BY STEPHANIE DIAZ
Special to The Pilot
Andrew McConnon discovered three-day eventing (relatively) late in life.
The Acton, Mass., native rode in his first combined test as a high school freshman and moved to North Carolina to train with his mentor, eventer and course designer, Marc Donovan, in 2004.
Now 24, McConnon is competing this weekend at the American Eventing Championships at Chattahoochee Hills in Fairburn, Ga., with two horses: His own preliminary horse, Quiet Council, an 11-year-old off-the-track thoroughbred who raced as "Crane," and Venesa Crumpley's novice horse, FYI.
McConnon and Quiet Council ("Ike") won the open preliminary championship at the Five Points Horse Trials last weekend.
Q: Who was your first horse?
A: I had a black and white pinto pony named Candy. I got her for my sixth -birthday and rode her until I was about 8. I rode her in some little hunter/jumper shows.
Q: How did you discover eventing?
A: Through Marc. He was the first eventing contact I ever had. I was looking for another horse, and somebody had a horse they wanted me to free lease. They arranged for me to try the horse in a lesson with Marc. They figured we had similar personalities, and that his teaching style would work with my riding style.
Q: How many horses do you have right now?
A: I'm competing four, but Ike's the only one I own.
Q: How did you get Ike?
A: I bought him just over a year ago from (local event rider) Tim Murray. Tim works in Massachusetts during the week and travels to Southern Pines on the weekends, and (Tim's wife) Jane had her hands full with her horses. Tim asked if I would exercise him during the week, so we started doing trot sets and jumping ... I got to jump him a number of times. They had somebody interested in buying him so they had me come over and jump him for them ... I wasn't in the market for a horse. The people liked him, but the Murrays called later that afternoon and said, "YOU need to own this horse, and we'll make it happen.'"
Q: Did you and Ike click right away?
A: He used to be a little complicated. But now he's a really fun ride. He's very straightforward on the flat, very obedient. I don't have to worry about dressage, and on cross-country he's very bold and forward. Show jumping is the tougher phase for him.
Q: What's he like to be around?
A: He has a funny personality. We're pretty close ... we have a good relationship. He likes people but he doesn't like horses. He'll be all smiles, ears forward, but if you lead him near another horse, he gets mad. He's pretty jealous - he wants all the attention.
Q: Does he have a favorite treat?
A: Mints. And when he gets them he'll lick his lips forever.
Q: Which horse have you had the strongest bond with?
A: I like to think I form a strong bond with all of them. I always feel when I'm competing there has to be a lot of trust between the horse and rider. If I'm trying to present and jump them over those fences, I have to have a bond with them on the ground.
Q: What does a 24-year-old do in Moore County when he isn't riding?
A: (Laughs) Mainly, there's a lot of work at the barn and a lot of early nights. I'll go out to dinner with people, but that's about it.
Q: What are your long range plans for Ike?
A: I'd like to move him up to intermediate around February. I might do the one-star in Kentucky at Midsouth (in October). But by next season I want to move him up. I'd love to shoot for intermediate at the AEC's next year.