It Happens! Abby Blankenship, Erynn Ballard, Stacia Klein Madden and Melanie Smith Taylor

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Stacia Klein Madden. Photo by Brittany Oliver Photography

We all make mistakes. But horse people, as a group, aren’t always the best at handling them. So TPH reached out to some top riders to share their own show ring bloopers to prove, once and for all, that mistakes really do happen to the best of us!

By Rennie Dyball

Abby Blankenship

Abby Blankenship

“I had a funny moment at Capital Challenge with a kid who was doing her equitation horse in the Junior Hunters, just for practice before Harrisburg. The horse is such a good-natured guy. He was a little up in the schooling area…I said, ‘Well, you’ll be fine, it’s not like he’s going to buck or do anything like that. He’ll just be quick.’ 

Sure enough, she goes in the ring and the announcer flicked on his speaker to announce her, and the horse bucked and scooted. She looked straight at me at the in gate and I just shrugged my shoulders like, famous last words! I’m sorry! 

It’s a humbling sport. There are so many ‘it happens moments.’ Learn from it or laugh about it.”

Erynn Ballard

Erynn Ballard

“Most recently I got the opportunity to go to [the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in] Geneva, which was a very cool experience. We’re sitting in the lounge waiting for the first class to go and I think, ‘Wow, they haven’t opened the course walk yet, that’s so strange. I mean, the class starts in three minutes!’ 

Yeah…I missed the course walk. Flew all the way there and I completely missed the course walk for my first class. I’m typically prepared— I’ve got my helmet on, I’ve got my gloves on, I’ve got my backpack with me, I’ve learned the jump off, I know everything. I didn’t have to worry about riding the horse that morning, I didn’t have to worry about teaching, I didn’t have to worry about getting a hunter quiet. All I had to worry about was myself, and I missed the course walk!”

Stacia Klein Madden

I remember watching Beezie [Madden] when she was competing in a Nations Cup where your score counts for the team. She was in a position where she had to go clear, and her stirrup leather broke. And while on course, she just reached down between some jumps—the stirrup was down banging by the horse’s knees—pulled the leather out, tossed it to the ground, got her reins back together, continued the course, and finished up with the clear round that they needed. 

If you keep your eye on the ball and you stay focused, you can really fix some problems along the way…‘It happens’ at every level.”

Melanie Smith Taylor. Photo by Tish Quirk

Melanie Smith Taylor

I remember years ago when we first started showing in the Grand Prix, nobody had water jumps at home to practice, so the only time you would have this big water jump was in the Grand Prix for the most part. 

I had several horses, one in particular that didn’t like to jump water. Many times, he would stop at the water and I would go over his head into the water. When I would come in the ring, the people who judge the water jump would pull out their towel and a bar of soap because they knew when I came around I was going possibly to need both. 

It became a joke: When Melanie came in the ring, get out the towel and the bar of soap! On Sunday mornings, I would wear my same white pants that had sort of a blue tint to them because they had landed in the water jump so many times. It became quite a thing.”


*This story was originally published in the February 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!