It’s a full-circle moment for Washington International Horse Show’s new Youth Ambassador Catie Ries. The 17-year-old from Reston, Virginia, has a long history with WIHS!
As a child, Catie regularly attended WIHS with her father as a spectator. When she was 10, she was in a wheelchair due to a fractured patella growth plate, an injury that happened right before the start of the 2014 WIHS, but that didn’t stop her from attending.
Catie and her father went to the show with a decorated horse themed wheelchair for her. The wheelchair had horse head crutch covers on the raised foot pedals with ribbons attached that Catie could use as reins.
“The youth ambassador [Mary Elizabeth Cordia] saw me and the decked-out wheelchair and took me downstairs to the stables and the warm-up ring. I saw McLain Ward warm-up or schooling his horse. I got a free stuffed animal and a hat, and then Mary Elizabeth took me into the ring, where all the riders were signing things. I got to meet and talk with all my favorite riders, and I have a picture with Reed Kessler,” said Catie.
While the interaction with the Youth Ambassador may have spurred her involvement in Washington’s Junior Committee, she also has a history with the sport.
Catie and her horse Tony. Catherine Michele Photography
“I’m adopted, and when I was very little, I learned that my birth family has a long history with horses and riding. My great- grandfather was a jockey, and my maternal grandmother, Moutie, qualified to be in the Junior Olympics for eventing and barrel racing when she was young. My great-grandfather, Bacca, owned a farm in Upstate New York, I visited for the first time when I was three and rode in the Memorial Day parade with my grandmother on her horse, Ebony. A few years later, my best friend at the time started riding, so it just made sense for me to start riding, too.” Catie noted.
Years later, Catie would get her horse — an off-the-track thoroughbred named Big Anthony, barn name Tony. Unfortunately, Tony’s success was limited on the track – His racing history was short – only three outings, making about $100 total.
Currently, Catie trains with Terri Young at Clairvaux LLC. She competes in the children’s hunter divisions with Tony and is looking forward to showing at Tryon this summer and hopefully at WIHS Regionals, where she competed in 2020. “A fun fact about Tony is that he was raised with sheep,” said Catie.
Catie & Tony competing at the WIHS Regional Horse Show.
Shawn McMillen Photography
Riding Tony is an outlet for Catie. The pandemic presented challenges, and like most of us, Catie couldn’t hang out with people much. “Online school and facetiming my friends, was the only human interaction I had outside my family, so being able to ride was really nice,” said Catie.
Horses have always been an opportunity to relax for Catie, even when she was younger. “I was bullied pretty badly when I was younger, so riding was an escape for me. When I’m riding my mind clears and I don’t think about anything but riding, and I think that’s special,” Catie noted.
While riding might help Catie to escape the world, she loves being on the Junior Committee and being the youth ambassador. “It’s such a cool horse show with so much history behind it! I’m really lucky to get to be a part of it, even if it’s in a small way.” The show has been running since 1958 with recurring highlights such as a Puissance (high jump) event, Shetland Pony Steeplechase races, and the FEI President’s Cup.
“I’ve enjoyed it through the years as a spectator – it’s really special and in my opinion, it means a lot to the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia) area. It’s a unique opportunity for equestrians and non-equestrians to enjoy one of the best shows in the country,” Catie said. WIHS brings world-class show jumping to the general public. It’s a unique show, featuring 5* FEI classes, activities for families and more.
This is Catie’s third year on the committee and first year in person, as the past two years have been online due to the pandemic.
“I enjoy it a lot. It makes me feel part of something that’s making an impact. It’s cool to be working with so many different people. There are barrel racers now, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in my two years other than hunter, jumpers, and equitation riders.”
2022 Junior Committee members Barbara Closter,
Catie Ries & Isabella Bertozzi.
While Catie continues to make her mark in both small and large ways, by continuing volunteer efforts by running donation drives; she wants to make this year the best yet. “I hope to make this year an amazing year. This is Washington’s return to the DMV, I’m excited about it, and I hope that we can get a bunch of people to come out to watch and check it out. I’m really excited. This is the first time in this new venue. I hope to make a positive impact, whether it be small or large. I’m very excited for this year,” said Catie.
When she’s not busy riding Tony or serving as WIHS Youth Ambassador, you can find her working at Nordic-Knot in Reston or at home with her animals. “I have 11 pets,” she said. She has three dogs, a lizard, a snake, two geckos, a cat and of course, Tony. A rising senior, Catie plans on studying animal sciences in college as part of a pre-vet track. For now, though, she’s enjoying the time at home with Tony!
Written by: WIHS Intern Sabrina Workman