BY TYLER BUI
Eighteen-year-old Kennedi Kunkle is enjoying her first year as an adult amateur: Finding her love for the adult equitation medals, she sits in the top ten of the THIS/NHS Adult Medal rankings.
Kunkle began riding in 2016, joining an Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) team and showing Thoroughbreds on the local circuit for the first two years of her riding career. After taking a trip to WEF where she rode with Stepping Stone Farm, her eyes were opened to the top level of the sport and she fell in love with it.
“I was 12 at the time, so I started riding a little bit later than most people that I compete with, and I’ve been playing catch up for the past few years,” says Kunkle. “I grew up with horses, but they were just trail riding horses, and I begged my parents to take me to my first English riding lesson. I immediately fell in love with it. It really just spiraled from there, I started riding on the A Circuit with Barbara Bancroft when I got my first horse in 2018, so it’s been four years now.”
Kunkle’s equitation and hunter mount is a Hanoverian gelding named Shimmy, who was imported from Germany. She purchased Shimmy as a green horse, with the hopes to move up with him in the equitation and hunters.
“He has such a good head on his shoulders, and he’s so willing to learn,” says Kunkle. “It’s awesome because we’ve gotten to grow togethe,r and now we know each other like the back of our hands. Even though he’s a true hunter, I take him in all the equitation classes, and he’s so good for me.”
Last fall, Kunkle’s trainer additionally took her jumper out of retirement to allow Kunkle to show.
“His name is Blue Ash, and he is so seasoned. He can walk into any jumper ring and take me around,” says Kunkle. “It’s awesome to be on a horse that really knows what he’s doing and is super competitive in the jumpers, especially since I’m just learning it.”
While she competes in three rings, Kunkle says that the equitation offers a great mix between the hunter and jumper divisions.
“I really like the equitation, because it still has the cadence of the hunters,” says Kunkle. “It also incorporates the skill of the jumpers with all the rollback turns, bending lines and ways that you can change the course to really stand out in the ring. I like the equitation, because you take it into your own hands to a degree. I love the THIS Adult Medal, because of the flat portion. I think that it’s really important to look at people’s equitation on the flat. The courses are always well-designed, and it’s a super fun medal to compete in.”
As a recently aged-out junior rider, Kunkle has gone through an adjustment period. However, she is enjoying the adult divisions a lot more than anticipated.
“It feels like once your junior years are over, everything ends, but having opportunities such as the THIS Adult Medal has really made that transition easier,” says Kunkle. “I think that the competition is a lot more friendly; you make friends in the ring and in the warm-up ring. I’m excited to continue to compete in the equitation because of how much I love it. I also plan to focus more on the jumper ring and continue to move up in levels. I’m currently showing in the 3’6” Amateur-Owner Hunters and all of the adult equitation medals, so that’s the next step in my journey.”
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