A story of encouragement for Juniors and Young Riders who are willing to work hard and stay committed to long-term goals

Eight years ago, a Junior rider entered into the sport of dressage with a 14.3-hand pony. Both the rider, Erin, and the pony, King Julian (“Julian”), were new to the sport. Erin was taking basic riding lessons and Julian, 6 years of age at the time, was also new to dressage

Fast forward to May 2018. Together, Erin and King Julian earned their USDF bronze medal at a recognized show at Brave Horse in Johnstown, Ohio.  

Erin Vensel and King Julian after earning their USDF bronze medal at Brave Horse in Ohio. (Courtesy)

Erin Vensel and King Julian after earning their USDF bronze medal at Brave Horse in Ohio. (Courtesy)

Their story is one of encouragement to Juniors and Young Riders with access to modest resources who are willing to work hard, be resourceful, maintain passion for the sport and, with the help of parents, mentors and friends, commit to long-term goals.

Before Erin and Julian got matched up as a good fit by Julian’s seller, Maggie Smith, Erin was taking five to 10 basic riding lessons a year on Introductory-level horses at the local barn, Kane Valley Acres, in Claysville, Pennsylvania. She looked forward to being around horses and to the lessons. She was hooked from the start.

Over the next few years, Erin continued taking lessons. She also began working as the assistant barn manager at another local barn which provided the resources to continue riding while learning about the equestrian world at a facility that mostly boarded race horses.

Erin spent a season riding a horse loaned to her by a local family and then began searching for a horse. With the help of her mother and several friends, their quest to find a horse for Erin ended a few hours away in Maryland. Above all else, Maggie was adamant about finding a lifelong home for her little horse. Years later, she now knows without a doubt that Julian and Erin were meant for each other.

Erin Vensel and King Julian in 2010 at their first schooling show. (Courtesy)

Erin Vensel and King Julian in 2010 at their first schooling show. (Courtesy)

Over the past eight years, Erin and Julian have accomplished a fair amount as a result of countless hours of practice, trail riding, hacking, walking and hanging out together—all with an average of only 15 to 20 lessons per year. Their time together has produced the fruits of a relationship and a bond that is hard to describe. From time to time, Erin may also be seen lounging on Julian’s saddle-less back in a backwards position while Julian stands as patiently as a hammock between 2 trees on a windless and sunny day. There is no substitute for the quantity and quality of time a horse and rider spend together over and above the time spent in the arena.

Additionally, Erin studies all aspects of the sport of dressage and never misses the opportunity to read and enjoys learning and studying articles.

Erin’s hard work, commitment and desire to do what it takes to continue to pursue her Olympic dreams does not stop with equestrian activities. Since age 13, she has held two barn-related jobs and several other positions to make the horse budget doable. In addition, she opted to begin her post-secondary education at a local community college to keep the cost of college at a reasonable rate. She then transferred to La Roche College, north of Pittsburgh, with the goal of earning a bachelor’s degree in business to find a vocation to help support her horse habit.

The community college path along with making money working the other jobs has recently enabled her to purchase an entry-level horse, a Friesian named Willem M. In addition to her continual goal of moving up the levels with Julian (and maybe earning more medals with him), she now has the additional desire to work with Willem M to achieve similar results. As important to the goals, she realizes that it will be the time spent with Willem to build and foster the relationship and trust that it takes to achieve success in the sport of dressage.

This past summer Erin moved north of Pittsburgh to begin a stint as a working-student—and all the tasks that come with that—at Silver Crest Equestrian Center in Valencia, Pennsylvania, working with her horses and training with Krista Tycho-Noone, her trainer. Beginning in mid-January, she reduced her working-student hours as she became a full-time student at La Roche College with classes scheduled all day Monday and Wednesday. This allows her to continue working her part-time job at a local residential heating/air conditioning company arriving at 7:30 AM the rest of the week—and usually after beginning the day much earlier with a CrossFit work out...all to feed her horse habit.

If you would like to continue to follow Erin's journey, check her out on Instagram! 

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