Four years ago Caroline Roffman was sent a pretty 7-year-old black broodmare named her Highness O to train and sell. Hannah (as she is known around the barn) impressed Caroline from the get go. “She had such a desire to work and learn and so much raw talent. “I called her my working mom and she quickly became a favorite with me”, Caroline explained. In a short time, Caroline realized that her partnership with Hannah was going to be long term and she purchased the Hanoverian mare for own competition horse. Only three years later in 2013, Roffman campaigned the black mare in the small tour in Europe and the US. She finished the season as the USDF Horse of the Year in the Intermediaire-I.
In 2014, the pair made the leap into the large tour during the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in her hometown of Wellington, Florida. With the help of Olympic and international level coaches, Caroline had trained Hannah through the Grand Prix. They won the Kentucky CDI Grand Prix in April of 2014 and earned a spot to compete at the US Dressage Festival of Champions in Gladstone There they put in an impressive round of top finishes securing a spot to compete in Europe with 8 US riders vying for a chance to ride at the 2014 Alltech World Equestrian Games.
In Europe this summer Caroline and the now 11-year-old Hannah finished with scores over 70% at the CHIO Aachen 5* Grand Prix and by the selection criteria laid out by the USEF earned the fourth slot position for the WEG team. Two days before the official team announcements the US officials were helping Caroline fly her groom to France and requesting photos for her official WEG credentials. A day later after a late night meeting, the high performance committee decided to replace Caroline with another rider who had more experience in the Grand Prix and whose scores after the official selection period were improving with each show. The news came at the last possible minute and the blow was devastating. Before she had a chance to even process what had happened Caroline and her horse were on a plane heading back to the United States. The selection committee released this statement: As part of the selection process in the naming of the Team the performances of all combinations were taken into consideration. It was felt that with just six months of competing at the Grand Prix level it was too soon to ask the talented combination of Caroline Roffman and her 11-year-old Hanoverian mare, Her Highness O, to contend with the World Championship atmosphere of the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Following the announcement of the team, Caroline was interviewed by several equestrian publications and she made it very clear that while she was naturally very disappointed, she supported the team especially Adrienne Lyle who was selected to replace her on the team. “I admire Adrienne and wish her well, as I do the rest of the team. I will be cheering for the best for the team,” Caroline said. And she meant it.
But what happened next was an unexpected surprise. Caroline received literally hundreds of texts, emails and letters from fans all over the world. She never knew so many people had followed her journey and were inspired by her success. “It was overwhelming. I was so moved. I truly never saw myself as an inspiration to other riders and now I know I have the added responsibility of being a role model for our sport,” said an emotional Caroline.
And the ripple effect continued. Caroline has received two serious offers to purchase Her Highness O from top riders in riders in Germany and Belgium. “I haven’t even processed all of this yet, but I am flattered that riders from Europe recognize Hannah’s potential,” Caroline explained.
Next she received word from her former high school Stoneleigh-Burnham School that she was being inducted into their Equestrian Hall of Fame. “I was so touched that they even remembered me,” said a humbled Caroline.
Her sponsors also rallied to support her. She received word from Vita Flex, Equiline, and Custom Saddlery within a day of returning to the United States. “I was worried I had let my sponsors down when I was dropped, but they really made feel proud of the accomplishments up to that point and I am grateful for all they have done for me and my horses”, Caroline said.
This week Caroline received the invitation to compete in the freestyle at the Central Park Dressage Challenge to be held in September in New York City. Caroline plans to rework her popular Katy Perry Roar music to add a touch of New York to it. The YouTube video of her freestyle received over 22,000 hits when it was posted and many of the viewers were new to equestrian sport.
Within a week after returning to the US, Caroline received a job offer to train and compete full time. She was asked to be a speaker about sportsmanship and goal setting. And there are even rumblings about a documentary and possible opportunities to work as equestrian stunt double in Hollywood.
For Caroline, 2014 has been a year that will change the course of her life. From disappointment came unexpected support, opportunities and responsibilities. Where it will all lead is anyone’s guess and 25 year-old Caroline Roffman has a lot of exciting things to process and decisions to ponder. But one thing is for sure, this talented young woman gained more from almost making the team than anyone could have predicted and many positive options lie ahead. We expect to hear a lot more about Caroline’s journey because she truly embodies the classic lyrics from Katy Perry’s song: “I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar”.