Over the summer, I got the pleasure of meeting Rileigh Tibbott at the Sussex County Horse Show. She recognized me from my blog, and little did I know that she was competing in her first Grand Prix that week. Coincidentally, she had also ridden Luther quite a few times as she used to train with the individual that leased/sold me Luther.
Rileigh just recently made the decision to put off college in order to compete at WEF this winter, and she also just recently purchased a 1.60m horse in order to compete in the Grand Prix classes at WEF.
Rileigh describes herself as “the most sarcastic person ever” who “always tr[ies] to make people laugh.” When asked to describe herself, she also said that “when it comes to the show ring, there’s no stress just smiles.”
Rileigh, 18, grew up on a farm her whole life. Her family owned over 30 draft horses which she said she would try to jump and “epically” failed at doing so. When she was younger, she did 4H and local shows.
She didn’t compete at her first rated show until she was 14 years old. When she was 15, she purchased a Thoroughbred that got her started in the low children’s jumpers. When she was 16, she purchased a low junior jumper named Axel. She competed in her first 1.20m class when she was 16.
Although Rileigh loves the jumper ring, she does dabble in other disciplines.
“The fun and adrenaline rush of doing the jumpers is what made me fall in love with it, however I still do the equitation and hunters on occasion,” she said.
At the Sussex County Grand Prix, Rileigh competed on her horse Kahlua 7, a 9 year old German Sport Horse by King Kolibri. Kahlua was just imported in August and had a successful record over in Germany in the 1.45m classes.
“We bought her because she is so easy to ride and very forgiving. What most people don’t realize is that up until the past summer I was only jumping 1.20m,” Rileigh said. “She took me from 1.20m to 1.50m in just a month.”
However, since Rileigh purchased a new horse, Kahlua is now for sale.
Rileigh’s new horse, Cento per Cento CG is a former Pan American games competitor. He has also been to several World Cups.
“A friend of mine in Wellington had him and that is how I found him,” she said of the 1.60m jumper. “What made me chose him is his incredible scope and hind end.”
As stated before, Rileigh made the tough decision of not returning to college this semester in order to stay down in WEF and compete.
“I decided to stay in WEF and take a break from college when we decided to purchase my new 1.60m horse,” Rileigh said. “I know that it will take a lot [of] training and time to be able to accomplish my goals so staying here was in my best interest. The decision was hard for me simply because I will miss all of my friends back home.”
Prior to that, Rileigh was attending college and continuing to compete with her horse Kahlua. Prior to that, Rileigh also had to learn how to balance school with riding and competing – something that many young equestrians have to deal with.
“Balancing school and riding was incredible hard,” Rileigh said. “I would miss all the days I was allowed to [in] high school to compete. Luckily, I had an amazing principal who worked with my riding schedule.”
Rileigh competed in her first Grand Prix last August at the Sussex County Horse Show. She was in good company with riders like Andy Kocher, Michael Hughes, and Michael Desiderio. However, she held her own and finished with just four faults – impressive for her first Grand Prix ever.
“My first Grand Prix was probably the most nervous I have ever been. It was the highest the horse and I have ever jumped and I had only had her for about a month,” she said. “There were so many people and it was under the lights and a BIG grand prix course.”
How did Rileigh prepare for the Grand Prix? By going for a light hack in the morning and listening to music.
“That is how I mentally prepare myself to get ready,” she said. “My go to song is ‘All I do is Win’.”
Before actually competing in Grand Prix classes, Rileigh was an avid Grand Prix spectator.
“I have been a spectator at Grand Prixs for as long as I remember. However, I never could’ve imagined doing one before the last 2 years,” she said. “My first 2 horses that were able to jump the bigger jumps taught me so much and made that dream a reality.”
Although Rileigh has her eye on the Grand Prix classes at WEF, she’s got bigger dreams in mind, such as competing in the Olympics one day and becoming a Professional as soon as she is ready.
Rileigh said she looks up to Reed Kessler and if she could ride any horse, it would be Cortes C.
“I saw her [Reed] compete when I was 14 and always loved the way she rode. She also has a strong connection with her horses which means the world to me,” Rileigh said.
As for favorite equestrian brands? Rileigh loves Equine Couture, JOTT, and Animo.
“I’m ALL about sparkles and the color blue!” Rileigh said.
When she is not riding, Rileigh loves to unwind by watching Netflix and hanging out with her friends. However, she can’t stay away from horses for long.
“[M]y most favorite thing is to just sit in the barn and play with the horses. I feel like that creates a special bond with them outside of the ring,” she said.
In addition to riding, Rileigh is also a model, which she started doing her senior year of high school and absolutely loves.
Rileigh said her biggest accomplishment thus far as an equestrian has been competing in the International Ring at WEF with Kahlua. She said that had always been a dream of hers.
Rileigh’s goals for 2016 include competing in a 1.60m Grand Prix with her new horse and to do the Pennsylvania National Horse Show Grand Prix.
“Obviously it will take time to bond with the new stallion but we’ve already had a clean round in the 1.30m and we are excited to move up,” she said.
Rileigh had this to say to young equestrians with big goals like her own.
“…[F]ollow your dreams,” she said. “My dream seemed so far out of reach but hard work and dedication DOES pay off. No matter what critical people might say you CAN do it.”
And what did she have to say about navigating a Grand Prix course?
“The most important thing is to keep cool,” she said. “The second you tense up, so will the horse. Take deep breaths in the corners and act like nobody is watching.”
She also said that it helps to have a forgiving horse because if the rider gets tense or nervous, “they’re able to save you.”
We are looking forward to seeing Rileigh’s progress at WEF this winter and for what this whole year has in store for her!