Kaitlin Campbell and Rocky W show the form that clinched the Open Jumper Reserve Championship at Devon this year.
The Devon Horse Show brings out the best of the best, especially in the Open Jumper Division. It also is a great stage for new talent moving into the professional ranks like Kaitlin Campbell of Upper Black Eddy, PA.
Campbell, 21, and her horse Rocky W wowed the crowds at Devon by winning the $50,000 Idle Dice Stakes class and the Reserve Open Jumper championship behind Rothschild, ridden by Devon perennial winner McLain Ward.
“I did the jumper class on Wednesday and he was very tentative, he’d had a month or so off and he was a little fresh. He finished fourth in that class,” she said.
Campbell was back on Thursday night for the $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon but did not place. “It’s always intimidating under the lights and everything, and he had a few rails down,” she said. The high point of her week at Devon was still to come, choosing classes carefully to suit the horse best. “We were going to do the Gambler’s Choice class, but my trainer decided on the (Idle Dice Stake) class instead.”
Campbell trains with Rachel Kennedy of ESP Farm in Maryland, and was set to show another jumper as well, but the horse had to undergo colic surgery just a week before Devon.
“It was a nice track all week,” Campbell said about her Devon experience. “The time allowed was tight all week. My horse is very fast so I very rarely have time faults. If I do they are always my fault. Devon is really fun because I get to see all the people I grew up riding with.”
Campbell is close to her horse Rocky W. “For about two years now, I’ve been doing Amateur Jumpers on him. He had a good Wellington, he was in second place in the Lexington, Virginia Green Show Grand Prix. Devon was his first show after that,” she said about her horse.
Injured While Leased
Things have not all been smooth for the 15-year-old Rocky W. “We bought him at the end of his eight-year-old year to be my junior jumper. I hadn’t even been doing the high jumpers at that point. We bought him as a high junior jumper,” Campbell recalled. “He was champion at Devon in the Junior Jumpers, and won the Senators Cup Junior Jumper at Washington, then we leased him out to California. He went out to California and he got hurt there. He had a torn suspensory behind and a hole in the suspensory up front.”
Even with stem cell surgery, there was a good chance that her horse might not be able to regain his jumping ability, but fortunately he has recovered, and even improved. “Now he’s better and he’s just been getting better and better,” Campbell said.
Riding and jumping are the center of Campbell’s life and her new career as a professional rider. “I’ve been riding since I was six years old. I did independent study for high school so I was like a professional all through high school. That’s what I spent my entire time doing,” she said. “My family always encouraged education so I went to college and even through college I spent most of my time balancing it with riding. That I can get a job in this right away and pay off my student loans is great.”
Moving to Kentucky
Campbell has just graduated from American University in Washington, D.C. where she majored in Business Administration. Now she is moving to Kentucky to pursue her riding career but she plans to be back near home as she travels with the jumper circuit.
After Devon, Campbell was off to Upperville, VA. “Rocky won the Upperville Grand Prix in 2011, that was one of our first big wins, so I know he likes the ring,” she said.
When looking for a horse, a positive personality is something that Campbell sees as a priority. “They have to want to win,” she said.
As for Campbell, she also has a will to win. She does not see an Olympic team spot in her immediate future, but she is still looking for wins. “I don’t have a horse that can do that (Olympic level jumping) but it’s just nice to be competing against people who have gone to the Olympics,” she said. “Jumping has always been my passion.”