It takes a pinch of talent, a spoon full of grit and a whole lot of determination to walk into a 1.45m Grand Prix class undeterred. But what would it take to step into that same class without stirrups? For 18-year-old Sydney Luzicka that became her only option after an unfortunate series of accidents earlier in the year left her with an injury that prevented her from placing stress on her ankle. JN’s Dominique Gonzalez met up with Sydney to chat about her injury and how a few unconventional methods allow her to stay in the show ring.
Horses have always been a part of the Albuquerque, New Mexico native’s life. As a young child, neither of her parents could keep Sydney from crawling under the fence and into the paddocks where she would use a fence post to jump onto whichever horse was closest to her. Recognizing Sydney’s passion, her mother, a trainer, allowed Sydney to pursue that love early on. Sydney’s showing career began when she debuted in the crossrail divisions at just three-years-old. From there her passion for being in the show ring continued to grow.
Years later, the young amateur has her sights set on higher courses. She recently competed in the Grand Prix De Santa Fe at Hipico Santa Fe, a National standard Grand Prix, where she caught the eye of competitors and spectators alike by entering the ring stirrupless and in a bitless bridle.
A Tough Start to 2018
2018 didn’t start off on a very smooth note for Sydney. In March she was in a car accident which left her in a neck collar, hooked up to a heart monitor and out of the saddle for three weeks. Just a month later, Sydney was involved in another car accident which led to two more weeks of downtime. Having been the only junior qualified for the International Omaha’s $100,000 InIt2 WinIt Final, she couldn’t bear the thought of missing out on the big event; so she persevered despite her injuries and was very pleased with how the show wrapped up.
However, she had yet to face the greatest of challenges she would have to overcome this year. The day after she arrived home from Omaha her younger brother asked her if she would like to take their dirt bikes out for a spin. Sydney had already pulled out of the driveway on her bike when her brother, who had yet to spot her, accidentally crashed into her head-on. Sydney found herself back in the hospital, this time with stitches on her left hand, left shin, and broken ankle which had to be repaired with surgery.
After all of these accidents, Sydney found herself going crazy being unable to ride and having to miss out on a significant portion of her show year. Her surgeon was concerned about the stress riding in stirrups would have on her ankle for fear it would result in further injury. Finding a way to ride became Sydney’s top priority, even if that meant having to ride without stirrups.
Bragging Time! OMG…No stirrup November is cute … what about placing 4th in a National Grand Prix without stirrups (and in a bitless bridle… might as well, right?)People you need to watch this, because I’m speechless (and for people who know me, this is a rare occurrence!)Willow Catkin that we sold last year to super talented junior rider, Sydney Luzicka, just jumped double clean in the 1m45 Grand Prix. Sydney unfortunately got badly hurt a few months ago in a car accident and has not been able to use stirrups with her ankle. Well, this didn’t slow her down and she has been competing successfully in the Grand Prix with no stirrups.Respect… and also, we really sell some amazing horses
Posted by EquiSale Sport Horses on Sunday, August 12, 2018
Check out this video shared by EquiSale Sport Horses of Sydney riding in a 1.45m Grand Prix without stirrups or a bit!
“Riding without my stirrups is very challenging, but it has definitely made me a stronger rider,” she shared with JN. “When I’m riding at home I can really feel the fact that I don’t have stirrups and I can get frustrated; 3specially on the young ones in training because I feel I’m so disadvantaged. But when I’m at a horse show, once I’m in the arena there truly is no difference for me.”
Sheer determination has allowed Sydney to overcome what some might see as a disadvantage and allow her to still compete. “Once the adrenaline kicks in, I’m just riding. I have to think a little harder about staying out of my horse’s way but other than that I feel no difference.” She notes how this style of riding she grew accustomed to was almost all natural, “It’s almost as if it’s how I learned to ride in the first place. It’s the strangest feeling ever, but it’s so amazing and unique.”
As if entering the Grand Prix ring without stirrups wasn’t unique enough, Sydney stumbled upon an alternative piece of tack that she felt helped give her current Grand Prix horse Willow Catkin, AKA William, an edge. After arriving at the barn one day and realizing she had left all of her clean tack at home, she asked the therapeutic riding program that her barn shares space with if she could borrow a bridle. The only bridles the program uses for their horses are the Dr. Cooks Bitless Bridles and Sydney decided to give it a try on the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding.
“William felt so incredibly balanced,” she recalled. “I went ahead and jumped him over a course and he was so rideable.” From that day forward, Sydney has only shown him in the bitless alternative.
Sydney has her eyes set for the stars and refuses to let anything slow her down. For 2018, she hopes to compete in the Black Barn $250,000 Jr/AO/AM Jumper Prix at HITS Saugerties and the Prix de States at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show this year. Long-term, Sydney hopes to one day ride in the World Cup Finals and the HITS $1 Million Grand Prix. If one thing is for sure, it is that with her unrelenting determination, the opportunities are endless for this talented young rider, even if she has to reach those goals in a bit more unconventional fashion.