By Irene Elise Powlick
When the 2015 season’s points were tallied, Emilion and Lucy Bradbury, at ninth in U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Zone 8, were one of the most competitive pairs in the low junior/amateur owner jumpers in their region. Bradbury, 20, with her recently new mount, Emilion, sat steadily at the top of the leaderboard in her divisions. But before their time together Bradbury had seen other heights in her young career on other mounts—with experience in the high junior jumpers and even in grand prix classes across the western show scene.
Although she and Emilion had success in 2015, it didn’t start out that way for the pair. Having acquired the gelding through a trade with Andrew Kocher, Wellington, Fla., it took some time for Bradbury and Emilion to click. Starting over on a new horse was daunting, but also exciting; they started out over smaller fences to get a feel for each other. Yet, after moving up to the 1.30-meter classes, Emilion became hard to ride, and even started stopping. Following several unsuccessful shows, Bradbury decided to try a new program; left Arizona for shows in Colorado, where she sought the help of Harriet Bunker. After schooling and evaluation, they decided to keep him to try to fix the problems they were having.
“He kind of had a boot camp week with Brandie [Holloway],” Bradbury admitted. “Well, we both had boot camp, really. Together, we started making progress; little baby steps.”
Albeit frustrating, Bradbury was accustomed to sticking it out and starting over when she needed to. Her life leading up to Emilion had prepared her for a challenge.
From the age of 7, Bradbury had her own pony, and worked hard to keep it that way. Growing up in Utah, she rode with Sara Kirby, where she learned to care for her horse, because she didn’t have the luxury of a full service barn. At 13, Bradbury got her first real show pony, Patronis, or “Patch,” and competed with him in the pony jumpers. After many months of work, they started winning, and made it to the 2010 USEF Pony Jumper Finals in Lexington, Ky. But, she will tell you that the show didn’t go as she had planned, seeing as how she had an unfortunate tumble at the liverpool during her individual final.
She probably didn’t know it at the time, but that experience provoked a sense of perseverance that has served her to this day. After seven years with Kirby, Bradbury and her family made the decision to move to train under Clare Williams, who was based out of Arizona. Bradbury met up with Williams at shows. Under her tutelage, at HITS Thermal (Calif.), she and Patch were often in the top ribbons in the children’s jumpers, and the pair redeemed themselves the following year at Pony Finals, with solid individual and team performances.
Yet soon after the success there, it was time for Bradbury to move up to a horse. This was no easy task. Trying more than five dozen horses at a variety of barns led to no yield, so Bradbury tried looking at the Colorado Horse Park. She was lucky that day and found an older OTTB gelding that had previously been ridden by a timid, shy rider. Bradbury fell in love with the horse’s powerful jump and scope, and purchased him quickly after Patch had sold.
Take A Chance was raced until the age of 10, before being pulled from the track due to a stifle injury, but fortunately rehabbed soundly into a second career. After a summer of showing, Bradbury and Chance came home to Utah, and spent some quality time figuring each other out.
“I came home, and I had this new horse. I had just come off a pony; in reality I didn’t know what I was doing,” Bradbury laughed.
There, without a trainer, but with a new horse, Bradbury began to learn how to train on her own. “I started to figure him out, and found different exercises to do with him,” Bradbury stated. She corresponded with Williams occasionally, talking about Chance’s progress, but for the most part, Bradbury was on her own. At home, she worked hard for six months, doing small jumping exercises, cavaletti, and lots of groundwork to improve the fresh-minded Thoroughbred.
“It taught me a ton; having to do it all on my own. I got to know my horse,” Bradbury recalled. “I communicated with her [Williams] on the phone, but probably not enough as I should have,” she admitted.
After autumn 2013 spent in Utah, Bradbury again joined with Williams at HITS Arizona for the winter circuit, and advanced from the 1.15-meter to the 1.30- to the 1.40-meter junior jumpers. The time she spent solo with her gelding paid off—daily, she’d fed him and cared for him, gotten to know him, and developed a training program.
