Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Abby Retzlaff


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Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Abby Retzlaff

Today’s featured rider is Abby Retzlaff, a young rider who is working her way up the levels with a horse she rescued while also attending college.

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


Get to know Abby
I am a 19-year-old college freshman from Westmoreland, KS. My love of horses started when I was a toddler, and our neighbors had a horse. I would always want to give her treats, and I sat on her a few times too. When I was four, our neighbor gave me this horse, named Surprise, when our family moved out to a place with more land. I started taking riding lessons on this horse and I was hooked! My parents wanted me to be a Western rider, but in my first official riding lesson I accidentally jumped a jump and stayed on, and ever since then I have been hooked on jumping. I first got into Eventing when I was eight with my pony Jazz, but I got disqualified in every event I entered with her, mostly due to naughty pony antics. When I was 10 we started leasing an amazing pony named Brave that gave me the confidence I needed to continue in the Eventing world. Since then I have taken the horse we rescued in 2012 up to Training level with plans of running Preliminary.

Abby’s horse power
The horse I first started taking riding lessons on was an older schoolmaster named Sherman. I did many horse shows with him before starting to ride the first horse that I owned. The first horse I owned, Surprise, was who I rode in the hunter jumper ring for a few years. I’ve had many horses in my teens, but Surprise, Jazz the devil pony, Brave the wonder pony, and my rescue Westy are the ones who have taught me the most. When I was twelve my parents rescued me a half-dead warmblood. He had been started under saddle by his breeder, who loved him to bits but unfortunately could not afford him. She gave him to a friend who unfortunately could not take care of the horses she had, and he ended up being barely alive when we rescued him. We did not think he would make it through the night after he collapsed in the trailer on the way home. We named him Westy, as it is short for his breed, Westphalian. It took many months to put weight on him before we could start riding, and he was always very spooky. Six years later and we are competitively running Training level and schooling Preliminary. My biggest challenge with Westy is how reactive he is to everything. After falling off a lot during the first couple of years of having him, he has taught me how to have a sticky seat, especially with his insane scope. However, he absolutely loves cross-country jumping and is extremely willing to please. His is a very picky eater who does not like normal horsey treats, but he loves his raspberry flavored Purina treats. Even with as far as he has come, he still has a deathly fear of being tied and he must stand backward in the horse trailer. Right now I own Westy, Surprise, and a sweet gift from my grandparents named Stryker.



Influence and inspiration
There are so many influential people that have helped my riding career, I probably won’t be able to name them all. My parents were always willing to give what money they could scrape together to help out my crazy dream. Our family friends for helping me start Westy. My first neighbor, Michelle, truly got me started by gifting me her precious Surprise. My current neighbors, who own Irish Gate Connemaras, have given me so many opportunities to become better riders by working with their young ponies. My main trainer, Ann White has been with me since the beginning of my riding career and has made me into the rider I am today. Her daughter Alice White has also helped to improve my Eventing in the last few years. Leslie Greer was my mentor who saw me and Westy from scary first rides all the way to schooling Preliminary level, and she has been an excellent mentor to me! Another lady who has had a huge influence on my Eventing career was Annie Aul, who spent a couple years helping me reach training level, and driving out to my parents house in the early morning hours of summer to give me private dressage lessons to help me be a Prelim-ready dressage rider, even when I was only jumping Novice level. And finally, John Staples for helping me transform from a jumper rider playing in the Eventing world to becoming a real cross-country rider.

Most embarrassing Eventing moment
My most embarrassing moment was the first time I rode with John Staples. All I had done was talk my rescue horse up, talk about how awesome he was and how he very rarely refused jumps. We started cross-country schooling, and Westy thought this first time riding with John would be a great time to throw bucking fits and refuse every jump I pointed him at. He absolutely refused to go over the ditch that he had been over many times before with absolutely no problems. I was so embarrassed that all I had done was talk up this horse I trained, yet here he was acting like he had never been ridden, and in front of John Staples, who I was wanting to impress. I was so embarrassed I was crying, but I guess horses have a way of humbling you.

Most triumphant Eventing moment
When Westy and I finished on our dressage score for the first time at Training level. We had finished on our dressage score a lot at the lower levels, but after six years of hard work, we were finally able to go double clear in both jumping phases to finish on our dressage score.

2018 milestones
As much as I love riding and competing, I have not done much this year due to starting college. My favorite moment this year was realizing how nice it is to just groom my horses and to be able to take my time without being on a riding schedule. To just enjoy something as simple as grooming.

Best of luck next year Abby! 


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

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