Rider Connect: Megan Van Son
Today’s featured rider is Megan Van Son, a young rider who patiently rehabbed her OTTB after he suffered a freak injury and is now back competing him successfully…
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Get to know Megan
I am 19-years-old and originally from outside of Knoxville, Tennessee but I am currently attending the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY. I am a freshman at UK and a double major in Business Management and Equine Science and I am also a part of the Honors Social Enterprise program, in which we study how we can use business to bring about a positive change in the world. I started riding in first grade after begging to attend a camp at Young Mountain Farm and have been hooked ever since! I am currently preparing my Thoroughbred gelding for his Preliminary debut this fall and am hoping to continue bringing him up the levels along with my new Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover horse. I mainly compete in Eventing, but also dabble in dressage and the occasional jumper show. I recently accepted an internship at Central Kentucky Riding for Hope, a therapeutic riding center based in the Kentucky Horse Park. Next summer, I will hopefully be obtaining my PATH certification to become a therapeutic riding instructor. As of now, I plan to pursue riding professionally, but am also considering equine law.
Megan’s horse power
My main horse is now named Arioso, but on the track he was known as Ian’s Posh. He epically failed as a racehorse, finishing in dead last every time (they cut the video off before he even crossed the finish line) and so was retired. He was born in 2008 and is a 16.1 hh Thoroughbred gelding. I found him on Facebook through Kara Andrew in Ohio. As a daring (stupid?) 15-year-old, I studied his videos and decided he was the one for me, so had him shipped down to me about eight hours sight unseen. Thankfully, he has been a complete blessing; the best thing that ever happened for me and my riding! He had a lot of baggage still from the track and had very little trust, so it took me months to gain his trust and understanding. A year or two before I found him, Arie was in a trailer accident in which a semi side-swiped the trailer and it flipped. It is a miracle that he walked out alive, and without a scratch to boot! Needless to say, it has taken years to figure out the best approach to loading, and now he walks right on (hopefully I didn’t just jinx myself!)
We had a bit of a rough start, with me falling off three times in three weeks, but after we figured each other out (and had a saddle fitter visit), we became a team. In 2014, I began competing him and moved him up to Training level in November of that year after winning several competitions at the Novice level. After an awesome spring and summer season of 2015, including several top finishes in large Training divisions, Arie sprung a shoe and stepped on the clip in the middle of our cross-country round at Hagyard Team Challenge in October 2015 at the KY horse park. He walked away fine, but after removing the shoe we decided to keep him on stall rest for a week. Unfortunately, during the time he spent in his stall supposedly resting, Arie decided he was bored and kicked the wall, causing an injury to his hoof wall and coronary band on his hind left foot (his only white one of course). Essentially, he killed about a quarter of his hoof by severing (exploding) his coronary band on the outer edge. We had to wait for one year for it to regrow completely, and during that time, he lost most of the muscle and strength we had spent so long building up because of the continual stall rest. I received many different vet diagnosis, and was told that most likely he would never be able to compete again, especially at the levels I was aspiring to. It’s hard to describe how challenging of a pill it was to swallow that my horse who absolutely loves his job was just finished.
Thankfully, after months of caring for the hoof, allowing it to grow out, followed by months of slow rehab for his muscles along with chiropractic and acupuncture work, he has made a complete recovery, and I honestly believe he is stronger than he was before. It is amazing how months in a stall, hand walking, and slow trotting can strengthen not only the horse, but also the relationship between horse and rider. While I am in Lexington for school, I board at Wild Rose Equestrian Center. When I am in Tennessee, I keep my horses at Young Mountain Farm, the barn I grew up at, and now teach, train, and coach out of.
I recently purchased a horse for the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover named Ready to Jam. He is a 2011 16.1 OTTB that was originally born in Kentucky, but ended up on the west coast where he raced and then retired after 17 starts. I purchased Sebastian (named after composer Johann Sebastian Bach) based off of videos of him moving at liberty, and had him shipped all the way from Oregon to Lexington, where he arrived at 1:00 AM. Right now, Sebastian is enjoying a lot of down time, some trail riding, and just being a horse. Once he has settled in more, I will begin converting him into an eventer. I am thrilled for the journey ahead with him.
