Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Meet the Rider: Jen Allen, Susan Keating
by Nicole Herrmann

Jen Allen has been distance riding since 2007. She’s accumulated many miles, on a few different mounts. When you talk to her about how she got started, she fondly remembers hearing that another Illinois rider, Lori Windows, was looking for a rider to help condition a horse. Conditioning turned into campaigning, and that’s all it took. Jen was officially a distance rider!

Equipment should be chosen according to the comfort of horse and rider. Jen commented that she likes beta-biothane tack due to the easy and quick changes you can make with it. She also likes the Abetta saddle for competing, but has used a heavy roping saddle for conditioning. You’ll also see her riding in an English saddle. “Whatever works!” she stated.

When asked about which distance division she preferred, she replied, “All of them! Competitive teaches pacing and the conversations are usually fun! Limited Distance gets you going a bit faster, or slower when you or the horse wants/needs to. It also has fewer rules. Endurance is a challenge, but a lot of fun.”

Jen likes to condition on her property. It offers fields, timber, hills etc. She also likes to get out to the Hennepin Canal, and Keithsburg, IL where there are hills and sand.

Her favorite rides are many, and she’s competed in many states including; IL, MN, MI, WI, and KY. You can really tell she just enjoys the time in the saddle! Her favorite that was mentioned was AHDRA 1 or MBYR, which is held on her own property in Illinois. Endless Valley was also a favorite. It takes place in Spring Green, Wisconsin. “It’s challenging. The first year I was there, it rained heavily; so heavily that I had water in the trailer!”

Winning the AHA National Competitive Championship in 2008, and finishing her and the horse’s first 50 miler with the same horse, Salero’s Legacy, is at the top of her list for proudest moments thus far. When asked what her goals for the future are, she replied, “To compete. I’ve never been a real competitor at anything, until now. I would like to do the Tevis, maybe the Big Horn, and other major rides someday. I still want to do the local rides, because I know them and love them. I want to continue to have a good time, and see the world by horseback!”

When asked what distance riding advice she could offer, Jen adds, “It’s hard, but stick with it, because it’s worth it. You learn so much about yourself and your horse(s). I have expanded my already large knowledge of general horsemanship. I have become a much better rider and horsewoman, not to mention I’ve met some exemplary horse people too!”

Jen can be found at many Wisconsin rides. She is an avid competitor, and active member in many different distance riding groups.

Susan Keating

by Nicole Herrmann

Susan Keating, 55, is a force to be reckoned with! The retired shepherdress, currently instructing weaving and working as a dental hygienist, can usually be found at any of our Wisconsin distance rides. You might see her successfully competing in either riding or driving events. Her enthusiasm for horses and the different distance events is very obvious when you meet her. Her bubbly personality and positive attitude always “draw you in”, as does her excitement for learning and attacking challenges that come her way.

In 2007 Susan was looking for something constructive to do with her arab cross rescue, named Henry. She delved into distance riding and found it to be a great match for not only Henry, but herself as well. “I liked the folks I met and the positive impact it had on Henry,” Susan recalls. The pair continued their hard work and effort conditioning together, and received Novice Competitive Champion in 2007, and Rookie Reserve Competitive Champion in 2008.

In 2009 she decided to test the waters of distance driving with her Halflinger, Belle. The cute little team could always be seen in cart and harness at most distance events. Again the hard work, effort and conditioning paid off. She and her partner, Belle, received Rookie Driver of the Year for 2009, and Limited Distance Driver of 2009 as well.

For the upcoming 2010 season, Susan hopes to compete on Amazing Grace Experience, a five-year old Standardbred mare. She stated, “I intend to start Mazy in Competitive this year, and then move up to Endurance in the future.” There’s no doubt in my mind that she’ll reach those goals, as she is a very determined competitor!

When questioned if she had a favorite ride, she shared, “You bet I do! DRAWARAMA in the Southern Kettle Moraine, near Palmyra, WI is my favorite. It’s an intense 4-day competition and the sense of accomplishment from it, is great!” Susan has competed in Wisconsin and Illinois, and hopes to get to Minnesota and Indiana soon.

You might be wondering where she gets all of this conditioning done. “I condition on roads mostly, but like farm fields when they are available. I also like to go to Lake LeAquaNa State Park in Lena, Illinois. A real conditioning treat is going to JG Ranch at Scales Mound, Illinois!”

Susan has accumulated many miles, accomplished much, and looks forward to the future in distance riding. When asked what advice she would share with people just starting out? She replied, “Take full advantage of the novice and rookie divisions. You should definitely attend any of the clinics offered in the spring, through DRAW or ApDRA. It’s a fantastic chance to learn about this sport from experienced folks. Remember our motto. . . “To Finish Is To Win”. It’s true. Get started NOW! You and your horse will be winners!”

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