Two young amateurs are successfully taking opposite routes to the top ranks of amateur show jumping. Cathleen Driscoll, 20, discovered horses at a young age and now trains herself at her Maryland home while attending school at the University of Delaware. Kelsey Thatcher, 21, was born with riding in her blood and trains with top riders on a seasoned grand prix horse while in school at the University of Georgia.
Two very different routes, one outcome: they are champions.
Driscoll experienced the North American League show jumping series for the first time at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg in October 2013, but she didn’t let inexperience slow her down. She piloted her own mare Forever Blue, a 7-year-old Thoroughbred, to victory in the $10,000 Adult Jumper Finals over 27 other pairs.
Driscoll found Forever Blue in a field four years ago as a give away horse and success has come for the duo ever since. They have won classes in various jumper divisions since they began showing in 2011, all thanks to Driscoll’s fine eye for a horse.
“I thought she looked athletic, and, you know, she’s turned out to be quite a little jumper,” she said.
With parents that do not ride, Driscoll did not begin riding until she was 5 years old, and did not have her first horse until she was 12, the same age she says she discovered the USEF. Since then she has dabbled in hunters and jumpers, but has done no serious showing until the recent success with Forever Blue.
Driscoll plans to take the winter off and see where the pair is at come April, though she’s thinking they will move up to the Low Amateur division next season.
Thatcher’s story is much different. Born into the family ownership of Pony Lane Farm in Utah, Thatcher has been riding since the age of 5 and has had a very successful career in both hunters and jumpers, leading her to become a member of the University of Georgia equestrian team.
Thatcher rode both Athena, a former grand prix mount of Charlie Jayne who was purchased by Pony Lane Farm in 2012, and Everything, also owned by Pony Lane Farm, in the Show Jumping Hall of Fame Amateur Owner Championship at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in October. Both horses are Belgian Warmbloods by Toulon.