Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Dawn Nelson



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Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Dawn Nelson

Today’s featured rider is Dawn Nelson, an adult amateur eventer and mother who is working towards competing at the AECs next year.

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


Get to know Dawn
I am 47-years-old and from West Chester, PA. I currently live in Unionville, PA with my husband Michael and 2 children Rylie 14 and Brady 9. My husband is a corporate pilot and travels frequently so I left my career in insurance to be home with our children.

I started riding as a small child, influenced by my grandfather who raised and raced Standardbreds and my mother who showed in western pleasure. I began riding mostly bareback and then western galloping around my parents’ apple orchard on rotten ponies. I would also visit my grandparents and ride their broodmares around the farm. When I was about 8-years-old I joined Pony Club and began riding english. Pony Club first introduced me to Eventing. I thought this was the greatest thing as going fast and jumping was all I wanted to do. I competed up to Preliminary in High School and then my horse was retired and I went off to college. Fast forward many years and my daughter Rylie wanted to ride. The fire was reignited and I began to ride again. It took some time to start competing again and I quickly learned that a lot has changed in the eventing world. I am currently competing Novice and that is going very well. As for the future, my goal is to complete a traditional long format three-day event and qualify for the AEC’s next year.

Dawn’s horse power
My horse is a dark bay 17.1 5 yr old OTTB named Donaghy (Jump Start x Pagan Star) nicknames Mick or Mr. McDreamy. I wasn’t actually looking for a horse when I found him. I went with my trainer, Fylicia Barr, and friends to look at OTTB’s at Benchmark Sport Horses in Camden, DE. I was just along for the ride “not shopping” but when we walked into the barn, there he stood. My friends that were shopping tried multiple horses including him but chose a handsome gray instead. The dreamy horse was still for sale. Fylicia turned to me and said, “you should buy this horse”! I rode him and thought wow, he’s just huge but awesome. I then had to make a phone call to my husband to break the news! We purchased him April 24, 2018.

We call him Mick and did we have some challenges when we started him. He’s 17.1 and didn’t really know what to do with those long legs. He would rip his front shoes off weekly. We started teaching him to jump and he was super willing but would hang legs everywhere. One time jumping an oxer in the indoor he landed and a shoe just flew through the air. I’m very thankful for my amazing farrier. We have gone through about a box of shoes and are considering spray-painting them orange! He also has his quirks. He can look super cute, want to snuggle, make clown faces and then turn into Mr. McCranky instantly and try to bite you with ears pinned flat back. He’ll eat any treats rather savagely, especially carrots. However, don’t dare add any supplements to his feed. He once went on a mini hunger strike just because we tried to give him a hoof supplement in one meal!

I am most proud of how brave he is cross-country even in the terrible mud that we have experienced this year. Also, I am extremely pleased with how far he has come in 7 months. Mick’s first event was at Intro and I wasn’t sure he would be able to canter a 20-meter circle and stay in the dressage arena. I quickly realized he makes no effort over small jumps and requires more of a challenge. He is now competing at Novice and is becoming properly muscled which helps him keep his shoes on. We most recently won the Plantation Field Starter Trial novice division on our dressage score.

I train and board with thre-star eventer, Fylicia Barr at Fylicia Barr Eventing in West Grove, PA. I try to ride five days a week, mixing hacking, fitness work, dressage and jumping. Some weeks are more challenging to find the time with two very active kids and spending time with my husband when he is home between trips.

The Eventing schedule is winding down in the northeast but we plan on continuing our training as much as possible throughout the winter as we are fortunate to have an indoor and outdoor with all weather footing. There are some local indoor winter dressage and show jumping series that we plan on attending.



Influence and inspiration
There have been many people since I was a child from which I drew knowledge and inspiration from in my riding. Early on was the DC of my pony club and her daughter who took me to many competitions. With them, I saw my first long format three-day event and spent a summer competing in Connecticut and Vermont. Of course, my parents supported me then and now along with my husband and children.

However, my current trainer, Fylicia Barr, has been a great fit for myself and Rylie. I never would have thought I’d still be competing and having so much fun. She has encouraged and instilled the confidence in me that I can achieve my goals. We have a really good team of eventing kids and adults.

Most embarrassing Eventing moment
My most embarrassing moment was recently when I walked my cross-country course at twilight twice and totally missed the 3rd to last jump. I absolutely did not realize it was even there. I normally count the jumps and match up the numbers with each jump to make sure I don’t miss anything. I have no idea how I missed it. The crazy thing is my daughter was with me and she also missed the jump. I rode the course as I walked it and was extremely happy when I crossed the finish flags with a clear round until my husband said, “I think you missed a jump”. What? How? He said, “didn’t you count”? He was correct I had missed a jump and got a TE instead of a 3rd place finish. I was really embarrassed but that’s how it goes. Mick didn’t know we missed a jump and I was very proud of him. My mistake, not his. Lesson learned and I won’t make that mistake again. In the end, it was great fun and I had to laugh about it and take the teasing from my friends.

Most triumphant Eventing moment
I’m super excited about Mick. He really is coming into himself and enjoying his new career. As we introduce him to new dressage movements and bigger scarier jumps he just does it and isn’t bothered at all. He has a great brain and is extremely brave. We have entered three competitions at Novice and place 2nd, would have been 3rd except rider that can’t count, and 1st. I’m very proud of these results.

2018 milestones
I think our aha moment was to make the jumps bigger and for show jumping to remove all his boots. He is much more careful in show jumping and has better form over bigger heights. We thought he was being lazy but now we think he was just bored. Bring on the bigger jumps in 2019.

Best of luck this year Dawn! 


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

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