Jacksonville, FL - Wanda Wiggins just accomplished one of the rarest feats in equestrian competition. With her long-time equine partner Dusine, Wiggins joined The Dressage Foundation’s Century Club – a club of horse and rider pairs whose combined age totals 100 years or more. A true role model for equestrians of all disciplines, Wiggins and Dusine competed with elegance in their Century Ride at the recent Northeast Dressage Association (NFDA) Freestyle Challenge and Warm-up for DOTFC competition at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center in Jacksonville, Florida. In addition to completing their Century Ride, their score of 75.313 percent earned the pair the Adult Amateur High Point award at the show.
In her 71 years, Wiggins has lived a full life for which she had three goals: to become a flight attendant, to meet her prince charming, and to own a horse. This year, she celebrated her 50-year wedding anniversary with her prince charming, whom she met while working as a flight attendant. Her prince charming had then bought her a horse.
It seems as though Dusine was destined to become Wiggins’ horse. “It was such a miraculous thing that I even got her,” explains Wiggins. Wiggins had been on a business trip to New Orleans when she discovered Dusine. “We fell in love immediately.” After making an offer to purchase Dusine, Wiggins learned that another person had already entered into a contract for the beautiful mare, who Wiggins describes as her “own Black Beauty.” Thankfully for Wiggins, the other buyer wasn’t able to complete the purchase. That was nineteen years ago. The rest is history— a beautiful story of horse-and-rider bonding, dressage shows, and a happy ending— though reaching this happy ending hasn’t been easy.
A three-time cancer survivor, Wiggins has relied on the now 29-year-old Dusine through each recovery experience. Wiggins spoke of the bond she developed with Dusine during those trying times, saying, “It is a motivation to keep going when you have these awesome animals that expect you to be there and expect you to take care of them.” And so Wiggins has been there every day for Dusine, despite all odds.
As Wiggins’ and Dusine’s ages now total 100, they embarked on the journey toward their Century Ride at the Northeast Florida Dressage Association’s recent show at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center. To join the Century Club, a horse and rider must perform a dressage test of any level in front of judges. The rider must first submit an application to The Dressage Foundation, and The Dressage Foundation will send a ribbon to be presented to the horse and rider during their Century Ride. An award bearing the pair’s names is then presented to the Century Club Team to forever immortalize the newest Century Club duo.
Unfortunately, in the days before Wiggins and Dusine arrived at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center for their Century Ride, Dusine began showing real signs of feeling her age. Wiggins was unsure if they would be able to compete, but Dusine began feeling better just in time. Right before Wiggins and Dusine entered the show ring, the president of the North Florida Dressage Association read one of Wiggins’ favorite Bible scriptures, Isaiah 30:15, aloud. “When she read that, I felt such a calm and a peace,” says Wiggins. “I was praying that we would mount up on eagles’ wings and float through the test. I have to tell you, that is what we did. Dusine performed wonderfully - she felt like my horse from ten years ago.” When the test finished, Wiggins could tell her partner shared her pride in their combined accomplishment.
To commemorate the momentous occasion, the North Florida Dressage Association presented Wiggins with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and Dusine with a lovely neck ribbon. “They went out of their way to make that a special time,” says Wiggins.
The Jacksonville Equestrian Center was happy to host Wiggins’ momentous Century Ride in it’s spacious indoor stadium. The Jacksonville Equestrian Center is a multi-use facility that hosts events such as hunter/jumper shows, barrel races, dressage shows, horsemanship clinics, and more. Even for non-equestrians, the Jacksonville Equestrian Center makes sure to keep something on the calendar for everyone, with canine shows, concerts, and community events regularly taking place. For more information, visit www.jaxequestriancenter.com or call Penny Gorton at 904-255-4227.