Against all Odds: Young Team of Itzonly Make Believe and Alexandra Rippeon Win Big at Congress
Young horses and young kids don’t often make the best partners. Most young exhibitors benefit greatly from an older, more seasoned show horse to show them the ropes as they learn and work their way up into the older divisions of their youth career.
On top of that, new teams, at any age, often need years to get to know each other before they really start to gel. It generally takes a lot of miles and wet saddle pads together to get to a point where horse and rider are working together as a well-oiled machine.
But against all odds, 11 and under exhibitor Alexandra Rippeon (Allie) and her new show partner of less than two months, four-year-old Itzonly Make Believe (Molly), won huge at this year’s Congress.
Allie and Molly dominated the 11&U events at the Congress, winning the 11&U Youth All-Around, 11&U Youth Horsemanship, 11&U Youth Showmanship, Reserve 11&U Equitation, as well as the Level 1 – 13&U Equitation and Level 1- 13&U Horsemanship. Allie also won the Level 1 – 13&U All Around, Level 1- Youth All Age All Around, and the Youth All-Age All-Around. She is coming home with four buckles, three saddles, and four Congress Bronzes. With a four-year-old horse. That’s with a horse that she has shown for less than two months. Wow!
Allie’s mother, Deanna Rippeon says she owes a lot of her daughter’s success to amateur Teresa Balkcum of Wilmington, North Carolina. Balkum raised and showed Molly as a two and three-year-old.
“Teresa kept telling me that Allie needed to try out Molly, but I kept thinking it was impossible because I wasn’t interested in buying a four-year-old mare for Allie,” Deanna recalls when she was at the Big A in Georgia in July. “Luckily, she was persistent, and she was right. It took a bit of convincing, but Teresa was right all along. I got goosebumps, and the hair stood up on my arms the first time Allie tried her out.”
Sisters Allie and Madeline Rippeon are both helped by trainers Keith Miller and Shannon (Vroegh) Walker. “What’s funny is that Keith found Molly and Shannon found VS Fashion Statement for (older sister) Madeline, who is more English, so Keith mainly helps Madeline and Shannon helps Allie.”
“The Rippeon family is so special to us, and the relationship we have works well,” Keith Miller’s wife, Sydney told us. “We collaborate with Shannon to help the girls achieve their goals, and everyone involved works so well together. We have so much respect for Shannon and her program, and we are thrilled for everyone involved.”
Sydney adds, “When we first saw Allie on Molly, we instantly knew it was going to be a match made in heaven. Teresa Balkcum had started and done all of the work on the mare until we had gotten her, and we have a great relationship with Teresa and knew that this mare would be well educated, and she would be exactly what Teresa said.”
Shannon Walker says that Allie has made a huge leap from Small Fry last year. “Allie is such a fun kid to work with and has learned so much about loping in a short time. They live so far from me, but the family is willing to do what it takes for their girls to become successful. I appreciate the faith and support they have had in my crew and me. “
As far as winning four Congress Championships and four all-arounds in four different divisions, “It’s just unbelievable,” Allie shares. “I’m so thankful that Molly is my partner, and we get to do this together.”
Allie told us that she has this routine where she has to greet every horse before she rides. “I do that every time before I get on Molly. Molly likes me better than everyone else, and she’s very opinionated. We call her ‘Linda’ sometimes because she’s spicy, especially in the trail. She will spook at things. For example, during the Level 1 Junior Trail here, she spooked at the boulders. So you have to be on your toes when you show her in the trail.”
Allie also talked about showing with her older sister Maddie. “We have a friendly rivalry and like to beat each other,” she says, laughing. “Maddie was rubbing it in at the WEC Show in Ocala when she beat me in a horsemanship class on an English horse, but we have fun and always come together and are happy for each other. We love it when we are the last two standing in the arena.”
The two sisters hail from Maryland, where their father, Michael, and 16-year-old brother, Jackson show cattle throughout the country. “They don’t get to come to the horse shows except for the Congress,” Deanna tells us. “Our life is like a game of Tetris. Juggling our schedules is a bit challenging as we are all over the place. But when Michael and Jackson come to the Congress, we have a lot of fun. It’s our family fun horse show together.”
“We are so thankful to have such a great team behind us,” Deanna says. “I’m proud of my girls. They work for everything they get. We are blessed to have great competitors that have moved up from Small Fry with us. The 11&U’s are so nice and friendly to each other. They cheer each other on, watch each other show, and are truly happy for one another. We are so thankful to be surrounded by good people who want the best for my daughters.”
GoHorseShow would like to congratulate Allie and Molly on an incredible Congress! Click here to see the Rippeon sisters in the October GoMag.