Back in the Saddle
A Dallas attorney takes championship reins again
Interview by Adam Faderewski
Lindsay E. Williams, of Dallas, right, took home two national
championship trophies at the 2018 U.S. National Arabian Championship
Horse Show. Also pictured is her mother, Kathy Williams Baity. Photo by
When Lindsay E. Williams was 6, she began competing in horse shows. The Dallas native had lived alongside horses since birth. So when Williams was diagnosed with a degenerative ligament disorder in 2016 and told she would probably never be able to ride a horse again, she was crushed. At her mother’s suggestion,
Williams took up trail riding as part of her physical therapy, relying on a horse that had not been bred for trail riding. Two years later, the criminal defense attorney and her horse Junior took the titles in Western and English Trail at the 2018 U.S. National Arabian Championship Horse Show.
When did you start riding in trail events?
I began riding the trail events in 2016, after discovering I have a degenerative ligament disorder that required, and will require in the future, several corrective surgeries. During that time, I had to learn how to walk again, and doctors were fairly sure I would never be able to ride horses again. My mother, who breeds and raises all our horses, thought that perhaps I could learn this new discipline, because we (incorrectly) thought it would be easier on my joints. My horse was only 3 at the time, and it was extremely unorthodox to have such a young horse doing rehab and therapy—most horses at that age are dangerous for even seasoned riders, because they are inexperienced, and mistakes can cause major injuries.
My horse, Legacy Fire Dammage+//—we call him Junior at home (the +// designates him as part of the Legion of Excellence)—was bred to be an English horse (think of the original fancy British carriage horses that are supposed to be flashy and impressive). But we knew early on that he was never going to have that attitude. When we begin their training, we usually spend a week just teaching them to walk over a tarp. Most horses are so terrified of the tarp that they won’t go near it for days. Junior walked over the tarp the first day, bent down and picked up the tarp with his teeth, and carried it around like a blanket. We knew in that moment he would be special and wouldn’t be an English horse.
What goes on at a typical event for a competitor and how do
things change when proceeding to nationals?
Typical events usually take place over a weekend. The regional championships are a weeklong and draw competitors from four or five nearby states. At nationals, everything changes. There are so many competitors that you’ll go through several rounds of competition. Each round has a new obstacle course that must be memorized, and every competitor must have the same amount of time to learn the course. Often classes are decided by fractions of points, so every step, every move, every obstacle counts. Competition courses can consist of 10 to 20 individual obstacles, but those obstacles can be chosen from a list of over 100 choices and the chosen obstacles can be modified in any way as the course designer sees fit. Our goal leading up to nationals is to work as many obstacles as possible and learn how we can execute them perfectly, so we can pick up all available points on every obstacle. Scores are cumulative at nationals, so every point you earn goes forward.
What’s the hardest part of competing?
I think the hardest part is learning the obstacle courses. You don’t get a chance to practice them, and you only see them on paper a day or two prior to competing. If you make a mistake and don’t follow the course exactly as written, you get a score of zero—no matter what. A zero score at the national championship is basically not recoverable, so the thought of spending years competing, qualifying, and preparing for nationals all to take a step in the wrong direction and not even get a score is the stuff of nightmares.
Lindsay E. Williams and her horse, Junior, took titles in Western and
English Trail at the 2018 U.S. National Arabian Championship Horse Show.
Photo by Howard Shatzberg.
How do you handle the pressure of competition?
Honestly, I remind myself that I’m lucky to even get to compete. After all my surgeries, we didn’t know for a long time if I would walk normally again, let alone whether I’d be able to ride. I know I’m lucky to get to do what I do, and I try to keep that in perspective and never take it for granted.
Do you also breed horses?
Yes. Junior was bred, born, raised, and trained at our farm. We own his father and his mother, and those two are treasures at our house. I won the national championship in 2010 with his father, Flame, after his prior owner had decided he wasn’t good enough to compete. My mom saw something special in Flame and poured her soul into his training. Flame went on to win eight national titles under my mother’s training. It’s rare that one person is the owner, breeder, trainer, and rider of a national champion, so it’s truly a strong point of pride for us. My mom was the first person to ever ride Junior, and I was there the morning he was born. My mom and I watched him take his first steps, and Mom was the first person to know how special he was, even as a very young horse.
How do you go about riding and providing directions? Does
the horse react to vocal commands, physical signals, or is it something
The short answer is yes to everything. Junior responds to many vocal commands—whoa, look, here, easy, wait, and up are common. Additionally, he responds to almost imperceptible physical cues. Trail courses are tight and there is often no room or time to make large movements. Most of our physical cues are small shifts in weight or small directional movements. As we progressed, Junior learned to follow my gaze—so if I look at a certain point in the arena, he knows to ride to that spot. That connection is rare, and I think that’s part of what makes him so special. TBJ