Elevate Event Team Rider Q&A with Brigitte Aickelin
Brigitte Aickelin, a native of Georgia, spent three and half years as a working student at Jessica and Missy Ransehousen’s Blue Hill Farm, where she first met Megan Lynn. Brigitte recently relocated to Versailles, Kentucky, to ride for Twin Fox Farm. In a short period of time the Elevate Event Team has come to depend on Brigitte for all kinds of support. We have dubbed her the Elevate Event Team logistics manager. She helps Megan and Karen get what is needed where it needs to be. Need a horse hauled to or from a show? Need help organizing and loading the trailer for a trip? Got hay or feed to pick up? Brigitte is our go to person. As with all the other Elevate Event Team members, she is ready and willing to help in any way she can. A long time eventer with aspirations to rise to the top of her sport, Brigitte is currently competing her OTTB Evening Melody, affectionately known as Harper around the barn, at the Intermediate level.
Kentucky Performance Products: What age did you start riding and how long you have been riding?
Brigitte Aickelin: Well, if you want to be precise, I started riding before I was born, but I started taking lessons at the age of 7. I’ve been in a lesson program both with and without a horse of my own for 15 years now.
KPP: When did you decide you wanted to become an eventer?
BA: I decided to become an eventer after my 26-year-old ex-Grand Prix show jumper, Baskin, took me around my first 3 phase at age 8. We were competing at Starter level at Big Bear Farm. From then on I was hooked!
KPP: Tell us a little about the horse you are currently competing.
BA: My horse’s name is Evening Melody, barn name Harper. He is an OTTB out of Night Music by Catineus. He is a 2009 gelding. His personality speaks volumes. He can be laid back, but man does he have an opinion. I guess like owner like horse, right? He really loves his job and is enjoying learning new tricks. If he gets bored, he tends to “spice” things up and either spook or buck. Which is why I love him because he keeps things interesting.
KPP: How did you and your horse find each other?
BA: Harper and I found each other through my awesome connection in Ocala, Adam Parker with T-Square Stud. Harper is actually my old Prelim horse Chip’s half-brother. They have the same mom. I was questioning whether Chip would make it as an upper level event horse, so Adam offered Harper to me. I wasn’t able to take Harper right away because I was still committed to Chip, so I gave him to a friend to ride until I could take him over. She started having problems with Harper bucking. Like I said, he is a bit opinionated. Fortunately I was finally at a point where I could take him over since we had decided that Chip was retiring. At the time I was a working student in Pennsylvania at Blue Hill Farm. I took a few days off, drove Chip back to Georgia, and swapped him out for Harper. Best decision I ever made.
KPP: What do you love most about your horse?
BA: The thing I love most about Harper is his attitude. He’s all I want in a man; he listens to me but when I am done making myself clear he offers his own opinion and then we move on. He loves to cuddle and does it really well. One thing I have to say about Harper, he has a very active imagination. He keeps me on my toes and I like that. He takes even the simplest things and makes them a bit more complicated with his antics. You know, while doing a trot set, the garbage can he just passed 5 times becomes a monster so now we have to spook across the field, maybe toss in a little buck for good measure, that kind of thing. Overall, he’s just a joy to be around and a huge ham when you try to take his picture. He will pose for the camera every time. Even as we gallop around a cross-country course, he looks for the cameras. He has such a positive attitude, he enjoys everything he does.
KPP: What is your biggest challenge as a rider and how do you face that challenge?
BA: My biggest challenge as a rider is remembering that it’s OK not to be perfect every time. I always want to get Harper to the “perfect” spot, to do the “perfect” test or to have a foot “perfect” XC round. I know we are going to mess up because we’re both still learning. We will always be learning no matter where we are in our career together. Even though I know that, it is still hard because I am always striving to be that “perfect” pair. If I focus too much on being perfect, it makes me overthink things and then I mess up. Instead of worrying about being perfect, I focus on coming out of the arena happy, confident and knowing that I did my best and Harper gave it his all. That is all I can ask of him and myself no matter the competition we are in.
KPP: What is the highest level of competition you have done as a pair?
BA: Harper and I have competed through the CCI 1* level. He has helped me reach my goals and continues to help me strive for more. I am continuously surprised about how much he can actually do and how much fun he has doing it.
KPP: What is your happiest competitive moment or memory?
BA: The happiest moment I’ve had in competition has to be finishing the CCI with Harper. My dressage test was decent and put us in a good place in the standings. He rocked around the XC course. It felt like a walk in the park and when we went through the finish flags in stadium, I just smiled. I was so thrilled to have finished our first CCI together happy, sane and sound!
KPP: What advice would you give a rider new to the discipline of eventing?
BA: My advice for any rider that’s new to eventing is don’t give up. Eventing is a tough sport and you have to push through some really hard times to reach the sunshine on the other side, but it’s so worth it. If you work hard, the reward is so much better knowing you’ve put forth all the effort to get there. By not giving up you really start to see how you can become better as a rider, as a teammate to your horse and how strong your horse can truly be. Persistence pays off as long as you don’t get greedy.
KPP: What do you like most about being part of the Elevate Event Team?
BA: I would have to say the best part about being a part of the Elevate Event Team is the people. I only met them a few years ago but they are my adopted family now! The team is made up of people with a variety of personalities, which makes it that much better because not one person is remotely like the other. In the end that’s what makes the team so strong, because everyone helps everyone and we can also entertain each other no matter what! It’s just a fantastic group of people that continue to grow closer to one another with a wonderful coach leading the way for everyone.
KPP: What KPP supplements do you use in Harper’s feeding program?
BA: The supplements I use for Harper are Ker-A-Form, Elevate Concentrate, and Summer Games Electrolyte.