Tori Colvin has been accomplished since she was in bows sitting on ponies as a kid and has continued to dominate in both the hunter and jumper rings as a professional.
Victoria Colvin is everything we love about the American Dream — equestrian style. Without endless start-up capital, “Tori” relied on good old-fashioned talent, hard work and a positive attitude to catapult her into being a household name in the hunter jumper world. As a child, she started out by winning everything there was to win in the pony divisions, then went on to dominate the equitation ranks, seamlessly picked up the jumpers and is the reigning queen of the hunters and derbies. In each ring, she exudes this special effect that makes every horse — the fiery, the green, the quirky, the quiet — go around the same: relaxed, listening, happy. Anyone will tell you that horses thrive with Tori in the tack. She listens and adjusts. She gets them. She understands them all.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of this team (with Tori). I would have to say with a lot of confidence that Tori is probably the best hunter rider that I’ve ever seen. That’s a very, very strong statement.”
— Andre Dignelli, Owner/Trainer, Heritage Farm
Tori Colvin had a rocky start. For the 2 1/2-year-old little girl that was awestruck by horses from the crib, her dream came true on Christmas morning when she was allowed to sit on GG the pony. Like out of Thelwell’s pages, the naughty pony promptly ran away with her, scaring Tori out of the saddle for two years. Fortunately for all of us and horses everywhere, she faced her fear of fire-breathing ponies. Tori returned to riding at the ripe old age of 4 and immediately showed a prodigious knack for the sport.
She began showing in the short stirrup ranks as a 6-year-old. Brigid, Tori’s mother, was her original cheerleader. She has had the opportunity to watch Tori grow from bows and jodhpur straps to running her own professional business, which Brigid now manages. Brigid notes that from a very young age, Tori always had a natural acumen and maturity about her, as well as the inherent will to win. “Tori was riding a short stirrup pony named King of Hearts, and she asked me to tell her the course,” Brigid recalls. “So, I told her, but I accidentally told her the wrong number of strides down one line. She came out and told me that was the reason she had lost the class, and it was unacceptable. She was 6 1/2.” From the get-go, Tori Colvin meant business.
Tori Colvin wins the 2019 Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby championship aboard El Primero.
PHOTO BY TRICIA BOOKER/USHJA
Tori is considered the winningest young rider in the history of the sport. Beginning in the pony ranks, ringside watchers noticed her aptitude to get along with many different types of ponies and bring out the best in each one of them. At 9, Tori piloted legendary rider Scott Stewart’s pony, Cortina, around the 2007 United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Pony Finals, receiving incredible over fences scores of 95, 95 and 96, earning them not only the Medium Green Pony Hunter championship but the Grand Green Pony Hunter title as well. She continued to win multiple more championships at the USEF Pony Finals over the course of her pony years, which is a feat in and of itself with upward of 800 stand-out ponies from across the country competing at the event in any given year. And that was just the start.
The successes in her childhood continued as she won an unprecedented five Best Child Rider titles at the lauded Devon Horse Show and County Fair. At 13, she entered, and won, her first Grand Prix. She continued to amaze in her junior career with countless Junior Hunter wins across the country. In the equitation ring, Tori dominated. Some of the most distinguished trainers in the country, including Andre Dignelli, Scott Stewart, George Morris, Missy Clark and John Brennan, polished her natural talent, helping her to earn the 2012 and 2014 Annual George Morris Excellence in Equitation Championships. In 2014, she also won the ASPCA Maclay Finals as well as the USHJA Hunterdon Cup Equitation Classic. Not slowing down in 2015, her last year as a junior rider, Tori claimed the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals — East title and the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Equitation Championship. That same year, she scored an elusive 100 on Dr. Betsee Parker’s horse, Way Cool, in the handy round of the Junior Hunters at the Upperville Colt and Horse Show in Virginia. This perfect score has only been awarded a handful of times and never to another junior rider. She won the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherhill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular class at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) four consecutive times as a junior and twice more, to date, as a professional. When asked how this remarkable childhood career shaped her as a professional, Tori says, “It was a very smooth transition. I knew this is what I wanted to do for my life.” Some might say it was a calling.
“It was a very smooth transition. I knew this is what I wanted to do for my life,”
Tori Colvin said of how her remarkable childhood career shaped her as a professional.
In 2016, Tori started her professional career. Victoria Colvin, LLC, is based out of Loxahatchee, Florida, located just outside of Wellington, Florida, the host city of the world-renowned Winter Equestrian Festival that runs January through April. Tori and her team (including the Colvin’s seven dogs) travel across the country in the spring and fall and are back home in Florida to compete throughout the winter at WEF. Brigid manages Tori’s professional business, organizes all the travel and cares for the 20+ horses in training. Tori’s dad, Jim, is a blacksmith and keeps the horses healthy and sound from the ground up. Relying on her parents for a lot, Tori realizes what a strong foundation she has in them. “My mom and dad are completely supportive. I would thank them first and foremost for everything they’ve done for me,” she says.
Needless to say, Tori’s life revolves around horses. Her schedule includes a full lineup of the “what’s what” competitions up and down the East Coast and Midwest. With her dominating youth years, her transition to a professional was obvious but not seamless. “I was very nervous to teach at the beginning. I would say things and my mom would repeat them out loud because I was too shy,” she recalls. “Now it feels more natural. I really enjoy it, and I love seeing my students compete with great success. It’s so rewarding.” With the support of incredible clients like John and Stephanie Ingram and their marvelous string of horses, including Derby Finals sniper, Cuba, as well as talented youths like Parker Peacock, Tori recalibrated her compass back to true north — this time in the capacity of rider and trainer.
