Winner of the 2014 Amee VanTassell Memorial Scholarship Announced

Jennifer and Sydney

Jennifer and Sydney

Rivendell is proud to announce the winner of the 2014 Amee VanTassell Memorial Scholarship, Jennifer Shute.

Riding has always had an important place in my heart. When things got rough in my life I always knew I had riding to fall back on.  Since I was a little girl I always had a passion for animals, horses in particular. I never imagined being where I am now in my riding career.  But boy am I glad I stuck with it.  My first ride was at a birthday party that had a pony ride. I was “that kid” that didn’t want to get off and made the kids walk me in circles for hours.  My second ride was on a horse. That horse took me on nice long gallop but instead of screaming and crying I was smiling and laughing. That’s when I knew, this was what I was born to do. After that, I was moved to Rivendell. This is where my story starts.

                Mondays at 5:00, with Sam and Beth. This is what I looked forward to every week. Sometimes the suspense of wondering who I was going to ride was too much for a little girl like me to handle. It was usually Kestral or Mitzy. This stayed the same for about a year. Once I was finally ready, I did the Dutchess County Fair on Gally. I was having so much fun, until Gally took an unexpected turn without me and left me on the ground. Instead of lying there, I immediately got up and chased after her and got back on and finished the show.

                Throughout the next couple years, Tracie gave me the honor of riding Coco. Riding her was the building block to my riding. I rode Coco for two years, and as an 11-12 year old girl it was a dream that came true. Having a pony I had to come ride and take care of everyday. I did my first event on Coco at Frazier Farm in CT. It was a rainy day and my nerves were all over the place. I had finished the dressage and was headed over to cross country. I was so excited! 3...2…1.. Have a nice ride! I was off, over my first jump, over the second and headed up the hill and around the corner. Then things took a turn for the worse. I hit a tree, fell off and was dragged for a little. But again, I got back on and jumped some more. Coco was also my second event and third, but these times we went clean. Sadly after time I outgrew Coco and her ability at her age.

                Spot was my next adventure. I had so much fun riding such a pretty, athletic pony.  She could jump over the moon. Sadly when I got her she was at the point of being sick and getting worse. Spot had allergies and EPM (equine protozoal myeloencephalitis). I did a ton of research on the disease to help understand what was wrong and what I could to do to help. This was a neurological disease that made it so she could not feel her legs and didn’t always know where they were. I still had the guts to ride her though. Spot and I must’ve fallen at least 10 times. But we both got up every single time and kept going. Even when I couldn’t ride her I loved hanging out with her. She had the sweetest personality. Spot was the pony I learned how to gives shots on. She got one every month for her allergies that I was responsible for giving her. Sadly the decision was made that she needed to be put down. There is no cure for EPM and her allergies just became too much. Watching her go down was probably the most devastating thing I have ever seen. But I’m glad I was with her when she went through it. During my time of riding Spot I also rode Jake so I was still able to event. I did my first novice and three-day event on him.

                Three years ago I started riding Sydney. I was a little nervous getting on him the first time. Jumping him for the first time. Riding him alone for the first time. But I got through it all. I rode him in draw reins for the first three months of riding him, to assure he wasn’t going to have a head flipping situation.  But I must say, I am not a pro at riding with draw reins. I had a hard time on Sydney for a while - and when I say that I mean I fell off of him every time I jumped him. Tracie never took me off him though. I am extremely happy that she didn’t. I learned so much on him. I did a lot of horse shows and events on him.  I will never forget the day I did my first novice with him and I told Tracie that I got 8th place. She hugged me and said “You placed on your first novice with him!” I had a smile on my face that wouldn’t go away. Event after event, horse show after horse show we only became a stronger team. Sydney and I went on a hunter pace that had a dramatic ending. We were headed to a jump that had mud in front of it. Syd’s feet slid under the jump, but he still picked up his feet to jump. We flipped over the jump and broke it. Syd got up and ran as I lay there for a minute thinking “what just happened?” I knew I had to get up so I did. I ran after him, in a ton of pain. I couldn’t run anymore so I yelled his name and he stopped and walked toward me. I was so relieved. I was afraid Sydney was hurt so instead of getting back on his back, I sucked up the pain and walked the last mile/mile and a half home on foot. I ended up only injuring my hand but it cost me a week of riding. Syd and I just moped around for a while.  We were the crippled team.

                December of 2012, I started riding Oscar. I knew this was going to start a new chapter in my riding career. Oscar is old but still can go training which was my goal by the end of last summer. Sadly the event I signed up to go training in I was only able to do dressage due to the weather. But I was very pleased with my dressage, as was Tracie. It was sad that the judge didn’t see eye to eye with us because I received one of the highest dressage scores I have ever gotten.  I am still riding Oscar and am hoping to complete multiple training events this season.

                During a good portion of my riding career I was going through some times. My parents were getting divorced, I moved schools, moved houses, had to give away my dog etc. I went through a depression in 7th grade and I couldn’t go to school. My mom told me I had to go to the barn. I didn’t mind because I loved being there. Everyone was so comforting and nice to me. That’s one of the things I love most about Rivendell. We are a family and always will be no matter what.  If I had a bad day, or something was bothering me the only place I wanted to be was at the barn and on the back of a horse. Even today, when I have a bad day, my favorite thing is to go on a long trail ride and just talk. All the horses I have had a bond with have all been great listeners. 

-Jennifer Shute