In this new series called “Lifers,” we interview equestrians who have spent the better part of their lives in the saddle or involved with horses in some way. This week, we interview Cindy Deporter, a 58-year-old adult amateur event rider from Raleigh, N.C. When we approached Cindy about being featured in this series, she said, “I have been a member of the USEA, which was the USCTA, since 1977. So yep, I am older than dirt!”

Can you tell me how you got started in horses? Any early memories you’d like to share?

My grandfather got me into horses by taking me to the local “pony rides”. If you remember some places like at the fairs, or at amusement parks that had the pony ring, and they would put you on the pony and you would ride around and around in a circle. After that he would house the pony for the winter so I had a pony to ride. Then it would go back to the pony ring in the summer. So it was my grandfather that got me interested. My first pony was called Cherry she was a black and white Shetland pony. After that he bought me a Tennessee Walking Horse show horse because he loved them.

When did you decide you wanted to be an eventer? Was there a specific time in your life or reason why you chose this discipline?

When I went to college there was an intercollegiate program at the University of Tennessee. I took my Tennessee Walking Horse to college with me, and of course I was the only student at the Equestrian Club that had a horse that did the running walk! I had always wanted to learn how to jump. I started taking riding lessons and bought my first OTTB for a $1,000. When my horse came to college with me, my grades improved! There was a gentleman that managed the horse program at the UT Equestrian Club by the name of Guy Higgins. Guy evented and that is how I got started. I had my first clinic with Jimmy Wofford in 1978. My first event was at Master’s Station Park in Lexington, KY, in 1977 on my OTTB. I was eliminated at the ditch jump! After that I started getting serious and started going to clinics regularly.

When did you know you wanted horses to be part of your life forever? And why?

I knew I wanted horses to be a part of my life forever back when my grandfather got me my first pony! I loved them. They gave me a freedom and love of going really fast. With my ponies I ran everywhere on them. My parents got a divorce when I was 13 and the horses were a very stable part of my life going through that difficult time. They gave me something that was very consistent and required care and discipline.

What divisions and/or levels do you currently compete in?

Currently I event at the Novice level. I am hoping to move up to training in the next year. I have competed up through the Preliminary Three-Day Long format. At 58, I don’t really want to ride at that level ever again but I love the lower level eventing. I am an amateur and have a card through the USEF.

Did you ever dream or consider making horses/eventing a full-time career?

I did think about it, and decided with the strong encouragement of my family I needed to get a college education and then I could do what I wanted. During the time that I was in college I had started eventing. I decided to stay in college get my undergraduate and graduate degree so that I could afford my horse habit by myself! (Cindy is a state survey agency director with the department of health services regulation in North Carolina.)

What made you want to get involved with the sport as a technical delegate?

I became a TD because I wanted to give back to the sport. I thought it would be a fun way to be involved in a different level.

Any insight you’d like to share about the future of eventing? Or goals you’d like for the USEA, etc. to try to reach?

I have been very pleased and excited with the USEA’s continued emphasis on the adult amateur rider. I believe we are the backbone of eventing and I think that we are the bread and butter of eventing. This year at the American Eventing Championships within the lower level divisions the entry was so big that they divided the divisions into Master Amateur and to Regular Amateur divisions. I was very grateful for that because at 58 I wasn’t real excited about competing against people that are half my age! I still had around 50 people in my division but to me that was better than 80! Plus I was competing against people of my own age group and coming from where I do as a person — that works full time and rides.

There is also the Adult Team Championships that the USEA supports and this again is a great opportunity for people to be able to compete at a national level in a national championship. This is really a great thing and reaches out to lots of people that might not otherwise be able to compete.

What about any advice for young or adult amateur riders out there?

My advice is enjoy your horse, enjoy the sport, never stop learning by taking lessons and doing clinics. Join your area adult rider program and meet folks like yourself. I love the social aspect of the being an adult amateur along with the competitive aspect. I am very competitive but the camaraderie is fabulous!

What are your riding goals this year? What about in the next five years? 10 years?

My riding goal for this year is to see if I can qualify again for the AEC’s. I would also like to start playing around with moving up to training.

My riding goals for the next five years are to move up to the Training level and to be competitive and enjoy the level. I have a fabulous horse and if I can sort my knee issues I think I can do this. I have a wonderful trainer in Holly Hudspeth so I feel confident that she can help me attain this goal.

Ten years, oh my I will be 68 then! I do hope I am still riding and enjoying the horse and going to competition. By then I might have bred Ana (her mare) and possibly have an upper level event prospect to go and watch do great things!