There are several things that have propelled Tori to the top and influenced her longevity to remain there: her catch riding prowess, her innate ability to adapt to the horse and a Zen-like ring mindset. Then and now, her catch riding talents remain unmatched. In 2019, she captured the title of the $10,000 World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) Professional Finals at the Capital Challenge Horse Show in Marlboro, Maryland. This unique hunter final pits the best four pros against each other on unknown horses. Each rider shows all four horses with limited warm up over 8 to 10 fences set at 3’5” in height. It is the ultimate demonstration of catch riding.
Her ability to mold her way of thinking to the horse that she is sitting on is another of Tori’s super powers and allows her the capability to duplicate the same beautiful course over and over. This was true of her mirror trips on three very different horses to win three consecutive Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships (2017 on Cuba owned by John and Stephanie Ingram, 2018 on Private Practice owned by Brad Wolf and 2019 on El Primero owned by Bryan Baldwin and Meralex Farm). She was only the second rider to win the Championship more than once following fellow Platinum athlete, Liza Boyd, who won three times on her superstar, Brunello. Tori remains the only athlete to ever win aboard three different horses.
In 2018, she earned the WEF Overall Hunter Rider Circuit Championship. She was awarded that honor again in 2019 along with the Emerson Burr Trophy at the US Equestrian Pegasus Awards. This award recognizes excellence in competition for the current year while displaying superior sportsmanship and dedication to the principles, vision and mission of the United States Equestrian Federation, specifically in the hunter ring. That same year, at 23 years old, she was honored as the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame Rider of the Year.
PHOTO BY TERISÉ COLE/USHJA
With all that Tori has accomplished, the question bears asking: “What’s left?” But Tori still has lofty goals. “I’m hoping that one of my young jumpers ends up being a Grand Prix horse. That is the one thing I truly miss is doing the Grand Prix classes, and I’d love to compete with the Team (the United States Equestrian Team).” While she is the reigning queen of the hunter ring, she still has room to grow in the show jumping sphere. She has several lovely young horses that she is bringing up the ranks, including her beloved “Pancake,” who she considers one of her “ultimate” favorite horses. She is well under way building a string of competitive jumpers toward the goal of riding for Team USA, and it is likely that we will see her name on the list of those chosen to represent the United States for international equestrian sport.
With all her ribbons and coolers and plates and trophies, with all her titles and all the accolades, there is something that’s even better about Tori Colvin: she is genuinely nice. Added to the fact that she is also self-deprecating and truly thankful, she has gone from child star to the professional’s professional. She is quick to credit her parents and the many owners and trainers that have given her opportunities along the way. And the horses. To all of the incredible horses along her journey, she says, “They are the ones who have brought me to where I am.”
Tori Colvin won three consecutive Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships on three different horses — 2017 on Cuba, 2018 on Private Practice and 2019 on El Primero. She was only the second rider to win the Championship more than once and remains the only athlete to ever win aboard three different horses.
PHOTO BY ES EQUINE PHOTOGRAPHY
“I’m hoping that one of my young jumpers ends up being a Grand Prix horse. That is the one thing I truly miss is doing the Grand Prix classes, and I’d love to compete with the Team (the United States Equestrian Team).”
— Tori Colvin, On what the future might hold
Tori has what riders of all disciplines and styles try to channel — she goes with the flow. As evidenced by snippets pulled from past interviews throughout the years, “I don’t panic.” “I go with it.” “If we’re ready, we’re ready.” “I don’t overthink it.” Her calm and easy-going personality makes her a favorite to work with by people in general, and she is clearly beloved by the clients she trains and the horses she rides. “I never get nervous. I usually just sing whatever song I last heard and ride with it.” She then adds, “I have a lot of fun watching my mom who’s always nervous.” Tori’s attitude has not changed, and although, not vocal, the horses that she rides clearly appreciate her listening abilities and openness to adapt. In fact, quirky horses have a soft spot in Tori’s heart. She has ridden many horses that require a little extra finesse to earn top titles at some of the country’s most competitive venues. “I treat every horse as an individual,” she says. “And most importantly: be kind. Listen to them. Reward them. I feel that if you punish them for a mistake, it makes the mistake worse. They’re always trying.”
Tori has been accomplished since she was in bows sitting on ponies as a kid and has continued to dominate in both the hunter and jumper rings as a professional. So many articles have been written about her, describing the laser focus, the ice that runs through her veins, her grace under pressure. These are all true. But if you spend a few minutes watching her at the in-gate of a Saturday night under the lights of a derby handy round, you might notice that she looks exactly the same at the in-gate of a ticketed warm up on a Tuesday morning. She is known to skip course walks because she just relies on her experienced and consistent eye that has been in every situation on hundreds of horses. She is an extension of whatever lovely animal she sits on and always remains calm, responsive and listening. She is in her element; she is the element. She is the breeze in the trees, the swish of a tail, a soft eye, a swiveling ear — natural. She is home.
“(The incredible horses) are the ones who have brought me to where I am.”
— Tori Colvin, Winner of three consecutive Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships
by Emily Smith, MS,