Solo horse unites three women for Championship trilogy
Rogue, a Friesian horse, led three local exhibitors to championships at the World and Grand National Championship Horse Show earlier this month in Champion Center, Springfield, Ohio.
Kelly Zandi, Tatum Erickson, and Caidence Rapp, from Sky Walker Saddlebreds, each won grand champion titles in the competition that ran from Wednesday, Oct. 2, to Wednesday, Oct. 9.
Sky Walker was started by Tracy Erickson, Tatum’s mother, in 2011 in Jamestown, N.Y. The facility features 20 matted box stalls, an indoor arena with dust-free thick sand mix footing, an outdoor arena, eight grass turnout pastures, a full kitchen, laundry, and heated wash rack.
“Everyone supports everyone here, no matter what level,” said Zandi. “Tracy is so selfless with lessons and her time; everyone she can give a lesson to, she does.”
Zandi was raised in Sheffield and currently lives in Clarendon. She rode saddlebreds for five years before shifting into the Friesian world through the purchase of Rogue. Rogue was imported from Holland, where he was trained in driving, then to an older lady in Kentucky who deemed him “too much horse” for her. Rogue began training to show about a month before Zandi saw the ad and decided to purchase the then 7-year-old Friesian in 2017.
“He had had no show-ring experience,” said Zandi.
At the age of nine, Rogue helped Zandi achieve the titles grand champion in Country English Pleasure Saddle Seat Walk/Trot Amateur, grand champion in Country English Pleasure Saddle Seat Open (including trainers and professionals), and three reserve championship titles in Country Pleasure Driving Amateur, Open and Walk/Trot Amateur Masters (any seat as long as the competitor is age 50 or older.)
“That’s the most classes I’ve ever shown in,” said Zandi.
All three ladies rode Rogue to their grand champion titles at the competition.
“He took us to the winner circle seven times that day, and showed four times in one day,” said Zandi.
The three were nervous when they arrived on Friday evening, as Rogue wasn’t feeling well due to drastic changes in temperatures during the transport to the show.
“We didn’t get to practice,” said Zandi. “The first time we got into the arena was right into my first class and I was the first thing in the morning Saturday.”
Tatum, 16, of Jamestown, N.Y., has been riding her entire life, began competing at the age of four, and is now beginning to teach lessons at her mother’s stable. She won her first grand championship title at the age of 16.
“I’ve done a little bit of everything,” said Tatum. “I used to show western, then jumping. I was part of the IEA team and now saddle. Hopefully, next year, back to worlds doing hunt seats.”
Tatum also has a horse named Princess Leia, who is currently pregnant. She hopes to show the baby in baby classes someday.
Rogue helped Tatum achieve the title grand champion Country English Pleasure Saddle Seat Junior Exhibitor, which is 18-years-old and younger.
Caidence Rapp, 11, from Busti, N.Y., has been riding for six years. Her current horse is an American Saddlebred whom she’s had for a little under a year now.
Rapp rode Rogue to earn her title grand champion Saddle Seat Equitation Walk/Trot Junior Exhibitor. In equitation, the rider is judged more than the horse, meaning the rider must maintain proper posture.
Zandi first had the idea to compete in world championships a year or so ago.
“I started late in life to have world championships be a goal, you don’t think it’s possible,” she said. “With the support of Tracy, who is not only Tatum’s mom but a friend of mine, I wouldn’t have gone to the show without her. She has been instrumental in the whole process.”
The idea to bring Tatum and Rapp with her started to materialize when Tracy contacted Zandi and said that Rapp’s birthday was coming up and she would really like to ride Rogue; although Zandi knew the first time she saw Rapp ride that she was an equine rider for sure.
As time went on watching Rapp ride, Zandi thought, why not have her come with in to compete in equination and Tatum can show in junior classes.
“The more the merrier,” said Zandi. “Why not share the experience and the excitement and the joy.”
“I was just as excited to watch Rogue take care of youth riders and have them do well as I was to be in the ring,” she said.
There was a lot of crying at the competition.
When they go to shows, Tatum said they pay for an extra stall so they have a private place to change and prepare for their class competitions.
“Caidence came in after her class and we just sat there hugging each other, both in shock and on cloud nine,” said Tatum.
“At the end of their classes, I was like there’s no question about it, they won,” Zandi said.
Family and friends accompanied the ladies to cheer them on at the show.
“Every show, people who aren’t showing still come because we’ve created such a family, so they still come to support and we have a great time,” said Tatum.
Zandi said her husband even canceled an elk hunting trip to drive them to the world show because the horse trailer is a Freightliner and you need a specific license.
“He’s been there on the sideline time and time again,” said Zandi. “I’ve never been at a more-supportive-of-each-other family type of stable.”
The “show bros,” Rapp’s three younger brothers, are also an integral part of the stable and the competitions. They even have hashtag t-shirts they wear to competitions.
“It takes a village,” said Zandi. “These girls were great while I was trying to get ready.”
If anyone needed anything, the whole team was there to help. Zandi had minimal time to change in between classes so the girls would help her out by grooming Rogue and making sure he was ready to go.
“All three of us are best friends, we’re different age ranges, but we have that one shared love of horses,” said Tatum. “We spent the whole weekend joking around, it was just amazing.”
The world championships also help support the All Glory Project. Riders provide a donation and join other competitors in a walk around the show ring in support of the project. The All Glory Project was started by actor William Shatner with his wife Elizabeth. The project seeks to “promote, foster and support programs and institutions and that utilize animal-assisted and adjunct therapies in aiding military veterans and their families.” They are a national 501(c)(3) public charity.
“At my age, you don’t think you can dream that big, so I had to write down this quote: ‘You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream,’ C.S. Lewis,” said Zandi.