Ocala, FL – This week’s Ocala Sunday Spotlight shines on local junior rider Chelsea Stopford of Reddick, Florida. Stopford is not only an incredible emerging athlete that dabbles in all three disciplines, but she is also a straight A student that is ranked third in her class. Read on to learn more about Stopford and her junior career.
WEC: How did you get started riding?
Both my parents are trainers so, I’ve been riding for quite a long time. My first pony was a trick pony, and I did cow sorting on him and learned tricks! My trick was standing on his back. Then my mom taught him how to jump for me. I did the short stirrup with him because he didn’t have a lead change. He was the best pony in the world. His name was Theodore.
I’m 17 now so I have been riding for close to ten years. I did cow sorting for just a little bit and that’s where I actually met one of my trainers, Mrs. Waters. I saw my mom showing the Million in Ocala and that was when I decided I wanted to start riding english. I had a couple of sales ponies that came to the barn when I started but my next pony was named Thank Heavens. I did the large pony divisions with him, and we even went to Pony Finals in Lexington, Kentucky. After that I moved onto my next horse Leon. He really gave me the confidence and then he got a little cheeky, but that’s how I learned to ride better. Harvest Moon was my next horse and he is my heart horse. Now we are doing the Medium Junior Jumpers and I have had him for six years now!
WEC: Tell us about your experience in all three disciplines.
I started out in the hunters and Harvest Moon was really my first jumper. Currently, I don’t really have a hunter horse of my own, but I showed an incredible horse named I Witness last year in the WEC Ocala 3’6″-3’9″ Hunter Derbies.
I started the equitation a little bit in 2022 to get qualified for Premier Equitation Cup. It will be my first final! I am riding a horse named Celleiko. He was originally a jumper, and he did a six-bar competition where he jumped up to a 1.80m, so he is very scopey! He is super lazy, so it is like trying to get a firecracker started to do him the jumpers, so we thought the equitation would make his life a bit easier!
WEC: What has your experience been here at WEC Ocala?
We live right down the road, we’re only 25 minutes away. We show at World Equestrian Center all of the time. I just love it here so much. The trail riding is my favorite part, I get all of my horses out there all the time. It’s so much fun. The jumps are just so beautiful. Showing my horse in that main arena is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Every time you go in there is like you’re walking into the Olympics. The competition has been really hard here and there’s some really amazing riders. The courses in that main arena are difficult and it’s really made me the competitor. I have learned so much this week, and I am so grateful to be here.
WEC: What are your goals going forward?
I want to do a 1.40m with Harvest Moon before this circuit ends, he turns 16 this year. I love him so much. He’s my whole life. But no matter what happens, if he needs me to go down to the lows, I will do that for him. If he wants to do dressage, I will do that for him. Or if he wants to be a trail horse, I will do that for him!
The equitation horse will do this equitation final, and then I think we’re going to try to gear up from the Maclay. Then I have another jumper that was sent for me to ride and he is very cool. He’s a little quirky, so we’re doing the Low Juniors with him. His name is Hummer RW.
WEC: How have you been prepping for the Premier Equitation Cup?
He doesn’t need much prep; it has mostly been me! I have been riding pretty much all my horses without stirrups. I’m just trying to get my lower leg tighter and then just trying to stay confident going into it. He has all of the flat pieces, his lead changes are automatic. I think I have all of my bases covered for the flat phase.
WEC: Tell us about how you juggle riding and school.
In the mornings, it will either be my mom, or I feeding and then sometimes there are times where I have to bring DJ [Harvest Moon] in before school if my mom isn’t home, because he will only let my mom and I catch him. I go to North Marion High School, I am a part of the ACE Program, which is a form of Cambridge. Basically, you take eight classes, I’m taking five this year, and you can get a college credit from them if you pass the end of the year test. I have taken five so far and I have passed all of them. Then the ACE diploma qualifies you for Bright Futures Scholarship, which will pay for the first four years of college at some schools. I want to go to the University of Florida. I’m a junior right now. I was thinking about biomedical engineering, or something in STEM, I’m really interested in that. All of my teachers have been very lenient with me missing school, because I’m pretty sure I missed every single Friday of school for the past month! But they’ve all been very helpful. I have straight A’s in school and a perfect GPA. I’m also in band and I play the clarinet. I’m a part of student government, so I helped run our junior class.
I just want to thank the people that have really helped me get to where I am today like Mr. David Jennings for giving me Harvest Moon and then Mrs. Lauren Barth and Mrs. Janet Dannenhoffer for giving me that ride on Casa and of course Miss Anna Gansäuer for giving me the ride on Celleiko and Hummer RW. Of course, my dad for always helping me out and Mrs. Waters because she is always there whenever I call and Mr. Jamie.
Thank you, Chelsea, for taking the time to chat with us! We wish you the best of luck with your horses!