Nearly a year removed from breaking two ribs and puncturing her lung during a practice, 18-year-old Mary Peabody Camp is ready to represent Team USA in the World Team Championships for mounted games next week at the Kentucky Horse Park.
The Horse Park hosted the event when it was last in the United States in 2003.
Following last year's World Team Championships, Camp was injured while preparing for the World Pairs Championships in Normandy, France.
The recent Louisville Collegiate High School graduate slipped on her last step while vaulting and couldn't comfortably get into the saddle. The pony veered off under a tree, which smacked into Camp's back. She missed the championships and stayed in London with one of her mother's friends for four weeks.
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"It sucked 'cause I was going into my senior year of high school, which I started in October instead of August because I couldn't come home from England," Camp said. "I couldn't get on a plane because it would crush my lung and I wouldn't be able to breathe at all. That's a little bit important."
Now fully recovered from the only injury she's sustained since picking up the sport at age 8, Camp will get a chance to compete aboard her horse, Honey. The 13-year-old rescued female was originally meant for Camp's sister Sarah, 16, when their family acquired her in 2010.
"She had all the great makings of a games pony but was such a pain that my sister didn't want to bring her on," Camp said. "... (Honey) was kind of a brat."
Honey has an injury in her past as well. A couple of months after Honey came into her life, Camp's other horse, Twilight, kicked Honey in the leg, breaking her splint bone. Camp assumed rehab duties and kept Honey as her own.
"She's so good at her job," Camp said. "Once she gained that trust from me after her injury, I think that's when she started to make a better games pony."
This will be Camp's third straight appearance in the World Team Championships, and she recognizes the rare advantage North American teams have this year. The U.S. squad and other non-European teams typically use borrowed horses instead of flying their own overseas for events.
"This year it's just us and Canada that are on our own ponies," Camp said.
Fellow Team USA member and Oldham County graduate Sara Greiling Gardner, 34, is also representing the U.S. Gardner, who coached Camp when she was younger, is also excited about the opportunity to use her own horse, the 16-year-old Puzzle. She thinks that will give the U.S. a chance to better its eighth-place finish in last year's competition.
"We're already starting at a disadvantage when we go to these competitions, because we don't have the several years' advantage from working with one horse," said Gardner, who began competing in 1993 and has represented the U.S. in all but one WTC since 2001.
The familiarity with the Kentucky Horse Park will help Team USA, too. The Americans' tryouts were held there in January.
Camp also has college to look forward to. She will attend Southern Methodist University in the fall.
But she won't be too far from her beloved ponies. She found a barn about a half- hour from campus where she'll keep them.
And she has no plans to jump out of the saddle — except for a galloping dismount, of course.
"I intend to keep riding the rest of my life," she said.