Meet Mellisa Warden

Competitor, official, and Foshay's newest team member

When I drove North to judge dressage for The Fork at Tryon International Equestrian Center in Tryon, NC, I never thought the weekend would open so many doors and 3 months later I would be in New Brunswick at Foshay. As a TD and Event Judge in the US, I meet a lot of interesting people, but it is rare to meet someone with as much passion and commitment to our sport as Rob Stevenson. I kept hearing about this event, “Foshay International” he was putting on over Labour Day weekend with a CCI1* and the first FEI Intro division on the continent. Learning that I was working on acquiring my FEI TD license, Rob graciously offered to assist if he could. Before I went home on Sunday, the wheels were already in motion to head North to visit the Atlantic provinces with my equine partner. That meeting on a gloomy Friday afternoon will remain a pivotal moment.

I grew up outside Seattle, WA on the Olympic Peninsula. My father proclaimed I would be an event rider when I was 11 years old and bought me Hillary Clayton’s book on conditioning the event horse, a stud kit, over girth, and heart rate monitor. I wanted to be a Grand Prix show jumper. In 1992, that all changed. My introduction to eventing was alongside Todd Trewin building a Preliminary combination at an event in Area VII called Mountain Meadows. (Another pivotal moment in my life.) Todd had just returned from the Olympics and I was a bit star struck at 11 years old. That fall was my first recognized event at Beginner Novice (Pre-Novice back then), and I was hooked! For those born after 1990, that was way back in the days when we had penalty zones and you could fall off numerous times and finish.

Fast forward a few years and my father became the Course Designer and Builder for our Pony Club horse trials which held a recognized USCTA (Yes, that long ago!) event through training level. I spent most days in the summer building alongside my father and working with officials that came through. It was one day at a 6 week event check with Fran O’Reilly that I commented how I wanted to be a TD like her. I wasn’t more than 15 years old. So how did some 15 year old Pony Club kid in Washington state, over 3,000 miles away come to Foshay over 20 years later?

I met Rob Stevenson through the veterinarian I work for in Aiken, SC, Sarah Thompson. The two grew up together in Pony Club and before vet school and the 1992 Olympics, Sarah worked for him for a spell. When I moved to Aiken nine years ago and met Sarah, I rode a horse for her named Raleigh, who was eventually sold to Rob and Suzanne Stevenson and went on to compete at the Preliminary level. The world is small and when you are in horses, you realize just how minute it can be.

In 2013 I became an Event TD and followed up with an Event Judge License the following year while continuing to campaign at the Intermediate level. Despite a busy schedule officiating coast to coast and attempting to raise a 12 year old daughter who has chosen year round swimming over riding ponies with her mum, I continue to coach, train, and compete my own horses and those of a few clients. My Trakehner mare, Schickeria, has not done well in the heat and humidity of South Carolina, so I had hoped to compete in Area I and escape the heat. Having competed in Canada exclusively while at University in the NW, I was excited at the chance to party, I mean compete, with our neighbours in the North. Sarah, my vet boss, was very supportive and encouraging of the opportunity to head North, especially while summers are quiet for work in the South. As I got to know Rob, I felt that perhaps a couple weeks in New Brunswick would not be enough, and maybe I could spend some time training with him. My problem was that I had to return to the States to work, so I would need him to ride my mare while I was away. He agreed.

When I left Aiken on June 26, my plan was to get the Preliminary qualifier needed on the way up. Unfortunately, as all horsemen know, things don’t always go to plan and we did not receive the qualifying score needed to compete in the first FEI Intro level at Foshay. Equine Canada requires three training level scores, while the USEF requires one Preliminary score. We were qualified in Canada, but not the US. Although there is still time to qualify, my work schedule officiating has made it nearly impossible to do so, and I decided to focus on training rather than run all over frantically to try and compete. As bummed as I was initially, it has become more exciting to be apart of a phenomenal team and help with a World Class event in one of the most beautiful places I have visited. Videos and photos do not do justice to the serene beauty of the event site. The jumps are mostly built from the timber on the grand property. I have followed the progress online like many others but to see it in person was awe-inspiring and has taken me back to working on the cross country course as an 11 year old. While I am in New Brunswick, I have volunteered to help the Event Director, Sam Atkinson with the US aspect of the event and am happy to share my experiences of traveling over 2,000 miles while competing to reach Canada and Foshay. I won’t be wearing my official’s hat Labour Day weekend, but will be volunteering to make sure Foshay International is without a doubt the best party –  I mean best competition –  on the East Coast!

During my stay in New Brunswick, I am exploring daily between riding at 6am and spending afternoons working in the office and I’m excited to share all the adventures with others through this blog. I may not be able to compete at the inaugural Foshay International, but I will be doing the Dressage test ride and will most definitely be back in 2019 to compete!  #FI2018





Only 7 hours from Boston and nestled on the river’s edge in beautiful Jemseg New Brunswick, Foshay International is one of a kind- come see for yourself!

Foshay International

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