“Once upon a time there was a 19-year-old college student who had big dreams, but her riding skills (or lack thereof) left much to be desired. She had only ever competed through Novice level eventing, and not very successfully. One day, after searching all over tarnation for the horse of her dreams, with a very meager budget scraped together from years of babysitting money and restaurant tips, she found “her”. The girl fell in love instantly, took her home, and named her ‘Fable’.”
Ten years later, Adriana Nannini is still working hard, and this past season she made her long-term goal of completing a CIC* a reality. While Adriana doesn’t have the luxury of having multiple horses, wintering in Florida, or a been there, done that horse, she is an exemplary role model for every young rider in the barn. Everything that she has accomplished has been the result of pure determination and hard work.
It hasn’t been easy. There are days when you can actually find Adriana flatting Fable in dark. Working full-time as a photography teacher and many evenings as a waitress, it can be difficult for Adriana to dedicate as much time to the barn as she would like. While Adriana often has to select horse shows based on which don’t require her to skip work, you will never find Adriana slacking on Fable’s care. The outcome being, Adriana and Fable have an amazing partnership. There isn’t anything that Adriana wouldn’t do for Fable. And in return, there is absolutely nothing the little mare wouldn’t do for Adriana.
Adriana purchased Fable as an unbroken two-year-old, paying for the mare with her hard earned restaurant tips and babysitting money. Looking through old horse photos, Fable wasn’t the flashiest or the fanciest, but there was something about the small mare that caught Adriana’s attention. In college at the time, Adriana successfully balanced school, work, and horses, never allowing her performance to suffer despite her demanding schedule.
Together, although both were relatively green, the two climbed the ranks of eventing. From successfully jumping around their first Beginner Novice, to winning the Training level at CDCTA and Loudon, to consistently finishing in the top 10 (including a second at Fair Hill), to successfully completing the CIC* at Morven, Adriana and Fable have repeatedly demonstrated that hard work can pay off. If you ask Adriana, she will tell you, “You don’t have to have the fanciest horse, fanciest tack and big name trainers to achieve success. You just need a dream and the work ethic to make it happen.”
Their journey hasn’t been without setbacks. In 2015, Fable sustained what should have been a career ending tendon injury. Even Adriana’s vet questioned the mare’s prospects for future soundness. However, due to Adriana’s diligence and her patience during nine long months of stall rest, Fable healed. The tendon is strong and the mare continues to be a force to be reckoned with at the preliminary level.
With the injury behind them and an extremely successful 2017, both Adriana and Fable are focused on the future, with talk of an Intermediate move up this Spring. Fun fact, Adriana still does not own a dressage saddle. She competes at preliminary in her jump saddle and it was only with much persuasion that she borrowed my Amerigo dressage saddle for her FEI debut. Fancy tack or following style tends aren’t a priority to Adriana, because at the end of the day she believes that what matters most is having a sound horse who enjoys its job.
When I asked Adriana what advice she would like to have given, her 18-year-old self she responded, “I would say that it is important to learn to enjoy the journey, not just focus on the end game. It wasn’t until after Fable came back from her soft tissue injury a couple of years ago that I finally began to appreciate every single ride and take everything one event at a time. I would also say that it is important to have a plan A, B and C. We all know how the best-laid plans turn out. When you pour your heart and soul into plan A and have no back-up, you are setting yourself up to be soul-crushed if plan A falls apart. Always have a back up plan, or two!”
As someone who witnesses Adriana’s tenacity on a daily basis, I can honestly say that she doesn’t just “talk the talk” but she also “walks the walk.” Every rider in the barn looks up to Adriana. The other adults, the young riders, the children, the coaches… we all look up to her with the utmost respect. She has worked hard to be where she is and deserves every bit of success. She is the perfect example of what we all need to aspire to be.
Main photo courtesy of Kiki Osbourne.