In 2014, her most successful year by her current account, Bradbury relocated to attend the University of Arizona, and Chance lived at Williams’ barn. Throughout that summer, they collected top ribbons in the junior jumpers across the western show scene, and Bradbury also jumped in her first welcome stakes and grand prix classes. Not much time beyond that, Chance would fly Bradbury to her first grand prix win in Tucson, and to the Las Vegas National, where they ribboned well over the large tracks, and against tough competition. “I was happy because it was very, very big [the jumps]. The biggest courses, besides the Grand Prixs, that I had ever jumped. They were very technical, Bradbury said.” It was after Vegas that Bradbury made the trade with Kocher, and ended up with Emilion.
Bradbury and Take a Chance winning a grand prix in Tucson.
Things began to pick up for Bradbury and Emilion during the summer. After some bad shows and being excused from many classes due to refusals, Bradbury was thrilled to have won the 1.20-meter and 1.15-meter modified junior/amateur classics at Estes Park Hunter/Jumper Festival I in July, thanks to the help from Bunker and Holloway. “Even by the end of Estes you could see the difference in him,” Bradbury recalled.
But in August it was time for change again, and Bradbury made the tough decision to move Emilion to Allison Kroff, after being with Williams for more than five years. The move meant a two-hour drive for Bradbury each time she went to ride.
“I was going to school Tucson, and Emilion was going to be in Scottsdale. But I thought that it was worth the sacrifice to be in a good program that would work for me and my horse at that time.”
“I was excited to have Lucy come in to my barn, especially with a new, young horse who I knew that would be quite fun,” Kroff stated. “Even though she’s already been so successful at such a young age, she’s still so humble and willing to learn, she’s so interested, learning from everybody she can.”
Since moving to work with Kroff, Bradbury and Emilion have gone to win two classics in the modified junior/amateur-owner jumpers in Arizona, and have also placed well in several more. “He has gotten super careful and competitive,” Bradbury said. “And now he’s like a completely different horse [from before moving]. He’s jumping around, and being scopey, rideable, and controllable.”
After a couple rough shows in early 2015, Bradbury found help with Harriet Bunker and Brandie Holloway and was later successful in the Modified and Low Junior Jumpers 1.20-1.30m. Photo by Mackenzie Shuman – Quintessence Photography.
Kroff said that Bradbury’s positive outlook and dedication are apparent to those around her. “Lucy is such a sweet person, and so dedicated. That’s what I love, to see people so dedicated to the sport, and they don’t mind picking up other horses to ride, or even grooming horses,” she said. “She’s an all-around horseman. Our sport is kind of lacking that right now, and it’s refreshing to have her come in and teach my younger kids that are 12 and 14 that they can come and groom their own horses, and do all that stuff—even though it’s a full service barn. It’s great having that kind of role model for my people.”
Bradbury said that Emilion has made her a better rider. “Even though I would like to be doing the Grand Prixs again, and jumping big, I am thankful that I have a horse that I can finesse in the smaller divisions. He’s such a hard horse to ride, but I’ve been able to improve drastically and I’ve been able to ride many more horses [at Allison’s].”
With hopes to sell Emilion to get a new horse that can take her to the Grand Prix level again, Bradbury will continue to make progress and improve each day at home. Until they are competitive in the low junior/amateur-owner jumpers, they will be in California for part of the winter to attend HITS Thermal. Her goal is to be riding in the high junior/amateur-owners and Grand Prixs by the end of 2016, and she would also like to go to North American Junior & Young Riders Championships since 2016 will be the last year she is eligible.
Even facing many struggles and disappointment, Bradbury still has a vibrant, upbeat personality and an amazing look on everything that has happened in 2015. “I was very discouraged because I was told he [Emilion] was going to be my next high junior/amateur-owner horse, and that I would be able to just move him up quickly. Then I started having all these problems, especially after coming off of this special and amazing horse, I was very discouraged. I didn’t know, since I don’t have the budget to just go out and buy another one, I didn’t know what I was going to do. Through all of that, I learned a lot of patience, perseverance, and that if I stuck with him and believed in him, and believed that I could do it, then everything would work out.”