The End of an Era: My Last Summer Riding as a Junior

By Chapel Puckett
A few nights ago I cleaned my boots and saddle and tightly packed my trunk, but this time instead of preparing it for a trailer ride to the next show, it will rest untouched for a while in the tack room. At the end of my junior career, there are some words (and definitely some emotions!!!) sitting in my head to wrap up my 15 years of riding as a junior.
Thank you first to my parents (Kim Puckett & John Puckett) who shared this sport with me in the first place. Thank you for giving me the ponies that bucked me off and the junior hunter I never thought I would call my own. You instilled intense bravery and a killer work ethic in me and I am certain that this sport has significantly shaped who I am as a person.

Thank you to barn mates who both pushed and supported me in my riding and as a person… there are a lot of you! Gretchen Smith Jelinek, Morgan Sabes, Meegan Snyder, Abbey HamannEmma Wexler, Carter Puckett, and so many more. This sport is so much about barn communities and I’ve been tremendously lucky to be a part of this one.

Thank you to Heidi Hildebrand for the incredible opportunity to learn from you both as a riding student and a working student. I mean, what would I do without the incredible learning experiences like changing propane tanks and driving to Perry’s auto 10 times??! But really, I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my last junior summer in Minnesota any other way than learning from you; you’ve truly impacted the person I am today. I can’t thank you enough for letting me show Homer in Kentucky–I still can’t believe it. Thank you for everything.

I also was very lucky to find a wonderful home for Zandigo in Dallas where I know he will teach a new girl everything he taught me. Although it was painful to say goodbye, I know it is a great fit for him. Thank you to Mackenzie Shuman for going out in the cross country fields with me in KY a few days before Z left to commemorate the two years he and I had together. I’ll keep these photos forever. 

With that, I’m going to try this whole college thing for a while knowing that I fully enjoyed and experienced my last summer riding as a junior. And I know that I’ll pull my boots back out soon…