At the beginning of the Tryon Summer Series, we caught up with local rider Caroline King, who has lived in Rutherfordton, NC, her whole life and has been riding for ten years. A frequent face in the Junior Hunters at TIEC, Caroline was introduced to riding through Revolutionary War reenactments and you can learn more about her journey below, as well as hear what it’s like to have a “home field advantage” at TIEC!
When did you start riding horses, and how did you get into riding?
I started riding when I was seven and I just turned 17, so this is my tenth year riding. I actually used to do Revolutionary War reenactments, and there was a family there that always brought their horses, and I loved them. The family would let me get on their horses, and I just fell in love with it. Then we found a trainer and I trained with her for a few years. I ride with Kelly Kocher currently, and I love it.
How has living in such a historic equestrian community impacted your riding?
Honestly, living in such a strong horse community has helped me just fall in love with riding more and more. The more I’ve learned about the sport, the more I’ve been exposed to it, the more seriously I take it… I used to actually do three sports at once including riding, but the more I started learning about horses and horses in the area, I started cutting out all the other sports and taking riding very seriously.
What do you think of TIEC and its benefit to local riders?
Living so close to TIEC has had a huge impact on my riding. Absolutely. I used to never be able to go to the big A and AA shows, because they were so far away, and now that TIEC is here, I’ve actually qualified for State and National Finals on my horse multiple times, and I’m about to go to a State Final and then a National Final a couple of weeks after that.
Tell us about your horse and what you compete in together!
My horse’s name is Harry. His show name is Der Solotanzer, which is German for “the solo dancer!” I bought him when I was 12, and he was ten. He just turned 15 this year. I bought him when he was still a little green. We do the 3’3” Junior Hunters together, and we’re about to go to the Junior Hunter National Finals in Devon. Harry loves to lick! If you feed him any treats, he will lick your arms all day long. He will drink out of hoses and water bottles. Whenever we’re at the in-gates at Tryon, we’ll get those little cups from the water coolers and let him drink water out of it. He’s definitely a character; he has a very big personality!
Who has had the largest impact on your riding?
My parents have probably had the biggest impact on my riding. I think every rider goes through a phase kind of like I did – I went through a stage where I was just constantly falling off, and I could never do it right. I wanted to give up. I did try to quit. My parents said, “look, everyone goes through this. You’re going to come out on the other side, and it’s going to be okay.” If they hadn’t pushed me through that phase a few years ago, I wouldn’t be where I am now; I really wouldn’t. My parents don’t have any riding experience. My mom took like two lessons and then said, “this is too hard!”
Kelly [Kocher] has also had so much influence on my riding by helping me get over some fears that I used to have, and has helped me to gain a lot of confidence when I ride!
Do you have any goals you’d like to accomplish during your last year as a junior?
Actually, the one goal I set out to accomplish was Junior Finals, so I’ve qualified for that! I’m going! I’m so excited! I started working towards that three or four years ago, right when I got Harry. So I’m so excited.
Do you have any plans for what you will do after you age out of the juniors?
After I age out, I honestly don’t have set plans, because I’m about to go to college, so I’m dealing with that now. I will probably do some team riding in college. I think I would like to try to go professional – I think that would be interesting to try – but I would really like to get into the big national hunter derbies and things like that with a little more high stakes because it looks like so much fun! I’m not sure where I will go to college yet; I’m looking at UNC Chapel Hill and Campbell. I’m interested in the medical field.
What is your favorite thing about horse showing at TIEC?
I love the competition. I’m not a super, super competitive person, but I love showing up at early hours of the morning, getting out there for a little early morning hack… Especially out on the derby field when there’s still morning dew on the grass. Another funny thing about Harry is that whenever the birds are flying low over the grass out there, he will actually chase them, and he’ll start playing out on the derby field; it’s so cute! The ring gate people at Tryon are always so nice, the jumps are beautiful, the footing is amazing, and it’s just such a great atmosphere.