Triple Trouble: 2023 at a Glance and Goals for 2024

No matter what happens in 2024, I don’t think I could be disappointed in the horses I ride or my journey with them — unless of course I break another bone.

Another year has come and gone. It seems as if I was just writing my 2022 summary article and here I am, wrapping up 2023. So many things have evolved over the course of this year. Some for the better and some for the worse. I’ve learned a significant amount about the horse industry and put my best foot forward when it came to decisions for my horses.

But did I meet the goals I set for my crew at the beginning of the year? Some of them.

My first goal for 2023 was to be competitive on both Buns and Payco. I am happy to say that I am. They have both earned Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) Ladies Level 4 qualified wins and Payco carried me to my first ever Overall Overall title. With that being said, Payco and I have become a team enough that I use him as my main competition mount and my 10-year-old niece has taking over riding Buns in competition.

Photo courtesy of Marcella Gruchalak

The second goal I had for this year was to compete at the 2023 CMSA Derby held in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Payco and I not only competed at the 2023 CMSA Derby, but we knocked it out of the park. We had some of our best rides that week allowing us to finish in the top five in our class, earning the third place spot.

Photo by Mountain Ember Photography

For my third goal of the year, I wanted to engage my mounted shooting patterns more aggressively. Well, I’m doing this a little too well. I engaged a pattern so aggressively that it ended my season a bit early due to a miscommunication on the shut down part at the end. I was not expecting the embarrassing moment in front of my fellow competitors, which resulted in a broken fibula (in two places).

My fourth goal of the year, and probably the goal that was most important and exciting for me, was to send Hot Sauce off to training (I can’t believe the time has come). Due to unforeseen circumstances that were beyond anyone’s control, there was a significant delay in Hot Sauce going to training. This delay ended up being nearly four-and-a-half months long. This was the second biggest upset pertaining to horses I had this year. After working to bring along Payco when he came home from training, I knew I would need plenty of time to mesh and become a team with Hot Sauce. Therefore, I made the decision to send my horse to No Reins Performance Horses to make sure I’d have enough time to work with Hot Sauce before the Futurity. Fortunately, her training is going well and I can’t wait to see where we are at this time next year.

Photo by Marlee Fritz

The fifth goal I had going in to 2023 was to watch and enjoy as my niece, Kamille, began to compete off of Buns. This was quite easily the best part of the year — and the one that has given me the most memories. Kamille has improved so much with Buns as her teacher. Together they were able to clinch the New York State Championship Limited Wrangler title among other wins.

Photo by Tim Frank Photography

Number six on my list was to enjoy my horses outside of the competition pen by doing more trail riding and planning horse-related trips that aren’t to competitions. I can surely check this one off of the list. My favorite trail trip this year was to Love Valley, North Carolina with my good friend, Marlee (you can read about it here). What an absolutely wonderful place to trail ride and enjoy horse-related activities.

Photo by Marlee Fritz

For my seventh goal of the year, I wanted to take Buns and Payco to Kentucky to ride with my niece, Haylee. Unfortunately, I did not meet this goal. I had planned to go in the fall while Haylee was preparing for the Retired Racehorse Project; however, breaking bones quickly put an end to that. Luckily, over the summer, Haylee came to Pennsylvania to spend some time and we were able to get in a trail ride close to home.

My eighth goal is stressing me out. It was to begin riding Hot Sauce by the end of the year to become a team with her. Honestly, I’m not sure whether I should laugh or cry at this one. Yet another goal I didn’t meet. Due to the continued push back of her training, instead of returning to me in October, she now won’t be returning home until the end of March. I fully intend to enjoy the process and will not rush her progress — even if that means we miss the Futurity if I don’t feel we’re ready.

Another one of my goals for 2023 was to bring the hose in during the winter months so it doesn’t freeze. Luckily for me, the weather has been extremely warm thus far this winter, so I haven’t even had to disconnect it to bring it up to the house.

Number 10 was to keep my horses healthy and at an optimal weight. Buns has been the problem child this year. After being treated for ulcers, blocked, x-rayed, and ultrasounded, he is now on a regimen for pain management and is looking quite plump. I am so happy to say I have accomplished this goal.

Photo by Marcella Gruchalak

My last goal for 2023 was to trust the process. This one has tested me this year, but I’d say I met the goal to the best of my ability.

For 2024, the goals will change and evolve yet again. This year, I’m going to go back to being specific with my goals for each horse. Here’s what I’d like to accomplish 2024:

Sunmans Irish Pay (Payco)

Photo by JMF Photography

1. Get my last two CMSA Ladies Level 4 qualified wins and move up to a level 5

2. Go to three CMSA major shoots with one of them being our first trip to CMSA Worlds

3. Ride through patterns with a looser rein

4, Shut down more effectively at the end of our runs

Unbridled Fame (Hot Sauce)

Photo by Marlee Fritz

  1. Have many wet saddle pads together to prepare for the CMSA Futurity
  2. Be able to lope through a shooting pattern with effective course management
  3. Compete at the CMSA Futurity
  4. Enjoy coming together as a team

Funny Bunny B (Buns)

Photo by Mr. Quigley Photography

  1. Let Buns take a rest for most of the year to strengthen his previously injured leg
  2. Go on periodic trail rides to get him out and about doing easy work
  3. Keep his pain managed and weight up

As 2023 comes to an end, I am excited to see where my crew and I go and what we accomplish in 2024. With Kamille motivating me to love the sport of Mounted Shooting again — and forcing me to go almost every weekend — there is no limit to how successful we can be. My success in the sport now comes from watching her enjoy horses and become a respectable cowgirl. No matter what happens in 2024, I don’t think I could be disappointed in the horses I ride or my journey with them (unless of course I break another bone).