When Alison Flury ended up without a horse to show this year, a little sisterly support resulted in a year full of wins and plans to attend the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) for the first time in more than a decade. Flury, from Naperville, Ill., has qualified to ride Role Model in the WIHS Adult Jumper Championships.
“I had qualified for [the adult jumpers at] Washington two years ago on another horse and was unable to go, so I’m really excited to be going this year, especially because I’m riding my sister’s horse, who is a superstar,” said Flury. “I last showed at Washington in the high junior jumpers when I was 16, so that was 17 years ago.”
At the beginning of the year, Flury’s horse was recuperating from an injury and she was grounded. So her younger sister, Taylor, offered her the chance to ride Taylor’s veteran grand prix horse, Role Model. Taylor had been a teenager when she was given the three-year-old Role Model by the mare’s breeder, Nancy Whitehead. Role Model had broken her shoulder in a pasture accident as a two-year-old but recovered, so Whitehead thought she’d be a good broodmare as Taylor started her breeding program at the family’s Aliboo Farm in Minooka, Ill. Role Model ended up being sound, and Taylor competed the mare through the Young Jumper Championship classes and up to the grand prix level.
Alison Flury and Role Model. Role Model has helped many of Alison Flury’s dreams come true. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography
In recent years, Role Model, a 13-year-old Oldenburg mare (Roc USA x Darling Devil), had dropped down to the adult jumper level and competed with a student of Taylor’s. By the beginning of this year, Role Model didn’t have a rider, so Taylor suggested that Alison show her. “We hit it off!” Alison said. “She’s been a dream-maker because she’s won some of the biggest classes with me and fulfilled all of my biggest dreams.”
The pair won the NAL/WIHS Adult Jumper Classic 18-35 during Week 12 of the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.), earned an individual gold medal at the USHJA Zone 5 & 6 Adult Jumper Championships, and were reserve champions of the adult amateur jumper division at the Hampton Classic (N.Y.).
“I tell people she’s like my little red Corvette,” Alison said about Role Model. “She’s so quick and fast across the ground. It took me a while to get used to it. I was used to speed, but I wasn’t used to how quickly the jumps came up because her stride is so much longer. She’s as game as I am, so it’s been fun. Every time I go in the ring, I feel safe and confident because I know I have her underneath me. It’s a nice feeling because you know you can really go for it and not worry.”
Mid-way through the year, Taylor checked the standings for the WIHS championship and discovered Alison and Role Model had a chance to qualify. “Originally, qualifying for Washington hadn’t really even been in my realm of, ‘Let’s consider this,’” Alison said. “We showed a few more times and did really well and got the letter.
“I like to horse show because I get to experience the locations, and Washington is one of those shows that’s special. It only happens one week a year, and it’s prestigious. It’s in a great location for food and touristy things. It’s a destination show. Washington’s also special because you have to qualify, and you never know if it’ll happen or not. So it’s great when it does!”
Alison balances her riding with running a plumbing and home remodeling business. “I am licensed and have done and do still work in the field, but mostly now I’m in the office bidding and selling jobs and managing the back end of it,” Alison said. She can also be found helping out with stalls or whatever needs to be done at Aliboo Farm.
When they were junior riders, Alison and Taylor showed together without a trainer or grooms. “I would go to shows with her and help her and be the ground person, and she’d do the same for me. It’s one of the ways we were able to show because it helped keep expenses down,” Alison said. Now, Taylor is making her way as a professional rider and trainer, while Alison pursued her contracting business and rides as an amateur under Taylor’s direction.
Alison laughs when asked to describe the sister/trainer dynamic. “I think she’s one of my staunchest supporters as well as my strongest critic,” she said. “I like it, because it allows me to spend time with my sister. We don’t really spend that much time together because she’s so focused on the horses. I think her opinion is that I’m like the ‘pain’ that she has to take time out of her day to help. But I think deep down she enjoys it too!”
If you can’t make it to WIHS to watch, you can see full livestream coverage of the horse show at www.wihs.org.
For more information on WIHS, please visit www.wihs.org, join WIHS on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. Tag them using #WIHS2019, #HorsesInTheCity, #FEIWorldCup, #Longines, and #JumpToGreatness.
By Molly Sorge/Jump Media