What she lacks in size, 12-year-old Morgan Dvorkin makes up in spunk. Just ask those who watched her race Summer Storm last spring. She came away victorious at such meets as Green Spring and the Junior Maryland Hunt Cup.
Not bad for a show rider in her first year of pony racing. But then, Dvorkin has been riding since she was two.
Showing is a family affair for the Baltimore resident, who trains with Peri Fitzpatrick and competes in both Baltimore County and A-rated shows. Come Thanksgiving, you might also find Dvorkin in the Elkridge-Harford hunt field.
But she had never considered steeplechasing until Caitlan Meara, a friend of Fitzpatrick’s, asked her to race Summer Storm. A small pony mare, Stormy was a former rescue who had been a little too speedy in the show ring. When Meara outgrew her, she decided to give her old friend a new career. But where to find a pint-sized jockey? “I like to go fast and I was pretty gutsy, so she came to me!” Dvorkin said, laughing.
Riding Summer Storm was quite different from piloting the average show pony, Dvorkin soon learned.
“She’s kind of voice-activated, like when you cluck and tell her to go, she goes faster,” she said. “And as soon as you lean up on her neck and squeeze your legs against her stomach, she shoots out from under you.”
“The only problem I had to work on was being able to stop, because she doesn’t like her face touched, and I couldn’t pull back on her mouth! So I have to spin her around in a circle; I just turn her head sideways and she stops.”
The week before Dvorkin’s debut at Green Spring, a practice run against Meara’s large pony Rocky gave her a bit of a scare. “[Summer Storm] stumbled, and I was leaning on her neck and fell off,” she explained. “I just ended up jamming my pinkie. I wasn’t afraid, and neither was my friend Caitlan. But I think it was kind of a wake-up call that something could happen.”
Fortunately, race day went according to plan, and Dvorkin recalls Green Spring with fondness. “Everyone from my barn was there to cheer me on, and they put up tents and stuff, which showed me how much they really cared,” she said.
Other memorable moments followed throughout the spring. “At the Vosses, [Summer Storm] reared and went sideways,” she said. “And then at the Junior Maryland Hunt Cup, I was against three people for the first time.”
While she did not win at Potomac, Summer Storm was the first small pony to finish, winning the trophy for that division. “I was backwards when they started; I caught up halfway through, but catching up took all of her energy and she wasn’t that fit this season,” Dvorkin said.
Like many other young riders, she find starts particularly tough. “I always lose my stirrups at the start. I can never keep both of them!” she said. Then there was the time that SUmmer Storm reared at the start, and the time the flag was dropped behind her.
But once she’s off and running, Stormy is a fierce competitor. “As soon as she sees someone ahead of her, she’d rather die than lose,” said Dvorkin. “So she goes as fast as she possibly can, and she normally succeeds in getting in front of them. The only thing about her is that if we pass someone, and they’re kind of behind us, she doesn’t like to go her fastest anymore, because she doesn’t see any need to. She just knows; she’s SO smart.”
Dvorkin’s relationship with Stormy goes beyond pony racing. She’s ridden her in hunter trials, pinning in every class. “She’s a really cool pony; you kind of get to bond with her,” she said. “She follows you around and comes up to say ‘hi’ to you. She has a lot of personality.”
When Dvorkin’s show pony was injured halfway through the season, she got a chance to ride Summer Storm’s green but talented daughter. “She is tiny, and the exact opposite of [her dam]. You couldn’t get her to go fast if you wanted to,” she said.
At the end of the point-to-point season, Dvorkin’s capturing the Junior Foxchasing Scholarship with its free capping at local hunts – came as a complete surprise to her. “I didn’t really know what it was, but then my mom explained that it was for hunting,” she said. “And then everyone fought over who was going to get to go with me.”
Because of her upcoming bat mitzvah, the seventh-grader has been busier than usual. But she hopes to use her scholarship in the fall of 2004.
As community service for her bat mitzvah, Dvorkin has done volunteer work with rescued horses at Rendezvous Farm near Parkton. “I did it all through the summer, fall, and part of the winter, helping out with the barn chores, cleaning stalls and watering,” she said. “I also rode a few of the ponies, and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Besides doing some foxchasing, Dvorkin looks forward to showing her new large pony this year. In the future, she also aspires to ride jumpers.
The Junior Field Masters Chases are another possibility. But for now, Dvorkin and Summer Storm will continue racing on the flat. “I definitely want to race more, and I want to win,” she said. “Last year, I came so close to being high-point pony. So that’s kind of my goal for this year. I just want to have fun. And I want to improve throughout the year.”