Prior to moving to Lexington for college, I trained with Erika Adams of Road Less Travelled Event Team. Erika is one of the most inspiring, dedicated people I know in the industry. She and the other members of the RLT team were some of the most supportive, uplifting people that were always around with comforting and wise words during Arie’s injury and recovery. Since moving up to Lexington, I have yet to settle on a consistent trainer, but have instead participated in several clinics to help me decide what teaching style fits my horses and I best. I have ridden in a few of Doug Payne’s clinics when he travels to Lexington, and have thoroughly enjoyed those. During the school year, I do my best to juggle school, horses, and friends. It was challenging moving to a new state and starting college this past year all while having horses (with injuries no less). I drive to Wild Rose almost every day, and have learned to time it in between classes so that I don’t hit rush hour, otherwise I spend more time in my car than on my horses. Over the past year, I have done my best not to take time off, because for Arie’s recovery, it was imperative that he had consistent strength training. Of course, college is no joke and so during finals week my horses definitely saw more of the pasture than they normally would have! While in Tennessee, I am the Program Director at Young Mountain Farm and also the instructor. It is convenient boarding my horses at the same farm that I work at, so after camps and teaching lessons, I am able to ride.
Influence and inspiration
One of the most influential people in my riding career has been Patti Young, the owner of Young Mountain Farm. I originally met Patti when she was my art teacher in elementary school. At the time she didn’t realize that after I attended one of her horse camps at her farm, I wouldn’t ever leave. Since starting at camps and lessons, Patti not only instructed me, but also trailered me around, dusted me off, taught me what hard work, dedication, and real mud is, and introduced me to many of the other horse people in my area, including Erika Adams. She has acted as an instructor, mentor, friend, listening ears, second mom, and cheerleader, and I could not be more thankful. I wouldn’t be anywhere without my amazing parents. Although they are not horse people, they willingly allowed me to drag them right into the industry and their support is simple incredible. From allowing me to purchase a horse sight unseen in Ohio as a 15-year-old (with my own money to teach responsibility of course), to supporting me with my work with Miniature Horses and writing my children’s book, they have always been there to lift me up and help me be the best version of myself possible.
Most embarrassing Eventing moment
One of my most embarrassing moments actually happened outside of the show ring. Junior year of high school, I took Arie to my school and rode around on the football practice field to demonstrate for my physics project the trajectory of a horse’s jump. That all went well, but it was the last class of the day, and so afterwards as we were preparing to leave, buses, parents, and students were all out and about. Of course, this was one of the days that Arie absolutely refused to get on the trailer. I will never forget the looks of the parents and students watching this horse in the back of my high school parking lot. Lots of laughing, pointing, and several scared faces too. What tops it all off though was when some of the parents, faculty, and even vice principals approached me with suggestions of how to get him on the trailer.
Most triumphant Eventing moment
Every time I cross the finish line on a cross-country course with Arie I celebrate. He is a horse that gives me wings, and now, after more than a year and a half off, I will never take those feelings for granted. In February, we did a small dressage show at the KY Horse Park as our first show back, and walking out the arena after completing, I couldn’t help but cry with happiness. Every step in the journey with him has been a joy. From completing our first Beginner Novice, to qualifying for the AEC’s, he has shown me how patience and perseverance can go far!
The best moment of 2016 for us has definitely been this past weekend at River Glen June Horse Trials. I was not expecting much for this weekend because I was out of town several days prior to it and was not able to prepare as I normally would. It was our first competition back at training level since his injury in 2014, so I was just hoping for a safe, fun experience. After a double clear round in stadium and cross-country, we placed first! To me, this weekend was affirmation that my horse is back and is as happy as ever. After one of the most fun cross country rides of my riding career, we crossed the finish line with time to spare, but more importantly, we crossed it with his ears perked forward, his eyes keen and searching for the next fence, and me with a gigantic smile across my face. I am so thankful that Arie has defied the odds, and am so excited for the rest of this year with him!
Best of luck this season Megan!
If you would like to be featured in Rider Connect, email me