At eight years old, Daisy Ford was spectating a rodeo with her parents when she announced that she wanted to ride horses “just like that.” So, shortly thereafter, Ford’s mom got on the phone to find a lesson barn for her daughter, local to their home in Houston, TX.
The first barn that she called, however, wasn’t a Western or rodeo barn, but rather a hunter/jumper one. To Ford though, it wasn’t the discipline that ultimately mattered; it was all about the horses, and the young rider was hooked.
By age 9, Ford was attending schooling shows, and within a few years her A-circuit career was underway. Now at 19 years old, Ford is beginning to make her mark in the grand prix ring, most notably at the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show and at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center (GSEC) in Katy, TX.
It was at Pin Oak in 2019, that Ford and her longtime mount, Gatsby, topped the $10,000 Under 25 Grand Prix, and this year, the pair has returned to be proven top contenders in open grand prix competition.
In February, Ford fulfilled a dream and claimed her first grand prix win aboard Gatsby, topping the $100,000 Lone Star State Grand Prix during the Texas Winter Series at the GSEC. Then, only a month later, Ford returned to the venue to do it again, this time winning the $25,000 Pin Oak Grand Prix held during Week II of the 75th annual Pin Oak Charity Horse Show.
“I never thought I would have a grand prix horse like this,” said Ford of Gatsby, a 15-year-old Oldenburg gelding that she first began riding in the children’s jumpers seven years ago. “He’s my once-in-a-lifetime [horse] for sure. It’s very hard to find a horse that can teach a child and take them all the way up. He’s amazing. Winning with him was my big goal. That was my lifelong dream.”
While Ford and Gatsby make it look easy today, their partnership wasn’t always that way.
“He’s a very powerful horse, and he’s got a really hard jump,” explained Ford. “That was my hardest thing to get used to with him. It wasn’t until probably two years ago that it all really came together. [The Under 25 Grand Prix that year] was my first grand prix that I jumped clean, and to come back and win the actual grand prix just two years later feels pretty amazing!
“Gatsby’s really come through this year in a big way, and I’m really, really proud of him,” continued Ford. “It pays off when you’ve had a partner for seven years, for sure! You know exactly what they’re thinking.”
Ford also credits her success to recent extra time spent with Gatsby. Ford is currently in her senior year at Southern Methodist University (SMU) where she is majoring in finance, but a shift to online classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic has meant more time in the barn for Ford.
“It had been hard going back and forth,” said Ford of balancing going and back and forth between the barn and SMU in Dallas, TX. “With classes online, I’m able to be at the barn pretty much every day.”
Ford presently trains with Alexandra Ansteth at Augusta Pines Farm in Spring, TX, and has her sights set on continued grand prix success at Pin Oak and beyond.