On January 18, I had the honor of being the guest of Melissa DeCarlo Recknor, former Adoptions and Volunteer Coordinator at the MMSC, and her wonderful husband, Russell at the Mid South Eventing Association year end awards dinner. Melissa had earned first place in beginner novice senior horse trial division and second place in beginner novice senior combined test with her MMSC graduate, Fly Lite.
|Melissa and Russell|
I wanted to be at the ceremony to show my appreciation for what Melissa and Fly had done together to raise awareness about the MMSC specifically and about the athleticism and value of off track Thoroughbreds in general. I also wanted to be there to show my admiration for her commitment to a tough and talented little mare.
|Fly always knows where her admirers are.|
When I became director in 2008, I inherited a band of tough horses. I had a chronic rearer, a bolter, a malcontent that bit, struck out, and had broken one MMSC volunteer’s arm. There were several unthrifty, nervous and mistrusting horses right off the track, and then there was Fly.
Riding her was an experience. She was agile as a cat, sensitive and reactive, and because of her conformation, quite naturally balanced. She also could jump… if and when she wanted. Impatient, high strung, and unwilling to suffer fools AT ALL, Fly had to have an ever changing scenario of requests and challenges. If not, she’d toss her head, pace, pull, or as a last resort, dump you. No endless drilling of leg yields or cavalletti for her. If you wanted to get along with her, it had to be interesting and it had to be on her terms.
Melissa was the protege of an A show hunter barn in New York. She rode with impeccable form. The trouble was she didn’t understand the “function” part of the equation "form follows function," and wasn't well versed in how to use her seat, legs, and hands to train a horse, especially not a hot Thoroughbred mare. And she was scared to ride outside of a ring.
|Melissa and Fly in 2009|
I had tried to steer Melissa towards a young, affable gelding, something reliable and steady, a horse that might make a nice show hunter down the road. I thought his temperament would be a compliment to her ever percolating, exacting one. But as I said earlier, although M is small in stature, she’s a titan in spirit, and when she decides to do something, one had best get out of her way! Physically, she and Fly were a well matched, eye catching elegant pair. Temperamentally they were very similar, which could be the best thing that ever happened to Melissa (to Fly, too, for that matter), for, we only can truly ride our horses once we intimately know and have trained our difficult selves. This is one of the great gifts that horses give to us. On the other hand, the two of them had all the ingredients necessary for the perfect storm. It was clearly a match made in heaven, but I suspected that there would be a whole lot of hell to go through to get there. It occurred to me that if Melissa was really going to adopt her equine alter ego, I had to do something to help them survive each other.
So I proposed that Fly become the MMSC mascot.
|Fly, as mascot, loved greeting MMSC visitors.|
She took clinics and lessons. She worked on her jumping and struggled to overcome her own fear of riding outside of a ring. She started trail riding. Then she started schooling cross country. She had professional event rider, Lara Knight, ride Fly in her first two events. And, then, one day, Melissa evented herself. I watched their first cross country run with my heart in my throat and met M on the finish line, holding my breath.
"And? How was it?" I asked nervously.
'THAT WAS SO MUCH FUN!," she exclaimed, breathlessly excited and smiling. Fly, prancing and shaking her head with exuberance and pride, clearly loved the cross country experience as well.
When M left the MMSC to pursue a career in her chosen field of music, she found a wonderful trainer in Whitney Morris with whom she boards. Carefully and systematically Whitney continued to build both Melissa’s and Fly’s confidence and experience. With Whitney's vigilant daily guidance, the pair starting trusting each other, showing regularly and, slowly, the ribbons started to float in. You can look at her results below and see just how far they have come. And there is no telling where these two will go now, either!
winning team. It’s the kind of story between a horse and her girl that inspires us all.
Melissa and Fly Lite
- USEF Silver Stirrup National Reserve Champion, BN
- USEF Silver Stirrup Zone Champion, BN
- USEA BN Amateur, 8th place
- USEA Area 8 BN Amateur, Reserve Champion
- USEA Area 8 BN Rider, 8th place
- USEA Area 8 BN horse, 9th place
- MSEDA BN Combined Tests, 3rd Place
- MSEDA BN Horse Trials, 3rd place
- Jockey Club TIP Award at the Kentucky Dressage Assoc. spring warm up show (May)
- USEF Silver Stirrup Zone Champion, BN
- USEF Silver Stirrup National 3rd place, BN
- USEA BN Amateur, 6th place
- USEA Area 8, BN Amateur, Champion
- USEA Area 8 high point thoroughbred champion
- Jockey Club TIP Award at the KY Dressage Assoc. fall classic (October)
- 7th Area 8 BN Championships
- Midsouth Eventing and Dressage Association (MSEDA) 1st Placed Beginner Novice Senior Horse Trials
- MSEDA 2nd place- beginner novice senior combined test
- Jockey Club TIP Performance Award Program- 1st place Beginner Novice Combined Test Division
-Volunter Jockey Club TIP Performance Award Program- 1st place Beginner Novice Eventing Division
- Jockey Club TIP Performance Award Program- 2nd place Combined Test Overall
- Jockey Club TIP Performance Award Program- 4th place eventing overall