Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Paige Beliveau

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Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Paige Beliveau

Today’s featured rider is Paige Beliveau, an adult amateur from Massachusetts who competes at the T.

If you would like to be featured in Rider Connect, email me.

 

Get to know Paige
I am 24 and from the Northshore area of Massachusetts. This past May I completed graduate school, earning my M.A. in psychology, and since then I’ve been navigating the Eventing world as a newly minted amateur with a 40-hour work week. I currently work as a researcher at a major hospital in Boston where I study barriers to implementing evidence-based practices.

My mom has ridden horses all her life so I’ve been around them since I was a baby. I got my first pony when I was 7-years-old and my mom and I showed on the Arabian breed circuit before I joined Pony Club. Through Pony Club I started Eventing and after my first year of college, I decided to get more serious about it. I couldn’t afford the number of lessons myself and my horse would need to make it to the upper levels- or even the mid-levels, really- so over the past six years I’ve taken working student positions so I could continue to learn. This past spring I moved my horse and I moved up to Training level, which was something I had been working towards for several years, so my current goals are to get comfortable at the level and improve our dressage scores. In the long term, I would love to complete a traditional long format three-day event!

Paige horse power
This September will actually be the 10th anniversary of owning my horse, Pippen (show name Pippen McGee). I bought him when I was a freshman and high school and he was a 5-year-old. He was picked up from an auction house in Kentucky by a British amateur looking for a project while living in the States. Even though he was young and only had a few months of informal training, I thought he had a good brain, a good work ethic, and seemed willing to jump anything. I don’t know anything about his life before going to auction although my mom and I have always wondered. We had him DNA tested a few years ago and the results came back as primarily Missouri Fox Trotter, Quarter horse, and British Warmblood. I’m not sure how accurate those findings are but he definitely has a little something gaited in him based on the way he moves.

Pippen at the auction as a 5-year-old.

He has the brain of a pony combined with the ego of an Advanced level event horse, despite only being 15.0 hands tall. In general, he’s a pretty quirky horse. You can’t touch his ears, so you need to unbuckle the cheekpieces to bridle him. He loves all snacks but will only eat apples if they’re sliced up. He’s very opinionated but also one of the most intelligent horses I have ever met, which has made training him challenging but also very, very rewarding. He’s a minimalist in the showjumping (which has kept us out of the ribbons on many occasions) but an absolute star on cross-country. I wasn’t sure if he would be able to go Training, but he’s blown me away with how bold and brave he is over the bigger and more technical questions on course.

Training
About four years ago I also started working with Ferial Johnson and Becky Harring out of Ledyard Farm, for Eventing-specific training. For dressage, I train with Sara Contois who has been teaching me since I was Pony Club kid. During show season, I keep my horse at Sara’s barn which is only about ten minutes from my house. During the fall and winter months, I give Pippen a lot of time off and bring him home to the small two-stall barn I have at home. I think both physically and mentally it gives him a break from the stress of training and showing.

My show season used to work around my school schedule, so I would typically compete between May and August. But now that I work full time I’ve been able to compete into the fall a bit, which has been really nice. I ride about five to six days a week, after I get home from work. It has been challenging at times to balance everything, but I really make sure to prioritize my riding even if means I have to skip a workout at the gym or show up a little late to plans I made with my very understanding, non-horsey friends.

 


 

Influence and inspiration
My mom has likely been the biggest influence on my riding career and I’m not sure I ever would have started riding if not for her. We have a small barn on our property so I’ve learned so much from her about horse management, from building good relationships with the farmers who sell us our hay to how to dig post holes for our pasture fence that’s always in need of repair.

From Sara Contois I’ve learned traditional British horsemanship and riding, as well as a great deal of discipline. When I was in Pony Club, she taught me how to wrap legs and probably for an hour I practiced wrapping and rewrapping, “No, it’s too loose, do it again”, “No, the lines aren’t straight, do it again”, “No, the pressure is uneven do it again”, until I finally got good enough to pass her inspections. That’s how every lesson, both on and off the horse with her has been, no shortcuts, no quick fixes, it must be done properly. That attention to detail has really shaped who I am as a horsewoman and it has been more valuable than anything else I have learned.

From working with Ferial and Becky, I have learned how to manage a large, competitive eventing barn. How to work with young horses fresh off the track, how to condition a horse for the upper levels, how to remain calm and in control even when handling very fit event horses who don’t like to keep all fours on the ground…

Most embarrassing Eventing moment
I’ve had my fair share of falls or disappointing rides but more often than not my horse’s strong personality is what gets us in trouble. I’ve been consistent in teaching him ground manners, but he’s very smart and will quite literally toe the line of the rules I set. For example, he knows he has to stay in his stall unless I lead him out, so far the most part I can leave his door open or his stall guard down while I go in and out, without him leaving. He will stand in the doorway and creep forward until his hooves are literally touching the threshold, but will never take a step out. Most of the time.

Recently at a show, I was spraying him with fly spray, which he hates, and he decided to let himself out. He slipped past me, successfully dodged my mom who tried to block his exit, and took himself for a walk through the show grounds. I grabbed his halter and took off after him at a brisk pace. He walked faster, so I started to jog to catch up with him. He cocked an ear back as he heard me approaching and took off at a lazy trot. I knew he wasn’t the type of horse to panic or get himself into a dangerous situation, so I was mostly just embarrassed to be chasing my overgrown pony throughout the show, because I had left his door open. Eventually, he made his point and stopped to eat grass so I could finally catch him.

Most triumphant Eventing moment
The first Training level event I completed with my horse was such an emotional moment for me. I had wanted to move up for so long, but had doubted whether my horse could do it, so the feeling when I crossed the finish flags, clear and inside the time, on a horse that was still looking for the next fence was one I will never forget.

A few years ago he started pulling some very dirty stops that sent me flying, over fences he could have easily stepped over. We eventually learned that inflammation in his back was likely the cause of a lot of problems and started on a year long rehab process. It took a long time for us to trust each other again, especially when jumping. So our move up to a new level represented a lot of things beyond just jump height or pace. We both gained so much confidence in those five minutes on course and the feeling of pride I had for my horse in those moments is one that I often think about.

2018 milestones
At a recent show (the same one where Pippen ran away), I had tied for second after dressage which was the best I had done at the level. I was nervous going into showjumping because we usually have one or two rails down, but kept my cool during our warmup. The things that make my horse so good at cross-country, his efficacy and boldness, are often at odds with showjumping where he needs to listen to my aids and be careful with his legs. We knocked a rail at the first fence and a second in a combination. Regardless, I was thrilled with our ride because for us it had been one of the best courses all season in that he really listened to me and I was able to set him up well for every fence. Still, I was disappointed to see that the two rails dropped us down to a tie for 8th. We had an almost perfect cross-country ride and I was crossing my fingers that we might be able to move back up to 5th or 6th place. I was shocked to find that I had (again) tied for second and won the tie breaker by coming in closer to optimum time. I think I refreshed the live scores page a dozen times and spent at least ten minutes doing the math of time faults and refusals, but I still didn’t believe it until I had the red ribbon in hand. I’m not in this sport for the ribbons or prizes, but sometimes it’s really nice when a combination of hard work, luck, and opportunity align to earn you a good placing.

Best of luck this year Paige! 

 

If you would like to be featured in Rider Connect, email me

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