Introducing our new blogger, Susan Artes, a 50-year-old professional rider/trainer from Burbank, Calif. She leads the West Coast League for the Longines Show Jumping World Cup Finals with Alix Fargo's Zamiro, an 11-year-old Dutch warmblood by Lupicor out of a Ramiro Z mare.
I began riding at the age of seven, becoming serious about competing by the time I was nine. Growing up, I rode primarily in the equitation and jumper divisions, enjoying a successful junior career on a small budget.
Shortly after graduating from the junior ranks, I became a professional and assistant trainer, first to Mike Nielson and then Rob Gage, coaching students and learning all aspects of the show jumping industry. As a professional, I did not own any horses. Instead, I catch rode quite often or schooled my students' horses in the show ring.
I always had big dreams of representing the USA in international competition, as do many young riders. Since I was living in Los Angeles during the 1984 Olympics, I I got my first taste of what real international show jumping at the top level was all about. I'll never forget walking up to the jumps at the conclusion of the final round, and staring in disbelief at the sheer magnitude of the oxers.
The following year, I went to watch the World Cup Finals in Berlin, during the era before the Berlin Wall came down. Against that backdrop, it was doubly amazing to experience the prestige and fanfare associated with the finals in Europe. I became even more motivated to become a rider of the caliber who could ride in such a competition.
During the next few years, however, I had to take a step back from my riding, as my mother and brother both passed away. While my focus changed for awhile, the distant dream never faded from my heart.
The next time I traveled abroad to see the World Cup Final was to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1996. It was a very special experience from several aspects, since that's where I got to know Alix Fargo, the owner of Zamiro. We were part of a group of equestrian enthusiasts from our area who went as spectators. Alix and I ended up sharing a rental car, and took several fun side-trips together. We discovered we had similar feelings about horsemanship and became friends instantly.
Alix is an accomplished equestrian in her own right. She competed for many years, not only in the hunters and jumpers, but also in eventing and dressage. At the time we met, she owned several competitive dressage horses. We agreed it would be nice for some of them to jump a little bit, so they'd have a change of pace and get to gallop. We ended up turning the spooky Grand Prix dressage horse into a jumper at the age of 13. Alix even showed him herself successfully in the adult amateur division.
We eventually decided to look for a young prospect to develop as a top show jumper. We bought a 6-year-old named Presto B who became quite a good Grand Prix jumper. When the time seemed right to develop a new horse, we sold Presto B and utilized the proceeds to purchase the 5-year-old gelding, Zamiro.
Not long after Zamiro arrived from Holland, I met and fell in love with Max Dolger, a native of Great Britain who rode in Europe before moving to the United States. He began helping me with with Zamiro, and is a huge part of my success with him. Every rider needs someone on the ground, both to coach them and watch the horse to see what needs improvement. Luckily for me, Max also happens to ride beautifully, and we often get on each others' horses as part of our training.
After Max rides Zamiro, we'll compare what we feel. I'm so appreciative of his dedication and hard work in helping me get to this level. Every night, we study the videos of our rounds from the shows in slow motion, striving always to push toward better performances.
We both knew we needed to be patient developing Zamiro; he is a very big horse and they take longer to mature physically. But mentally, Zamiro always has been a steady Eddie.
His brain is the best part about him. He rarely spooks at a jump or anything else, and he's the same whether he's competing on a big grass field or a small indoor arena under the lights, which should serve him well at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
He loves to show off in front of a crowd, so I think he'll love Vegas. I'm thrilled that the final is being held in the U.S. this year, for the first time since 2009. And as a bonus, it's close enough to Los Angeles so Zamiro's many fans and our friends can come to watch and share the memories we'll create.
I keep pinching myself to make sure I'm awake. I can't believe that 30 years after my first peek at the World Cup experience, I'm leading the West Coast League standings and heading there as a rider. In the coming weeks, I'll be telling you about how we're getting ready for the biggest competition of my life.
For more information about Susan, please visit: http://susanartesstables.com/