Interview with Denise Wilson February 13, 2015,
by Vickie Kayuk, Back Home In Bromont.
Denise is a slim 5’3″ ball of energy and enthusiasm with reddish-brown shoulder length hair and a huge smile. Her love of horses and the equestrian sport shines through in her expressive, thoughtful answers
Me: I’m here at HITS Ocala show venue with Denise Wilson. Denise, I understand that you’ve been showing in South Florida. How does the show scene down there compare with the show here?
Denise: Oh, the shows down in Wellington have a lot larger numbers, it’s a different venue, different Grand Prix’, more money sometimes offered there. But this week there’s a FEI show up here that drew me here. It’s more international competition and you get world ranking points. You see a majority of the classes in Wellington are FEI so that’s the draw to an international rider.
Me: How long are you going to be here? Will you be here for the whole weekend?
Denise: Yes, I’ll be here through Sunday. We have a big $150,000 Grand Prix on Sunday. There’s a $34,000 tomorrow as well, which I’ll be doing with my younger horse. I’ll have my main horse, Winter, in the class on Sunday.
Me: I saw you and Winter in Canada. What did you think of the announcement for the World Equestrian Games?
Denise: I think it’s going to be great. I loved Bromont as a town. Enjoying a town or city is not always a luxury we get. When we go to different competitions sometimes we don’t get the restaurants and culture that Bromont brings.
Me: Bromont does have wonderful culture. Are you going to be competing there at the WEG?
Denise: Yes, I sure hope so. I really hope I can get to the point where I’m ready for a big competition like that where I can represent my country. But, I certainly will be back to Bromont next summer.
Me: Oh great! You’re talking about this summer, right?
Denise: Yes! I guess we are 2015 already! I’m still adjusting to that.
Me: I understand you’ll be riding the gray, which is Winter, on Sunday in the Grand Prix.
Me: What is your history together?
Denise: I’ve had Winter for about three years. I bought him originally to teach me to jump strong 1.5 m classes. To get me in there and just get me experience. Then he ended up being so much more. Which is a bonus. We have a joke that, ‘he takes care of me and I take care of him’. It’s our agreement.
Me: Very good! You mentioned an exciting young horse that you’re starting off now. What level are you riding him?
Denise: He’s six years old so he does the six year old jumpers. So, that’s about meter twenty-five. By the end of the year it will be a meter thirty. I brought him up here for a change of scenery. He’s been in Wellington and he’s jumped super down there. I plan to do him in the international competitions so I find it valuable for him to see different venues, have different experiences. That way he’s seasoned in his mind by the time we get to the big jumps.
Me: Right. How did you get your start with horses?
Denise: Oh, man! I was just a little kid that really loved them. My family is not in horses. They never were. I just begged my mom for lessons when I was four and I finally convinced her when I was six.
Me: Really! Wow, that’s awesome! It took me until I was in my twenties to finally get lessons. What prompted you to make it a career?
Denise: I just couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I did go to college. I went to Miami University and within my first semester I just felt like I was missing so much. This business is about experience and networking and you learn the craft by being in it. So I ended up doing some college online before I got really busy and luckily my parents understood that my passion was here and they gave me a chance to make a living out of it.
Me: That’s amazing, that is truly amazing. It’s always nice to have the backing of your parents.
Denise: Yes, I couldn’t do it without them.
Me: What would be your advice to new riders who want a career with horses?
Denise: I think just be open to all of the different jobs. There are so many different ones within the horse world. It’s not just riding, it’s not just training, it’s not just grooming. I think there are so many different avenues you can go down and not be sure. It’s just fine. It’s ok to just take time to do that.
Me: What is your favorite thing about being involved with horses? The riding, the horses themselves, the people in it, travel….
Denise: I think it’s the combination of everything, you know. But I do this purely because I love the horses. Without that I don’t think any of it would be worth it. I love making a bond with a horse and I like the excitement that every day’s different. There are some days when they are just animals and it’s not like a normal sport where you rely on an inanimate object. Really, there are just so many factors from day to day that can be affected. I find they just never stop working and you never stop learning.
