Loxahatchee, FL – March 28, 2015 – Lauren Chumley and her fleet of Norwegian Fjords took center stage on the opening day of Welcome Back to White Fences II. Hailing from Pottstown, Pennsylvania, Chumley brought six of Full Moon Farms’ Fjords to Florida to compete for the season. It might seem unusual for an adult to be riding and training ponies, but these Fjords are not to be doubted as they earn solid scores to compete with the big warmbloods of the dressage world.
Chumley started her riding career relatively late for the horse world, getting on a horse for the first time at the age of 12. Her first job in high school was with a Fjord breeder in Ohio. Working with the breeder for eight years, Chumley fell in love with Fjords and perfected her training techniques. Now working in New Jersey, Chumley continues her passion of breaking, training and showing Fjords.
“In 2014 this woman called me and said, ‘Hi! I have Fjords; I breed Fjords. I heard you know how to train them,’” Chumley said. “I think the Fjords are just super cool horses. Obviously they are very eye-catching, but they are very good natured. They are good at everything; we do dressage with them, and we’re eventing them.”
With years of experience, Chumley is no stranger to the breed. She also owns and rides a 17-hand warmblood. She loves the transition between the Fjords and the warmbloods she rides, and she feels the low maintenance and easy-going demeanor of the Fjords make them very appealing.
“Fjords are super sound,” Chumley said. “They don’t have many medical problems, and we don’t even put shoes on them. I also own warmbloods, and some of them are really high maintenance. I have never had a high maintenance Fjord.”
On Friday, Chumley brought FMF Champagne and FMF Hershey’s Kiss to compete against each other in the Pony Test of Choice. Competing at Training and First Level, these power ponies put up big scores of 72.273 percent and 66.481 percent.
“The training is all the same compared to horses,” Chumley said. “They have to be supple, bend and be responsive to the seat and the hand. The only downfall is some of the Fjords can have a shorter neck, so the bending is sometimes a challenge, but they can learn it.”
Not many ponies are seen competing in the sport of dressage, but Chumley suggests that every small adult give them a try. Not only do her Fjords excel in the dressage arena, they also find success in eventing. In 2007, Chumley took SNF Maarta, a 13.3 hand Fjord, to the American Eventing Championships (AEC) at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois. They earned a first place finish in the Open Beginner Novice division as part of a field of more than 70 horses.
“Ponies will teach you a lot,” Chumley said. “Fjords are bigger bodied ponies. When you see 13’2 or 13’3 you think that an adult can’t ride it, but they absolutely can. If you are 5’10 then maybe not, but they come in larger sizes. Despite what some people think, ponies really take up your leg and are able to do the higher level movements.”
Florida is a major draw for Chumley in the winter, not only for the competitive atmosphere but for the opportunity to work with a variety of trainers who help her reach the next level as a rider and trainer.
“I get a lot of work done down here,” Chumley said. “I can really focus on the training, because Wellington truly does house the best of the best. I have been training with Jim Koford this year and a little bit with Lars Petersen, when he has time. I love to be able to come, school and show. It’s so nice to be able to keep pushing through the winter, instead of just sitting in the cold.”
Chumley continued, “I used to get a lot of weird looks when I showed them over at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, but I have no shame. Now people don’t look twice, because I show up every weekend with Fjords. I want to see how far we can take them. We want to compete them and bring them up the levels.”