance to interview Lizzy S., who won team gold at the Pony Finals with her lease pony, Theo. After aging out, Lizzy started as a freshman at Auburn University, where she is majoring in pre-vet animal science at the College of Agriculture.
Lizzy describes herself as a “very open person with a lot of goals.”
“I love to have fun but when it comes down to it I will always choose studying over going out because my future means so much to me,” she said.
Lizzy also considers herself to be a “very accepting person.”
“I was raised in a very loving home,” she said. “We moved around a lot and I was exposed to a lot of cultures when I was very young.”
Despite her riding accolades, interesting life growing up, and her large aspirations, she did say she doesn’t consider herself “too interesting.
Although Lizzy has aged out and is no longer riding Theo, she is trying to find as many riding opportunities as she can. However, college hasn’t made her life too different, and she is focusing on making sure she gets good grades and is successful academically.
“I think first semester I focused more on academics than riding, and second semester I can ride more because I’ve figured it out,” Lizzy said. “My junior status has never been too important to me. In the long run I love to compete, and I can still do that without that status. I only needed it to compete at Pony Finals and now that I’ve had a successful round there, I’m content with it.”
Despite her lack of riding first semester, Lizzy has managed to work out a few opportunities to ride her second semester so she can ride more. Additionally, she did have a working student position over winter break but had to give it up to do a medical issue.
Speaking of Pony Jumper Finals, Lizzy described that experience as “amazing.” In 2012, she competed at Pony Finals with a different pony and got a bronze team medal and 13th overall. Despite that, Lizzy still wasn’t satisfied. However, she considered herself to be “done” with pony jumpers until her friend suggested she try Theo.
“Theo fell in my lap exactly one year from the starting date of Pony Finals 2014. We had a lot of ground to cover, and we entered our first AA show in February. If you look at the videos from our first show you’ll think it was a miracle we survived an entire course at Pony Finals,” she said. “Both him and I had a lot to fix. I poured my heart and soul into him, and it paid off. My goal going into that competition was to get through the finish flags on every course. If I did that, I would be so happy. We did that and a lot more.”
Lizzy had a hugely successful jump-off after what she calls “two silly mistakes” that ended up helping her team win gold.
“Theo and I ended up in 5th overall and with a gold team medal. The super cool part about it is that no bronze and silver medals were handed out for team,” she said. “The other teams had to be within 20 faults of the gold team to qualify for a medal, and [the] Pony Club team was so good that no one was within 20 faults! I have never been more proud of that pony or that team. That moment is something I will always hold onto.”
Lizzy said for Pony Finals, “don’t ride for time.”
“The only time the time counts is in the jump off for the medals. Ride smart, read the rules. Don’t let yourself get nervous and don’t let yourself blank out. There is NO SUCH THING as too much leg. And be confident in yourself and your pony!” She said.
Lizzy is no longer riding Theo because he went back to his current owner. She said that he is competing in eventing with his current owner and is “doing well.”
Lizzy does want to go back to showing and competing, even though she doesn’t currently have a horse. She also plans to take her riding as far as she can possibly go with it.
“Upper level show jumping is always something that I have aspired to,” she said. “I also enjoy teaching and learning and would love to take that as far as I can.”
Lizzy grew up at a lesson barn like most of us, but she also participated in Pony Club. She said Pony Club made her the rider she is today.
“I have horsemanship skills that I commonly see lacking in my competitors. Pony Club emphasizes knowledge and safety,” Lizzy said. “I truly think that that experience made me a better rider and contributed to the win we had at Pony Finals. If you watched the videos – none of our girls [rode] for time. We take the safe, practical approach.”
Lizzy said that she not only knows what she needs to do to keep her horse or pony healthy but also the why of what she is doing. This knowledge has also set her apart from a lot of others in the pre-vet science major at Auburn.
”I honestly recommend Pony Club to everyone. I think the knowledge and professionalism that it teaches you is irreplaceable,” Lizzy said. “I also know that the connections that it has opened me up to [have] given me the best coaches I could ever imagine.”
Lizzy likes competing in the jumpers, and she will continue to do so if she is able. Her favorite thing about the jumpers is that they’re “unbiased.”
“There is little room for cheating. If i walked Theo into a hunter round we would probably place different each time with a different judge with the same round,” she said. “In jumpers, that’s not possible.”
Lizzy said that her nerves and her back are her biggest riding weakness. She is a self-described “micro-manager,” which makes her tend to hold her breath. However, she pointed out that this habit makes her round go terribly.
“If you watch my rounds at pony finals, I talk to Theo,” she said. “It’s obnoxious, yes, but me encouraging him makes me visibly relax more.”
We asked Lizzy her opinion on internet bullying, as it is something that has plagued a lot of equestrians as of late. Lizzy said she doesn’t deal with bullying well, but she eventually realized that if people have a problem with her, that’s fine. She would rather someone come to her directly if they have an issue with her rather than pick on her anonymously or behind her back.
As a college student and someone who went through the college application process, Lizzy has the following advice for those that will be or are applying to college now:
“Make yourself stand out. No college wants all of their students to have a 4.0 and be in the top 10 percent and no extracurriculars. Make yourself so unique there’s no way they can say no to you,” she said.
Right now, Lizzy spends most of her time studying. However, she doesn’t regret it as she finished her first semester of college with a 3.81 GPA, which is amazing! She also added that it is incredibly difficult to get an ‘A’ at Auburn, so she is very proud of her academic success.
2014 just ended, and Lizzy said her biggest lesson from last year was to have fun.
“I mean I am still incredibly competitive but some of the pictures you’ll see me smiling and laughing because having fun is something I forgot to do for a long time,” she said.