Me: Do you remember…This happened to me and it was one of the most awesome experiences of my life: that special moment, the very first time when it almost seems as if you think and your horse does; like you’re one creature. As you go along does it happen more and more often? Or do you continue to have to really work on that?
Denise: I think it really depends on the horse. I’ve certainly had good horses in my life. We weren’t always on the same page and sometimes I worked harder at it. And then there are times I have horses like I have Winter and I just always have faith that we’re working for the same goal. It comes back to the horses and some of them are special. And some of them are maybe more talented but not as special to someone. But it’s always a good feeling when you’re on the same page. Always.
Me: Do you think that, in some cases, when you have a horse that’s very, very talented but you’re just not on the same page, that it’s better to, maybe, pass that horse on to someone else who’s on the same page with the horse?
Denise: I do. I’ve done that plenty. I think there’s so many different riders. I know I’m different than, say, a male rider who’s six foot. I’m five foot three. I just don’t ride the same naturally as some other rider so if I’m not getting along with one or it’s not working for me, I think, absolutely, emotions should not come into it. If you care about the horses you give them the best shot possible. If that means another rider, you do that.
Me: What makes a great horse?
Denise: For me, the most important thing is heart. Heart. I always say that I prefer to have horses in my barn that want to do it. I find it makes my job easier. I look for horses with heart. I think they can make up for so much more. Maybe one lacks a little scope naturally, they can make up for it instantly with heart.
Me: I totally agree with you. And what about rider? What makes a great rider?
Denise: I think there’s a lot of components. Being naturally talented is one, but I think drive, commitment, dedication, hard work, all of those things can outweigh the natural talent. I think every rider has a different combination of qualities.
Me: So heart in the rider.
Denise: I think so too. If you want it and you want to work to make opportunities, you know this business is full of them. Every rider has to find their own path.
Me: On a personal note, where are you from?
Denise: I was born in Phoenix, Arizona. I moved to Wisconsin when I was very young with my family.
Me: Are you showing out of Wisconsin now?
Densie: No, I actually spend my winters down in Wellington, Florida, and then I base in Lexington, Kentucky for the summer because it’s a nice middle base. It’s kind of equal distance to a lot of competitions.
Me: How old are you?
Denise: I’m 25.
Me: Are you single or married?
Denise: I’m not single, but I’m not married.
Me: What’s your favorite food?
Me: Someone told me that you’re really partial to Tim Horton’s.
Denise: Every day when I’m up in Canada, whether it be at Bromont or at Anglestone, every day I started off with a large coffee with two creams and two vanilla with sprinkles donuts and I have a big sweet tooth. Anybody that knows me knows that my favorite food would be pretty much along those lines.
Me: So what if I, on a non-show day, would sort of hang out at the donut shop. Would I see you there?
Denise: Yes…or a gummy shop. Anything with sugar.
Me: What’s your favorite color?
Denise: Blue. My stable name is Blue Gate.
Me: And, what’s your favorite book?
Denise: Gosh, Ok, This is not going to come as a surprise to some people but I really love the Harry Potter books. I have two horses named after certain references in Harry Potter books. Every time I get to name one of them I pick from those books.
Me: Which horses?
Denise: I have a speed horses named Nimbus and I had a ten year old gelding named Norbert but I did just sell him so he’ll go find a new home. I sure hope he keeps that name.
Me: And, what’s your favorite movie?
Denise: Oh man! That’s a good question! I’m a big movie-goer. One of my all time favorites is the movie Taken. But the first one, not any of the sequels. Just the first one.
Me: Yes, sometimes the sequels don’t fulfill your expectations.
Denise: I agree. I think ‘Taken’ was meant to be one movie. Or story. But that is definitely one of my favorite movies.
Me: So, where are you of to from here?
Denise: I leave to go back to Wellington on Sunday and I’ll be in Wellington until April.
Me: And from there where do you go?
Me: Oh! So you’re going to work your way back up north to Canada?
Me: Awesome. Thank you very much for the interview. It has been a pleasure and I hope to see you in Canada. Especially at the 2018 World Equestrian Games.
Denise: I sure hope so!