Local Rider Takes Hap to the Top of the Heap

Loudon-Meetze and Hap scored a phenomenal 43.7 in dressage competition at the Virginia CCI*. (Brant Gamma Photography)

When Tiffani Loudon-Meetze, a 4-star international eventer, purchased Happy (Hap), an almost-3-year-old thoroughbred racetrack reject, two years ago, she thought he had potential, but had no way to know for sure if she could turn him into an eventer capable of making dreams come true. Now she knows. Just two weeks ago the pair won the Preliminary Level of the prestigious Virginia CCI*, a top international level eventing competition. But more than just winning, they swept the competition easily, leading in dressage, cross country and show jumping from start to finish. Even more remarkable, it was only Hap’s first international level competition.

Loudon-Meetze, 37, knows a thing or two about making dreams coming true. As a 19-year-old she trailered her 12-year-old, not-too-expensive thoroughbred, Makabe, from her home in Washington state to start her professional riding career at Farewell Farm in Blythewood. Two years later she and Makabe surprised the eventing world when she became the youngest rider ever to win the Rolex Kentucky CCI* in 1998, the most prestigious 3-day event in the Western Hemisphere. Next, she won the Foxhall Cup CCI* in Georgia, and went on to be shortlisted by the United States Equestrian Team in 2000 for the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. And all of while trailering herself and Makabe from show to show with no hired help against top Olympic riders with entourages and a myriad of high-dollar horses. While it was a fairytale quickly coming to fruition, an injury caused Makabe to be withdrawn from final selection for the Olympic Trials that year. Since then, Loudon-Meetze has gone on to win or place in the top three in many other international level events throughout the United States, Canada, England and Scotland.

Now Loudon-Meetze sees another bright future looming in Hap. While she expected him to do well at Virginia, even she was surprised at how tirelessly he ate up the long hills in the cross country phase of the competition then captured a remarkably low 43.7 dressage score. His only real test came as the pair entered the final competition of the event – show jumping in the indoor ring. Louden-Meetze recalled the moment with a nervous smile.

“He was really spooky in the coliseum,” she told The Chronicle of the Horse magazine. “I went to go through the in-gate, and the next thing I know we are going backwards, back into the holding area.” With only one downed rail in the show ring, the pair still won handily.

“He’s a very scopey horse,” Louden-Meetze said of her young partner. “He just needs to learn to skim the jumps a bit more and yank his knees up higher so he doesn’t have to jump so high.” Louden-Meetze said she’s now looking forward to seeing what he can really do. “He’s a very calm, happy horse and he loves competing,” she said.

In addition to competing, Loudon-Meetze is a successful event clinician and instructor on her 97- acre farm in Winnsboro, where she lives with her husband, Paul, and their daughter Channing, 9. Hap is just one of several horses Louden-Meetze continues to train and bring along for competition with the goal of riding in International competitions and representing her country. For more information, go to tiffaniloudoneventing.com.