Ridgetop Cady O'Daly

Breed: Connemara
Age: 1996
Breeding: Aladdin's Denver X Blue Hill's Egan

Who knew Ridgetop Cady O’Daly would be the only pony competing in the junior/young rider training division at the 2006 American Eventing Championships? Actually, I sort of suspected it. I was pretty used to having the fast little grey pony who turned heads everywhere we went. We’d beaten out all the big guys in the jumper ring, cutting turns that none would dare, clearing the fences that were nearly as wide as Cady was, galloping away with the win.

I was usually designated "gate-keeper" whenever we went foxhunting, as I could swing off and on her back like a trick rider. Eventing is our biggest challenge, however. Here, we are up against the top dogs in the country. After competing in eventing for well over ten years, I was thrilled to finally head south to my first Eventing Championship. However, being the intern at the Chronicle of the Horse, I was also in charge of interviewing all the winners, arranging for pictures, and writing the article, which was due two days after my return from the championships. At times, I felt like my brain would explode as I tried to learn my dressage test with movements I’d never practiced before, and attempted to flag down several of the winners for interviews. The best thing I did all weekend was rent a golf cart, to carry my tired, dusty body all over the showgrounds, which saved my legs for cross-country day.

Needless to say, after being in Middleburg for over a month with little riding, I wasn't exactly fit to gallop over the training level course. Cady was spookier than usual at the decorative and HUGE jumps, and I worked doubly hard to get her around. She was more interested in taking a peek at the spectators than concentrating on the maxed-out, solid obstacles that lay before us. I nearly took a nose dive into the "Duck Pond" after Cady practically crawled over a three-and-a-half foot brush jump, and then tiptoed into the murky water. She sprung over jumps from a trot, that horses two hands bigger than her were galloping over. My little pogo stick carried me around that course like a saint, all the time perking her ears and looking ahead to the next jump.

Exhausted from the effort and the unusually hot afternoon, I nearly collapsed when I finished the 5-minute long course. Somehow, we’d gotten around clean, with mere time faults. I sank into a chair, as the paramedics swarmed around me, thinking I was having some sort of asthma attack. Cady, slightly puffing, looked on amused, while I gasped for breath. Luckily for her, my mother Alicia Daily, kept her fit for me by taking her on long gallops at our Cady O’Daly Farm in Lynchburg, Va.

Qualifications for the event aren't exactly easy; however, I was able to qualify for training level by placing second at a small but recognized show earlier this summer. Before that, Cady and I have hardly been steady competitors in the event world since I was in high school. Back then we were avid Pony Club competitors and went to several events a year, along with hunter and jumper shows and a regular diet of foxhunting in the winter. We bred Cady to our stallion Tre Awain Goldsmith when I went to college and she produced two very correct and very saintly foals, Cady’s Patina & Cady's Fool's Gold. However, I plucked her back out of the field my last year at Virginia Tech and put her back into work. Cady (Aladdin's Denver x Blue Hill's Egan), has flaunted her correct conformation for her breed well at shows, having placed first in several in-hand classes as a youngster.

Cady wasn't the only Connemara who represented the Irish ponies at the Eventing Championships. All weekend I heard the announcers, thankfully, listing not only the competitor's name but their breed as well. Connemaras were everywhere, in many different divisions, from beginner novice up to preliminary and possibly above.

Lauren Ochs of New Hampshire competed her Bantry Bay’s Kenny (Concord River’s Clipper x Bantry Bay’s Dark Rose) in the junior novice division. The dark bay gelding won two training events prior to the AEC, and also was Reserve Grand Champion at the Region 1 show, snagging the high point dressage trophy and versatility award as well. “He jumps pretty much anything I point him at. We also like doing barrel races at fun shows; he beats out all the Quarter horses,” said Ochs. Their double clear on cross country and show jumping at the AEC moved them up to finish 17th out of 70 competitors in their division.

Megan Smith and Razzle Dazzle, a 7-year-old Connemara cross of unknown background, had a great dressage test and galloped boldly though the tough novice cross country course. “When I got her three years ago she was supposed to be a hunter, but she was too fast,” said Smith with a laugh. The 13.2 hand dun mare's speed seems to benefit her in the eventing world.

Debbie Bright and her Ridgetop Blue Willow were just out of the ribbons in 11th place in the huge open novice division, beating out 61 other competitors.

Other Connemaras and halfbreds that I noticed were: Elfin Dublin Ball (Maplehurst Michael Macdaire x After The Party (TB)) & Betsy Holdsworth, Rill's Gulliver (Bien Mallin's Silver Blaze x Ballyhammage Allegra (Connemara cross)) & Kimberly Bradley, Kilkenny’s Fear Glic (Templebready Fear Bui x Kitty Bann (Irish Sport Horse)) & Callan Littrell, Big Bear’s Lauralea (Big Bear's Camus x Cosheen Penny Royal) & Kylie Cahoon, Wisteria Go Bragh (Hideaway's Erin Go Bragh x Rowanne (TB)) & Laura Walters, Logan Go Bragh (Hideaway's Erin Go Bragh x Glamourama (TB)) & Brittny Novak, Windy Hollow Lilia (Seaborne’s Flagship x H.H. Greystone Irish Wind) & Katherine Short, Foothill’s Waterman (Concord River Roaringwater Bay x Blue Hill's Morning Star) & Dana Norquist, My Miss Molly (Grange Finn Sparrow x Sassy (Welsh)) & Hayley Uffelman, Moonlight Rock N'Roll (Greystone Ian McVei x Cool Virginia Breeze (TB)) & Molly Cavanaugh, Hideaway’s Corker (Hideaway's Erin Smithereen x Hideaway’s Centerfold) & Caroline Martin. Sorry if I missed anyone!

Cady and I ended up well out of the ribbons, but perhaps next year we’ll be right up there at the top! For now, we’re headed to Virginia Horse Trials in November to try our luck on the training course there, the first training course we’d ever won! Then a quiet winter of foxhunting will get us in tip-top shape for eventing competitions in the fall; hope to see many more pony athletes and their owners competing!

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