Reprint of August 2016 Pony Issue. Read the full Magazine at https://issuu.com/theplaidhorsemag/docs/tph0816
BY JORDAN COBB
At 11 years old, Tessa Downey is learning a crucial lesson: horsemanship and competition must walk hand in hand.
Waking up next to a good-luck cube filled with personal photos from a friend, Downey starts her show day at 5:30 A.M. in order to be one of the first to the barn. Checking the courses, Downey gets ready to show in the Small Pony Hunters. After a secret handshake with her father and tying her number string around whichever color coat will give her good luck that day, Downey grabs her crop and spurs and is ready to ride.
Once mounted, Downey exhibits crystal clear focus, always able to note exactly how her mount is feeling that morning, especially long time partner Bringing Home Blue or “Tinker.” Stepping into the ring, the pair strikes off their even canter and the rest appears seamless. For Downey, her focus lies in listening to her pony to keep the pace, path, and plan made with her trainer, Peter Pletcher. After she finishes showing, Downey uses her free time watching lots of other divisions, taking photos, and allowing her horses very long grazes.
Hailing from Houston, TX, Downey tries to get to Pletcher’s PJP Farm nearly every day during the summer, except for days when her mounts rest. Downey reports that she tries to ride as much as possible before shows. Most of the schooling consists of flat work in order to save her ponies for the shows and to reinforce the basics of even and straight. Downey and her family then load up their trailer and drive to the show.
With a near flawless record of over 25 championships and the number one slot in the Horse of the Year standings, Downey and Tinker have had a long journey together. After receiving the pony for Christmas in 2013, the pair worked their way from cross rails up to the Small Pony Hunters. Recalling the learning curve with Tinker, Downey laughed. “ I fell off Tinker the first day I owned her, after which she got loose. She’s taught me a lot. Tinker is amazing. I didn’t even really know how to count strides when I first started showing, but she was always there. I have definitely come a long way, but I have her to thank for being good every step of the way.”
The pair’s first goal for the year was to qualify for Devon Horse Show, which they not only achieved, but won two second places and a fourth place against the best ponies in the country. The pair is soon headed to Lexington, KY next for USEF Pony Finals and then a few shows to prepare for the indoor circuit this fall.
Downey confessed, “I try to be a good sport.
I’m so competitive, so sometimes I have to remind myself what’s important if I don’t do well in a class or something happens. I’m still learning to shake that off, but Devon really helped me with that when I got moved back in conformation. I was frustrated because I was so close to a Devon Blue, but I remembered how grateful I was just to be there. I really just want to take care of my animals the best I can.”
We are all still learning about sportsmanship, and young Tessa Downey is no exception. We are wise to pay close attention to the lesson offered: sportsmanship is not achieved in a day, but is a lifelong process. Sportsmanship is constantly tested, and a person’s response to the challenges will define them. Stick to the basics and stand up for your animals. Never forget to be grateful.