The College Preparatory Invitational (CPI) kicks off next week and runs January 15-17 at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in Palm Beach, FL. Now in its 6th year, the unique event is comprised of a college fair, educational seminars and a two-day collegiate format horse show. Among the more than 130 student riders who will compete at the event is 17-year old Chace Simmons.
Simmons, a junior in high school, is attending the CPI on a scholarship from an anonymous donor. In addition, she has been awarded one of six USHJA travel grants to student riders attending the event. Grant recipients are required to meet one of two academic requirements, either hold a 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale or be in the top 20 percent of their class.
But things have not always been easy for Chace. Because her father, Randall Simmons, is in the Marine Corps, Chace and her family moved quite frequently. Moving had made it difficult for her to have a horse but her mother always made sure she found a place where they could ride and spend as much time at the barn as possible. At the age 10, Chace and her family would settle down in Quantico, Va. Growing up, Chace dabbled in sports like soccer, dancing and even gymnastics but nothing really interested her as much as riding did.
Chace said, “I realized that the only natural balance I seem to have doesn’t occur on my own two feet.”
Life was pretty normal for Chace, riding ponies, going to school and hanging with friends. But when Chace entered her freshman year in high school, things took a turn for the worse. Chace’s mother Shannon had become very ill with chronic pancreatitis, which is a long-lasting inflammation of the pancreas and can cause many other difficulties.
With her mother unable to work anymore and her father retiring from the Marine Corps after 23 years there was little money coming in. Her family had to cut back on everything they didn’t need, and her riding took the biggest hit due to the cost. Losing that part of her life that was so dear to her was not an option for her. To overcome this she volunteered to help out at her best friend’s barn grooming horses, and riding anything that needed exercised. Still wanting to get her hands in everything that involved horses, Chace signed up for the Washington International Horse Show Junior Committee. The junior committee works all summer to come up with new ideas for new souvenirs, and many other items with the show logo attached, and at the end of summer they present their ideas to the show staff. The committee also spends the week of Washington International helping the staff and learning the ins and outs of running a show.
In her freshman year of high school she joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Center something that had always been an interest to her with her family’s military background. The JROTC often do community service projects in their local area and are always helping those in need. With her mother in and out of the hospital Chace needed a place to focus all her emotions so she decided to start volunteering by reaching a hand out to those who were less fortunate than her. This was a way for her to focus on something other than what was going on at home. Chace said “Even with the worst that we have been through, there are so many people who have never had a tiny amount of what I got to grow up with.”
Recently Chace’s grandparents made it possible for Chace to get back in the saddle and be competitive by leasing Calmar 3. Calmar 3 is a 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding that can be challenging and opinionated. But the moment Chace sat on him at the Prince Georges Equestrian Center (Md.), she instantly made a connection with him and after a few days at her barn she fell in love with him. Currently Chace shows in equitation and jumpers. She plans of showing him in the 3’6’’ junior equitation medals and moving up to the high children’s in the jumper ring. Her current goal is getting qualified for the 3’6’’ Tad Medal. She trains with Brooke Kemper out of Shadow Pond Stables.
Chace has worked very hard to get where she is today and it has not come easily. With everything that has happened in her life she has not allowed it to stop her from pursuing her dreams of the show ring. Instead she has allowed it to shape her into the dedicated, educated and very compassionate young woman that she is today.
Chace is looking forward to competing at the College Preparatory Invitational. And thanks to the generous support she has received, all of her hard work, dedication, sweat and tears have paid off.