By Sarah E. Coleman
Photo by JJ Sillman
Courtney Calnan was a 2017 $500 MSEDA Educational Grant recipient. The proud owner of CC Little Black Dress, otherwise known as “Harper,” Courtney plans to split the money two ways: “I am headed to Aiken, South Carolina, for a week in February to work with four-star eventer Lillian Heard,” Courtney says. “Half of the money will go toward my lessons while in Aiken. [This] will allow me to take a full week of lessons while in Aiken instead of just a couple, [which will] provide us with a great head start to accomplish our 2018 goals.The other half will be used to offer a discount to MSEDA members at a clinic taught by Lillian in Lexington later this year, Courtney says. This grant “will help me to fulfill a passion I have for organizing clinics and giving back to the local equine community.”
Courtney has a passion for the horse world and it’s not just humans who benefit. Her horse, Harper, is a 7-year-old Arabian/Andalusian cross that was one of 50 horses rescued by the Arabian Rescue Mission (ARM) a few years ago. Based in Leitchfield, KY, the 501c3 seeks to rescue, rehabilitate and place horses, specifically Arabians, who have been neglected, abused or are unwanted, or where life situations change drastically, in permanent, loving, responsible forever homes. They also seek to educate people in the care, nutrition and responsibility of horse ownership and the commitment that relationship requires. You can learn more about the good work ARM does at www.arabianrescuemission.org.
Harper is currently competing at First Level in dressage and Novice Level in eventing, says Courtney. “I started riding with Lillian Heard last March. It has been a game changer for Harper and me. As a busy adult who makes her living outside of riding, I needed someone who could give me the correct foundation for a young horse and the right homework for between lessons,” She explains. “I travel for work, so my schedule can be quite sporadic and weekly lessons just don’t fit into that lifestyle. Lillian is based out of Boyd and Silva Martin’s farm in Pennsylvania during the summer, and out of Bridle Creek Farm in South Carolina during the winter. During 2017, she came to Lexington once a month from May through November.”
So what are Courtney and Harper working on right now? “Fitness!” She says. “Without an arena at home and with a hectic work schedule, our winter is full of hacking, trailering out and the occasional jump school with friends. Since Harper is half Arabian, it’s very easy to maintain her cardiovascular fitness, but we spend many hours walking hills during the winter to slowly condition her topline, tendons and ligaments.”
Courtney’s goals for 2018 include moving Harper up to Second Level and, if all goes well, to qualify for USDF Regionals. “I also have my eyes set on the Novice Long Format Three Day at Kentucky Classique in August,” she says.Long-term, Courtney has set even loftier goals. “I purchased Harper with the hope that she might be my CCI 1* horse,” she explains. “I had no intentions of ever doing recognized dressage, but she has opened my eyes to how fun it can be. Short-term I would like to complete my Bronze Medal and long-term I hope to get her to the FEI levels in either dressage or eventing--or maybe both!”