HALIFAX — The family room in her home is confirmation of Chloe Deeb’s success competing in equitation shows. Hanging from the walls are hundreds of ribbons earned at local, regional and national horsemanship events.
Bookshelves hold numerous silver plates, trophies, glass bowls, and gold medals. Photographs from competitions, beginning at age 6, are everywhere.
The 15-year-old Deeb has been riding since being placed on her first pony, Singer, at age 3. She won a grand national equitation title at 10, and last year was champion in the 13-and-under English pleasure class at the Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show.
In June, she earned a silver medal in an American Morgan Horse Association saddle seat competition held in West Springfield, qualifying for the nationals in October in Oklahoma City.
But her successes are not what is remarkable about her story.
That Deeb will even approach a horse is the astonishing sidelight to her passion for riding. The old cliché for overcoming a traumatic incident, “getting right back on that horse,” certainly applies in her case.
When she was 2½, Deeb wandered into a fenced-in area of her family’s yard. She was standing behind a horse when it became spooked and kicked her in the head, opening up a laceration that ran from the top of Deeb’s forehead to her fractured nose. Her head was split open, her skull exposed. She was taken by helicopter to Boston Medical Center, where 65 stitches were required to close the wound. She spent five days in the hospital, and her father, Mike, spent every night for the next year massaging the injured area with cocoa butter to prevent permanent scarring.
“It was a terrifying accident,” recalled Mike Deeb.
Today, a small scar on her forehead is barely visible. But there is no sign of any inner scars. “I was too young to remember what happened,” she said.
“All I remember is that about a week after the accident I was at my father’s restaurant eating ice cream. If it happened today, I probably wouldn’t have gotten hurt as bad because my skull is harder.”
Once healed, Deeb was immediately ready to start riding. Asked whether she was initially timid around horses after the injury, she offered an explanation that belies her age. “If you experience the worst, you have nothing to be afraid of, right?” she said. “If you’re fearful and don’t have confidence, you will never succeed.”
Deeb was raised around horses: seven roamed through two stables at her home. “It’s like someone having a dog as a pet,” she said. “I grew up with horses. I was always riding.”
She won the national equitation title last year competing with her Morgan horse, As Predicted, which her family purchased when she was 5. Equitation is the art or practice of horse riding or horsemanship. It refers to a rider’s position while mounted, and encompasses a rider’s ability to ride correctly and with effective aids. In competition, the rider, rather than the horse, is evaluated.
And her accident, and the initial emergency response of the Fire Department, led her to riding Morgans.
The fire chief’s wife, Joanne Heath, was a Morgan trainer.
“A few years after, I got my first Morgan,” Deeb said.
She loves riding Morgans because of “their attitude,” Deeb said. The Morgan, the first distinct breed in America, is recognized for its proud carriage, upright graceful neck, and distinctive head with expressive eyes.
“If a Morgan is mad at you, they’ll let you know. If they’re happy, the same thing,” she said. “The attitude just shines through. And if you’re not focused on the horse, the Morgan will know it, test you and try to get away with something.”
Shows can be intense and volatile.
“It’s very competitive, which is what I love,” said Deeb. “You can be friends with everyone outside the ring, but once you get inside the ring, it’s like you don’t even know them. It’s so different from any other sport. Usually, you have a soccer ball or a hockey puck or a baseball, but this is working with a live animal, so it can be pretty unpredictable.”
Deeb trains four times a week with Jean DeGutis at Equitation Unlimited at Janbark Farm in Plainville. This year’s Grand National & World Championships is scheduled for Oct. 6-13, when she will compete in the 14-17 age group’s saddle seat division, once again riding As Predicted. “It’s going to be a big challenge,” she said, “but I definitely want to win the world title by the time I’m 17.”
A victory would allow her to try out for the US team in the Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup, her ultimate goal. “There is no Olympic sport for this, so the World Cup team is what I want to do, where I would compete against other countries,” she said. Continued...