Catherine Rose Chamberlain Says Goodbye to Her Young Rider Days and Her Champion "Chance"


"Words cannot describe how much I love Chance and how much I will miss him. I am forever grateful for everything he has done for me and he will always have a special place in my heart" (Photo: Catherine Chamberlain)

About a week and a half after Chance's colic surgery, he developed an infection called peritonitis as well as a few other complications. He was so tough and fought it out for a couple of weeks, going back and forth from starting to improve and then regressing again. Finally the vets decided his best chance was to go back in for surgery to try and lavage his abdomen and see what else was going on. Unfortunately, once they were in surgery they discovered that the infection was much worse than they had hoped to see and he had severe adhesions in his intestine that would make recovery impossible. He had to be put to sleep so he would no longer suffer.

The vets were amazed that he had still been in such good spirits and not even acting very sick considering how severe his condition was. But that was Chance; always happy, always goofy and always trying to make people laugh. I am so devastated by his loss as he is irreplaceable; not as a competition horse but as my friend. He has always been there for me, through joy and heartache. I am heartbroken that I will no longer have him to turn to, but will forever cherish the unforgettable memories we have together. I have been thinking over our amazing journey together, and this is a summary of our partnership:


(Photo: Susan J Stickle)

My mom first found Chance for sale online when he was a four year old in Seattle. However, I was only eleven at that time and we weren’t ready to buy yet. But something about him caught her attention, and she kept an eye on him over the next year. When he was a five year old he moved down to California to be sold. By then I was twelve and had decided to pursue dressage as my career, so the next step was to find the right horse.

My mom and I went on a buying trip with my aunt and trainer Shari Patterson-Blaylock, and at the recommendation of Shirley Rector we picked Chance. He didn’t have a barn name in California and only went by Verdicci, so I gave him the nickname Chance after one of the main characters in the movie Homeward Bound. We formed our bond over the next several months and it was clear right away what a happy-go-lucky horse he was and that he always wanted to be the class clown. We started showing Training and First Level and went on to win State and Regional Championships as well as the Arizona Dressage Association Futurity.

When I was fourteen, we decided to make the jump up to the FEI Junior Level. It took us both a while to figure out the flying changes and they were still iffy at times, but that first year in 2009 was all about experience. I got to experience my first CDI competitions with him and went on to represent Region 5 at my first NAJYRC. We placed 9th there individually and I was ecstatic to be in the top ten. The next year we competed in the Junior division again, this time with much more precision and experience. At the 2010 NAJYRC we won the Individual and Freestyle silver medals. I couldn’t believe it; it was the first “big” thing I had accomplished and I owed it all to Chance. We then went on to win the Junior Reserve National Championship at Gladstone, capping off a magical summer.

In 2011 we moved up the Young Rider division, where we competed our first PSG tests for 67%s. Qualifying went very well and we were all set to compete at the NAJYRC again with Region 5. Then, two months before the competition I shattered my right elbow after being kicked by a horse while lunging. I was told not to ride for six months but only took one month off, determined to still ride on my first Young Riders team. Once at the NAJYRC, I realized what a bad decision I had made. The team test went ok and we won Team Gold with Region 5, which I was very proud of since it was my first team medal. However, a combination of me wanting so badly to do well but knowing at the same time that it was physically impossible to ride that well with my elbow led to disaster. I made just about every possible mistake you could ever make in a test and we ended up dead last with a 55%. I was devastated and thought I was a complete failure.


(Photo: Susan J Stickle)

After coming home, finishing up my rehab on my elbow and taking the time to deal with everything mentally, I was ready to get back at it again. We were able to get in one more show before injury struck again, this time for Chance. He had torn his right hind suspensory while playing too hard in turnout. We took rehab slow and it was about a year before he was just ready to go back to full work. Then, one day he bucked me off, ran around and tore his left hind suspensory. Another year off. Although this period of injury was definitely hard to deal with, it strengthened our bond even more as our relationship was all about me caring for him and him being there for me when I needed comfort or just a laugh.

Finally he was ready to get back into the show ring after a long hiatus, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Before that happened, I made a big change. In November of 2013 I moved away from home to train with David Wightman and Kathleen Raine in Murrieta, CA. After getting into the swing of things at their barn, we competed at our first show in January of 2014. The first day I was so nervous, but we made it around the ring for a 64% in the PSG.

After getting that first test under our belt, I felt so much more confident and the next day we completed our very first Intermediate I test for a 69%. In February we started showing in the Young Rider qualifiers again with much success, earning a 69% average and being selected to represent Region 7 at the NAJYRC. That summer is one of the best highlights of my life thus far. After making the decicion to only focus on my performance and not on the results, Chance and I had a magical competition. We led our team to the gold medal with our highest FEI score ever of 72%.

We then went on to win Individual and Freestyle gold with a 71% and 72%. It was something I had only ever thought about accomplishing in my wildest dreams, and Chance made it all possible for me by being such an incredible partner with the biggest and most generous heart. About two months later we competed in our first Intermediate II test for a 67%, and a month after that we competed our very first Grand Prix for a 64%.

Chance had therefore earned me my USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold medals. This year we debuted in the Under 25 Grand Prix and won our first CDI with a 67%. After another successful qualifying season we went on to compete at the Brentina Cup Championships. While we had a bit of a rough go the first day, we fought back like we always do and earned 4th place on day two and 6th place overall. Our scores also made us the USDF Year End Intermediate II JR/YR Champions. There is so much more I could say about what he’s done for me but I will leave it at that.

Words cannot describe how much I love Chance and how much I will miss him. I am forever grateful for everything he has done for me and he will always have a special place in my heart.




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