Burghley first-timers: Elisa Wallace — ‘My horse has a dual personality — we call one half of him The Dragon’

  • Hailing from Jasper, Georgia in the United States, Elisa Wallace has endured a long, hard road in order to get to her first ever Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (1-4 September).

    “My parents were both super horsey and I started eventing at the age of four,” says Elisa.

    “I quit the eventing scene when I was 12 and turned my attention to hunter jumpers instead.”

    At the age of 18 Elisa decided that she wanted to buy her own horse.

    “I found this yearling Thoroughbred called Jackson for sale for $700,” explains Elisa who went on to produce him and win at three-star level.

    “We were entered for Blenheim Horse Trials in 2007, but unfortunately he sustained an injury just before we were due to leave.”

    Fast forward nine years to 2015, and Elisa made it Blenheim (pictured top), this time riding Simply Priceless, or Johnny as he is known at home.

    “It was awesome to finally get there,” she says. Together she and Johnny jumped a super clear across country.

    Elisa, who majored in art at college and who specialises in welding life-sized sculptures of horses, found Johnny in 2013. He had already been produced to CIC3* level, but Elisa has spent a vast amount of time building a solid partnership with the 15-year-old Australian thoroughbred who is an ex-racehorse.

    “Johnny is very sweet but he has a dual personality,” explains Elisa who is also a champion in retraining wild mustangs. “He has a mellow, puppy dog side and I’ve even taught him how to smile. But he also has a side to him that we’ve nicknamed ‘The Dragon’ — he can get very over-excited, almost neurotic and he will weave too.”

    The pair have completed two Rolex Kentucky four-stars, finishing eighth this year. This was enough for them to be listed as non-travelling reserves for the U.S Olympic eventing team.

    Elisa gallops Johnny in a halter a few days before her Burghley debut

    Elisa, who arrived in the UK on 17 August, three days before her horse, set up a GoFundMe web page in order to make her Burghley dream a reality. Entitled ‘Send Elisa and Johnny to Burghley’ the page has raised a nearly $10,000.

    Elisa has only ever watched Burghley on TV and she admits that she has “vomited a couple of times” since watching the cross-country course preview.

    “I’m in denial that I’m actually here,” confesses Elisa. “I’m trying to block everything out so that I stay relaxed.”

    While in the UK, Elisa and Johnny are staying with British-based American event rider Katherine Coleman at Julia Norman’s Wiltshire yard.

    “I obviously hadn’t jumped Johnny for a while by the time he arrived and I had managed to persuade myself that between us we couldn’t jump a corner. Thankfully I jumped him today [25 August] and I’ve put that ghost to bed!

    “I’m looking forward to jumping the last cross-country fence at Burghley,” laughs Elisa.

    Continued below…

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    Johnny is owned by the Simply Priceless Syndicate and they will join Elisa’s father and husband at Burghley. Not to mention her English fans who she says have promised to go and support her at the Lincolnshire event which is hardly surprising given her huge social media following, with over 14,500 likes on her eventing Facebook page and many more on Instagram and Twitter.

    “Johnny is a class horse and I would love to finish in the top 10 — we need to keep on doing what we’ve been doing. We have to be a partnership and I need to ride smart. Now is the time for our performance of a lifetime.”

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