Above: Elise and So Enchanted at Pony Finals 2017. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography.
By Elise Stephens
Elise Stephens is 11 years old and has been riding for 7 of those years. Elise has four ponies and shows in the Small and Medium Pony Hunter divisions. She has twin brothers and an older sister. Elise rides with Cookie Beck and Terence Prunty at Rendezvous Farm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
It was like a dream come true, those first few days, and it still is. Every minute spent around one of the magnificent creatures took my breath away- their grace and beauty, their elegance with the tail up and head shaking around. Of course, I was only four at the time, but I knew I was hooked on horses.
It started at my sister’s first pony camp. My mom let her go because she thought it would be a good “experience.” Little did she know, it would be so much more than an “experience.” Mira came home in love, as I would soon be. It was the only thing she could talk about, and soon enough, with all that talking, she convinced my mom to get her some lessons. They tried several different barns, with me tagging along, hoping for some Gatorade or popsicles. After a while we found McFadden farm, and we were stuck. Once we met the owner and trainers, we knew we had to stay.
After Mira started at McFadden, my little four year old self decided I wanted to give it a chance too. The first pony I ever rode was named Shadow and, boy, was he a miracle pony. I learned how to walk and trot, and soon we decided I should get a pony a little faster than thirty-four year old Shadow. So, I moved on to Spot, the brattiest, yet best pony around. I thought he was a race horse at first because he could even canter! With Spot, I learned how to canter and even jump a bit. Then, JP came along. He was my sister’s medium pony for a year or two, before I started riding him. I learned to jump courses and to jump higher without falling off.
Mid-way through my second year with JP, we decided to buy the old barn, McFadden, and build a new one near it. The result is our barn, Rendezvous Farm. I went for my first year in Florida and found Neigh Neigh, aka Carolina Shenanigans. She was well, Neigh Neigh, the kind of pony who runs off with her tiny kid after a jump, flings her into the wall, and then trots away. (There is still a mark on the wall). But as soon as we got home, we found Dreamy, aka Dreamworks.
With the two small ponies under my belt, I started showing in Short Stirrup, but not before winning multiple Cross Rail classes. We ended up “SS Champion” of the year, and decided to move to Children’s pony. JP had been leased out, much to my disliking, and Spot had gone back to his much loved family. By the time we got to Children’s pony, Neigh Neigh went back and Dreamy soon after her, and then I got Rainy, aka Silver Rain. We did Short Stirrup for a little less than a year before moving up to Children’s, and adding Rocky, aka Rockefeller, into the family. Rocky was a perfect pony that, well, didn’t like to canter. I mean didn’t like to canter as in not cantering until you kicked him about twenty times. We moved up to small pony with him and Rainy sadly went back to his family. JP came home from lease, and he was my stay-at-home pony while Rocky showed through the fall.
During the fall we found Lex, aka So Enchanted, the winner of 2016 Green Pony Hunters at Pony Finals. We got her home in November and she acted like what she was- a young mare. Running at jumps and pulling through the lines. At that time, I also went through a difficult trainer change and WEF didn’t go so well, and and neither did our spring circuit. (This is of course in 2017 now). After WEF & spring circuit, I began training again with my original trainer, Cookie Beck and her new training partner, Terence Prunty. With their help, we got Lex figured out and she has either been champion or reserve every time I’ve shown her since June. Even placing 2nd under saddle at Pony finals! The only problem was I was growing so fast, my trainers thought I needed a medium. So we got Beau aka Bedford Falls, probably the most perfect pony in the world. Soon after him, this summer, we added Vinny, Foxmor Secret Powers to the family. I show Beau in the Mediums, and Vinny gets shown in the Greens up until December, and Lex shows in the smalls. And that’s where I am now, with four amazing ponies and blessed beyond belief. I still can’t believe that I have this amazing sport in my life, and every day I am so thankful, because without these creatures, this sport, I would never be who I am today. Thank you!