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Team #549 Jill Saudan and Sky Ridge Barrister

Photo provided by Lisa Michelle Photography

Team #549: Jill Saudan and Sky Ridge Barrister
From: Louisville, Kentucky
Ages: 77 & 24
Combined Age: 101
Test: First Level Test 1
Date: March 26, 2022

I grew up riding in New Zealand. At an early age I became a member of the Christchurch Pony Club, and for many years rode under the watchful eyes of Mrs. East (she was tall with a strong voice) and Mrs. Montgomery—or Mrs. Monty as we used to call her (she was diminutive and soft spoken.) Pony Club occurred every Sunday, rain or shine, at 2:00 p.m. These two women also put on cross country shows, clinics, inter-Pony Club events, and arranged for us to attend local and country shows in the South Island. Both women were childless, so we, the Pony Clubbers, became their children.

The horse who had the biggest impact on my young life was a bay Connemara pony named Dick Whittington. Although just under 14 hands, he could jump anything. At any show he excelled, but the events I remember most were at the Royal Shows in Christchurch. The last fence of the open jumping class was usually a huge triple placed right in front of the grandstand. I’d point Dickie towards it, and he would snap his knees under his chin and fly through. The crowds in the grandstands would hold their breath, then roar with approval when you negotiated them safely, especially if it meant a clear round. Heady stuff for a teenager. When I look at old photos of Dickie, I marvel at how he always looked jumping fences: neck relaxed, ears forward, his perfectly aligned knees tucked under his chin. The perfect pony.

Like many New Zealanders, at the age of 21, I put horses behind me and embarked on my “Overseas Experience,” or OE as it’s commonly called. I took a ship from New Zealand to England, skied in Europe during the winter, played there in the summer (including living on a Greek Island), and worked in London for a year at Eon Productions, maker of James Bond films. I then went on to Canada where I spent a year, New York for six months, and finally to San Francisco where I met and married my husband.

In 1980, when my daughter Justine was five, I enrolled her in Marin County Pony Club and started riding again. This time I discovered Morgans, in the form of a 15-hand black Morgan named Allegro. Like most Morgans, he was capable, intelligent, loyal, and cooperative and became my heart horse for 22 years. Justine and I rode a lot together, through the Pt. Reyes National Seashore, Marin Headlands, Jack London State Park, camped at Five Brooks, and fox hunted with the Los Altos Hunt. I also rode Allegro in three-day events, hunter/jumper shows, and taught many people (adults and children) how to ride him.

That brings me to my present horse, Sky Ridge Barrister, Barrett for short, or Mr. B. He’s another Morgan: liver chestnut, lively, talented, and funny. I rode with a dressage trainer and, as Barrett had not done any dressage, we started with the basics and have continued to grow them. We now live in Kentucky and, as Justine runs a horse business on 400 acres with 25 miles of trails, he gets to live a lovely life of eight-hour-a-day turnouts, schooling in the indoor arena on cold days, and hacking through wide open meadows, streams, and hills with Justine and other adventurous members of the barn family.

It was a privilege and honor to compete for my Century Club ride at the Kentucky Horse Park, and I am grateful to The Dressage Foundation for this opportunity. I have many people to thank for a lifetime of riding: my parents, NZ family, Mrs. East, Mrs. Monty, riding friends, trainers, and my husband of 50 years, John, for his unwavering support. I cherish the encouragement from my daughter, Justine Saudan, and my adopted daughter, Lyndsey Estes in this endeavor; it was Lyndsey who found the venue and the reason I’m here today. Those two are, quite simply, the best.

Photo provided by Lisa Michelle Photography