Jumping to New Heights


Courtesy of Nicole Dorcy

Junior Nicole Dorcy competing with her horse My Dear Watson during one of many competitions.

Marijke Sommer, Staff Writer

Nicole Dorcy, a junior who has been horseback riding for approximately nine years, qualified for the National Hunter Equestrian Competition, which will be held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington from Aug. 3 – 5. For her events, Dorcy will be riding her horse, My Dear Watson, a half-thoroughbred, half-welsh.

Dorcy became inspired to horseback ride after reading the “Ranger’s Apprentice” series by John Flanagan. Adding onto that drive was the fact that Dorcy’s family had “moved up to Illinois from Texas, where there was a barn literally 5 minutes from my house, and I nagged my mom until she finally let me try it.”

Since then, Dorcy has practiced horseback riding at the Old McHenry Farm in Lake Zurich, where she rides five days a week for an hour to an hour and a half each time. And all that time, effort, and sacrifice has been worth it as she ended up qualifying for the National Hunter Equestrian Competition.

“This takes hours of practice and a lot of patience with a 1,000 pound animal that doesn’t always cooperate. Many people would have quit a long time ago,” summarized Mrs. Diana Dorcy, Nicole’s mother.

There are about 150 competitors who are going to participate in this high-level event. Each rider “competes in three events. First is the under saddle or flat round when about 20 riders go into the ring and are asked to walk, trot, and canter. Second, is the over fences which is where each rider goes into the ring one at a time and runs through a given course of jumps. Then the last event is the model, where about 10 riders at a time trot their horses in by hand without saddles and model them for the judge to make sure they are sound – not lame or hurt – and have good confirmation,” Nicole described.

Horseback riding is like ice skating or gymnastics  in terms of points: “Each event is judged and scored by a judge according to a known set of criteria and, in the end, whoever has the highest score wins,” explained Dorcy. The criteria for each event can be found on the United States Equestrian Federation website.

But the points and competitions are not the most important part of this whole process for Dorcy. She is most excited about having the opportunity to “ride in the huge arena in Kentucky, and generally getting to ride at the huge horse park!!”

Lauren Jordan, a close friend of Nicole’s, corroborated this point: “I believe her favorite part of riding is being able to just bond with the horses. Whenever I go with her to the barn, she seems happiest just being around Watson.”

However, the road for Nicole has not always been easy. Last year, she was bucked off and broke her shoulder so severely that she had to be immobilized for 10 weeks, during which time she couldn’t do anything more than walk or trot on her horse every once in a while, gradually moving up in difficulty as she healed.

She didn’t let that injury stop her, though. Mrs. Dorcy described her daughter’s resilience: “She has done this for 8 years and has never talked about giving up despite significant injuries and ‘horse problems.’”

Added Jordan: “Nicole did not look at it so much as a hinderance but instead as a way to relax and recuperate before beginning to compete again. She did very well.”

In order to get where she is today, Dorcy has followed the motto, “If you don’t need to go to a hospital, you get back on.”