This week’s Sunday Spotlight lands on 24-year-old amateur rider Emma Orser. Emma came to WEC this week from Toronto, Canada, to show in her very first horse show. Emma is an inspiration, encouraging anyone at any age to pursue horse showing. She has a fantastic sense of humor when it comes to riding and her bubbly personality shines both in and out of the ring. Emma and her mount, Twenty Creek, had a fantastic week in the Intermediate Adult Hunters, taking two sevenths and an eighth against tough company. Emma took some time between showing and barn work to chat with us about her first show.
WEC: How did you get into riding?
Emma: Well, I went to summer camp, fell off, broke my arm and never turned back! I was in grade nine when that happened, so I was about 13 years old. It didn’t scare me, but it definitely scared my parents. The horse just spooked and side-stepped and I went out the side door. I thought, “Cool, horses are unpredictable. I fell off and I only broke my arm. If this is the worst thing that’s going to happen, this is fine!”
WEC: Tell us about your early riding career.
Emma: I bopped around coaches a good bit. We just got cursed with riding schools that kept closing, so I kind of stayed at the same level for a really long time. I was also very tall as a child, so I was always put on the temperamental horses. I got good at having a really strong leg very young, then I learned how to take off some of that leg at an older age. I kind of feel like I learned that backward.
I was really just schooling. I did one lesson per week for a long time. I bought my first saddle pad this past September, so I never owned any of my own tack. I usually wore rain boots and jeans. I bought breeches in my first year of university. I tried out for their show team and they explained that I needed tall boots and breeches. I bought an old-school velvet Charles Owen helmet.
WEC: Tell us about riding in college.
Emma: My coach at university was Aj McCoy, who is actually at World Equestrian Center this week, too. He did all of the high jumpers and I thought, “That’s cool, I could eventually do that. There’s more to do than just trot circles and jump crossrails!” It took off from there. I dabbled in the western world a little, but barrel racing was not for me. I hit my knee once and I was done.
WEC: Tell us about riding in the UK.
Emma: It’s done me well. I rode a draft horse, so the strong seat and heavy hand was really helpful for control. It was funny because they call things different names than we do. For example, a halter is a head collar and a saddle pad is a saddle blanket. I had to prove that I did know how to put on a halter once I figured out what a head collar was!
I was still in university when I was in the UK, and if you show on the university circuit in the UK, you have to do both a dressage test and a jumping test. I never showed because I didn’t want to do both. Dressage just wasn’t my passion. Instead, I just continued doing around one lesson per week and stayed at the same level.
Riding there was really different. It was all outdoor grass rings. They would go on hunts on the weekend and ride to the pub, tie up the horses, have a pint, then ride back. Everyone was in their tweed. They wore velvet hats, so I finally fit in with mine!
WEC: Tell us about riding with Greg Kuti.
Emma: When I moved back to Canada I was right in the middle of downtown Toronto, so you either go an hour west or an hour north to ride. I thought I might as well go somewhere that I know. I started out in Greg’s riding school. I rode a lovely draft that fit my leg. I had such a powerful leg that I needed something that wasn’t going to run away on me. There I learned how to sit, spot and go around really well.
I saw all of the other girls going off to show and I decided that I really wanted to show. I needed to move form the school barn to the show barn and Greg found me a few different horses to try. I loved Twenty Creek, or Red, a been-there-done-that 1.10m jumper.
Riding with Greg has been really good. I came to him jumping one crossrail and now I can jump a 2’6″ hunter course. When I moved to Greg’s barn, he wanted me to be there five days per week. It was like zero to 100; we ramped up really quick. He moves you up in a way that you don’t notice, though. You’ll just be jumping and he’ll be slowly moving the jump up. Then, all of the sudden, you’re jumping courses!
WEC: Tell us about your first horse show experience.
Emma: It’s been a little overwhelming. I decided in January that I was going to come show and there was a list of things I needed to get. I had to get numbers and memberships and even a new outfit. I had to get custom everything, too, because I can’t fit off-the-rack stuff. I didn’t even know how to correctly put my hair up in a hair net. It’s funny because I’m older than a lot of the girls that show with us, so they ask me questions and I’ve never showed, so I don’t have the answer!
On Thursday I did an Equitation flat and got seventh, which was great. The showing itself has been really good. Red gets really excited when we pass the jumper ring like, “I want to go there!” He’s been great schooling in the Roberts Ring and he has gotten all of his lines well.
It’s been really fun because all of the girls at the barn are really supportive. We have team jackets and we have team dinners every night. It’s nice that the community is there. I don’t think I would survive if I came here by myself. Riding has been the easiest part, really. We’ve been doing night check and morning check, and I don’t live on a farm so that’s been different. I would definitely do this again, though. I think we’ll do jumpers next time!
WEC: What are your riding goals?
Emma: For the summer I would like to do 3′, whether its in the hunters or the jumpers. In the long run, I would like to go the jumper route. I’ll eventually have to move on from Red because he’s a little older and I think my mom would really like to buy a horse that she could ride, too. Greg wants me to one day do the 1.45m. I think he’s crazy, but watch out, we’ll be chatting about how I’m doing the 1.45m in a few years and Greg will be like, “I told you so!”
Emma also added:
I think if people are wondering if they should ride or show, the answer is yes. I don’t think you’re ever too old to start small. You don’t need to just do the 1.10m if you’re 40, you can go do the Short Stirrup. We’re going to support you either way. The horse community is like that.
Photos courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.