By Starr Crusenberry

Courtney Sendak works at a part-time job, maintains and A average, and pays for half of all her competition expenses, all so she can continue to ride and compete. For Courtney, 16, all the dedication and hard work have paid off.

Together with her Palomino gelding, Wil’ Ya Love Me (by Grange Finn Sparrow out of Lady Doreen), Courtney struck gold this show season, winning the Equiery Perpetual Eventing Trophy for Training Level Champion along with the Col. Ottmar Schaurek Memorial Trophy.

Courtney and her mount, affectionately known as Willy, were also part of the successful Maryland team that competed in last July’s Pony Club National Championships. The Maryland Team had the best score in horse management, which helped it secure the USPC Training Level Eventing Championship. Courtney also had the team’s best individual score.
Willy, a 7-year-old, was also named the 2004 Training Level Connemara Pony of the year by the American Connemara Society.

At 15 hands, whatever Willy lacks in stature, he certainly makes up for in heart. Courtney has nothing but praise for her equine partner, “He tries so hard. I’ve never ridden and animal like him. He’s very hard on himself and gets frustrated when he knows he’s not doing something right,” she said.

Courtney purchased the Holly Brickner-bred gelding as a 2-year-old, bringing him along with the help of trainer Laura Beetle. She had early intentions of doing hunters, but her switch to eventing proved to be a good fit for both horse and rider.

“He has the sweetest temperament. He has really become my partner this year. He is just an all-around great horse and loves the cross country,” Courtney said. “We call him the little girl because he has such a high-pitched whinny and looks like a Barbie Doll.”

Courtney, who has ridden since she was five, hones her skills with the help of trainer Beetle and Harry Fitzpatrick, her stadium jumping coach. She also takes occasional lessons and clinics with Sally Cousins.

As a result of her successful year, Courtney is currently ranked ninth on the U.S. Eventing Association’s list of top 10 junior training riders.

She attributes much of her success to her mother Janice, a jack-of-all-trades horse show mom. “She is there all the time, 24 hours a day. She is my groom, coach, horse-holder and just an extra set of hands, a wonderful set of extra hands. I wouldn’t be where I am without her,” Courtney said.

Courtney has a full schedule between riding, working as a nanny and attending Notre Dame Prep where she maintains a 3.98 GPA. She is a member of the mock trail team and involved in the school’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” After high school, she plans to pursue a career and an equine vet.

For now, Courtney has her heart set on riding and competing. “I like living on the edge and eventing is perfect for that,” she said. “I hope to move up to prelim with Willy next year. My dream would be to compete at a one star event. I would also love to compete in the [North American] Young Riders Championships.”