Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wendy Lewis Makes it Happen: Lucky Breaks, Going to Rolex and a Secret Grooming Tip

Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman

Q. When did you start riding?
A. I started in 1st grade.  My mom gave me two weeks of lessons at a summer camp for my birthday to get me out of the house.  Little did she know what it would turn into!

Q. Did you start eventing right away?
A. No, but I was lucky when in my early teens, through a friend, I met Lousie McCarthy who was very influential in the sport and heading the Area II Young Riders Program.  She gave me my first event horse, one of her daughter's old horses, and that's the whole reason I got into eventing.

Q. What was the name of your first horse?
A.  I was miserable without a horse in college so my parents scrounged together enough money to buy one for me; that was my first Advanced horse, Maelstrom, and we went to Rolex.  He had gone Training but had a serious ditch problem.  It took about a year of stopping and falling off for him to get over it.
Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman
Q. Are you in a relationship?
A.  Yes, I've been married for 11 years.

Q. Do you have any kids?
A. I have a daughter, Kira, who is three.  If it were up to my husband we would have many more!  But time will tell.

Q.  Who's your favorite horse of all time?
A. I owe my whole career to Maelstrom.  He was so generous and I didn't know what I was doing and we learned together.  Rampant Lion was the one who was the nicest and brought me to the top.  I wouldn't have ridden him, but Murphy Himself ridden by Ian Stark was the most amazing horse to watch go around.  He had so much exuberance.

Q. What were their barn names?
A. Maelstrom was Bleu and Rampant Lion was RL.

Q. Did they have any unique mannerisms in the barn?
A. RL loved for anyone to put a towel in his ear and clean it.  He'd lean his head over for it!

Q. Do you have any superstitions?
A.  The more I hang out with Buck [Davidson] the more I get.  I have always avoided using anything brand new at an event.  If something goes well I'll use that equipment over again and again.  I do find I get into patterns and rituals I didn't even realize I was getting into.

Q. What are you known for or proud of in your riding style?
A.  I try to take pride in having a well prepared and confident horse and take pride in my  turnout. I take a lot of pride in how I take care of the horses at home and having a daily routine to get ready for events: A thorough grooming every day, feeding the best quality hay and grain tailored to meet their needs, keeping them in consistent work according to their work level.  I keep everything cleaned and organized so it's not a frantic environment.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman

Q. Describe your ideal horse.
A. I've had a lot of success with greys (Maelsrom, RL and Blazer were all greys) even though they're a pain to keep clean.  A 15.3-16.0h gelding, beautiful mover, brave jumper that takes me to the jumps a little.

Q. Where is your operation based?
A. Perrineville, NJ, a few miles form where Jersey Fresh is held.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman

Q. What's your most memorable or defining moment?
A. There were two.  One was after completing my first 3-star at Rolex (it was only a 3-star then) on Maelstrom and knowing I wanted to do this the rest of my life.  The most sense of accomplishment I had was completing my first 4-star at Rolex and finishing 9th on RL.

Q. Have you had any memorable tumbles?
A. One when I was riding Hyperlite Preliminary and fell off cross-country and he stepped on my right hand with a stud and crushed half of it.  I had to have it put back together.  Another would be when I was four and a half months pregnant and the horse I was riding tripped and fell over.  I got knocked out and sent to the ER.  I didn't ride the rest of my pregnancy.  Both me and the baby were fine; it just left an impression!

Q. What the most common mistake you see in eventing today?
A. If I had to say one thing it's that people are getting involved in the sport who aren't taking the time to get the experience that's necessary.  It's not something you can just jump right into and be successful at and compete at the upper levels.  It take years and years to develop the subconscious reactions needed to give a really good ride cross country.  It's time and hours in the saddle.  Everyone wants things right away in this day and age.
Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman
Q.  What's your favorite competition?
A. Rolex.  Because it feels like you're a superstar when you're there  competing.  It felt like being a movie star and professional athlete all at once.

Q. What is your ultimate goal?
A. To ride for the USA.

Q. Do you have any favorite tack or supplies you can't live without?
A. I love my Nunn Finer products, especially the leather products and their new five-way breast plate.

Q. Any grooming tricks?
A. I was the first one to have known about the Cape Cod metal polish and introduced it to the eventing world and now everyone has it.  But the credit goes to my mom for finding it.

Q. What's your barn management style?
I expect a lot of the people who work for me but never expect more than what I'm willing to put in myself.  But Buck did nickname me the Drill Sargeant since I like things orderly!

Q. Who is your favorite rider and why?
A. Buck Davidson.  On a personal level because he's such a friend and mentor to me and has helped so much.  On a professional level I respect him for his amazing riding ability.

Q. Is there anything you want to add?
A. Despite the recent bad press the sport is getting I have been doing it for a long time and am still doing it because I love it and there is really not a better group of people to be found.

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