The United States Equestrian Federation's Pony Jumper Championships in Lexington, KY, are a long way from galloping behind hounds on the west coast, but Woodbrook Hunt Club (WA) junior member, Gigi Olsen, traveled a few thousand miles to compete with the Zone 9 team. Led by Chef d'Equipe Gretchen Anderson, the young riders won a bronze medal in the competition at the Kentucky Horse Park. Gigi is a third generation foxhunter, and all three generations of the Sferra/Olsen/Miller are still actively riding and hunting.
The third-place Zone 9 team celebrates at right on the podium; Gigi is fourth from the right. Photo by Megan Lacy/USHJA
Gigi is 17 years old and a high school senior. Her pony, Cajun's Legend, is half Thoroughbred, one quarter Shetland, and one quarter New Zealand riding pony. The pony is part of the family also: Cajun's bloodlines have been owned and bred by Gigi's grandma and great-grandparents for six generations on the dam's side. On his sire's side, Gigi's grandma, Gloria, owned back two generations.
Both Cajun's sire and his granddam foxhunted regularly with Woodbrook in Tacoma. Cajun is foxhunts regularly at Woodbrook to help maintain his fitness in an environment that we find horses enjoy.
A favorite family photo includes, from left, Gigi’s cousin, Forrest; Gigi on chestnut pony; Gigi’s dad in scarlet; Gigi’s aunt, tucked behind Gigi’s brother, who is out in front; Gigi’s cousin, Virginia; Gigi’s mom with the red collar - all but her hunting grandmother! Photo by Towell courtesy of the Olsen family.
At Pony Finals this summer, Gigi proudly wore her Woodbrook Hunt Club saddle pad the first day of schooling. Gigi has been enjoying foxhunting on various ponies since the age of four. She foxhunts with her mom, dad, brother, aunt, grandma, and cousins. It all started with Gigi's grandma, who joined Woodbrook Hunt Club in 1954 and has been an active member ever since.
"We've watched Gigi and her brother, Army, grow up hunting, along with their cousins, parents and grandmother!" said Melody Fleckenstein, MFH. "Gigi is always bringing friends, loaning them ponies, to share her love of foxhunting! Her enthusiasm is contagious and has no bounds!"
Gigi as a girl on her first foxhunting Shetland (right) with her immediate family. Photo by Towell courtesy of Seattle Farm LLC.
We had an absolute ball in Kentucky. I loved packing up my 80-year-old mom, my daughter, and Cajun and driving across the country. I drove 4,000 miles for five minutes of competition and it was worth it. Gigi will spend this winter foxhunting Cajun, and we will hopefully return to Lexington next August.