From sleeping in her horse trailer to driving four hours each way for lessons with her trainer to qualifying for the U.S. Dressage Finals in a state with no recognized shows, adult amateur Viki Meyers goes the extra mile to achieve her goals. Meyers and her own Gold Flash, a 6-year-old Hanoverian gelding (by Gold Luck out of Divinia), won the Reserve Championship in the First Level Adult Amateur class on Saturday with a 70.753 percent in a field of 32 entries at the Finals in Lexington, Kentucky. Meyers, who is a Regional Sales Manager for International Paper, lives in Russellville, Arkansas, and drives an hour each way after work to ride her horse. She qualified for the Region 9 championships in Houston, Texas, by riding in two shows, one in Hernando, Mississippi, and the other in St. Louis, Missouri. She trailered her 18-hand gelding to Kentucky by herself and slept in her horse trailer, equipped with no living quarters and only heat and air-conditioning, at the Kentucky Horse Park. And she burst into tears when she learned that she would be interviewed in a press conference for the top two in her class.
“I’m so proud of my horse,” she said between the tears. “This is amazing. I feel really special. It’s a dream come true to come to the park and compete.”
Meyers, who bought Flash as an un-backed 3-year-old, said she gets all the credit and all the blame for his training and his issues. She told of taking the gelding to Dressage at Devon in the 4-year-old test and doing well. Then, things started to fall apart as the gangly youngster turned 5.
“The wheels fell off the bus,” she said. “He went through a growing spurt and his left leg didn’t know where his right leg was. He couldn’t pick up the canter to save his life. We went to Virginia to qualify again for Devon and he left the arena. I’ve never been so mortified in my life. Leaving the arena is not an option before the test is done!”
She travels 250 miles each way every month to train with Kim Gentry, who gives her homework to work on for the next few weeks until it’s time to spend the weekend trailering and training again. Gentry is based in Moscow, Tennessee, located west of Memphis.“The homework that she gives me, I can go back to Arkansas for the next three weeks and work on it,” Meyers said.
“That’s one of the things I try to do,” Gentry said, explaining that Meyers had her horse in training two weeks out of every month and Gentry thought it was time for Meyers to take over the training. I really felt earlier this year that it was time for Viki to have him at home to work through some of the things herself, to have more ownership in the process and have more of a partnership between the two of them,” Gentry said. “She comes in and I’ll see where she’s at and she what she’s done with her lesson and her homework. It’s probably pushing her further than I would if I saw someone once a week, but I feel like if she’s going to progress, we need to do it that way. I’m very specific on homework. And I tell you, 99 percent of the time when she comes back, she’s done it.”
When Meyers reached her goal of winning the First Level Region 9 Championships in Texas, her trainer said she was over the moon.“When she did the second victory lap she was sobbing, bawling,” she said. “It’s just Viki. She invests so much into this and she works so hard and she’s so isolated with where she is in Arkansas. It’s a big deal for her to do this.”
Gentry said she and Meyers are already working on some Second and Third level movements.
“The biggest thing that Viki has had to overcome showing this season has been being able to ride when she goes into the competition ring,” she said. “She can do it at home and she can do it with me, but when she came to competition she would just quit riding and steer the horse around the arena. Our focus coming up to the championships was putting her into that situation where she had to ride the test.”
Gentry told the rider that she had to drive from Arkansas, warm up her horse by herself and ride the test at a certain time. She had a bunch of spectators from the barn watch and Gentry acted as judge. The exercise was instrumental in helping the rider deal with her nerves and going in and ride. “She worked really, really hard to get to this and it means the world to her so it was great to see it come together,” Gentry said. “She worked for it, you know. I kicked her butt. She wanted to do this, so we had to kick it up a few notches and make it happen.”
Both Gentry and Meyers said that the rider and the horse are ready for the next goal in their training. “Second level here we come,” Meyers said, holding back both a tear and a smile.