Only three years on the circuit, Becca Gall and Can Ya Dig It jump up
Becca Gall started riding horses when she was 3. Now, at age 17, she’s the Young Rider Junior champion for an eight-state region and has set her sights on being an Olympic equestrian, then competing in the Rolex World Games, the highest international competition level for equestrians.
Becca, the daughter of Jennifer and Bill Gall of the Town of Saukville, and her beautiful thoroughbred Can Ya Dig It took first place in the Young Riders junior division for riders 17 and younger at the Bromont Cross-Country International event in Quebec, Canada, held June 5 to June 8.
More impressive, Becca finished 12th out of 45 riders overall, competing against top equestrians in the United States and Canada, including an Olympian who wore his red Olympic jacket during the competition.
From July 17 to July 20, Becca will compete against the top Junior Young Riders at the Kentucky Cross-Country International Games. It will also be a qualifying event for her to move up to the Young Riders division, which is for equestrians 21 and younger.
When the Galls bought Can Ya Dig It, who they call Digger, four years ago, they didn’t know about the Young Riders circuit until a year later.
Becca and her horse are learning together and progressed faster in three years than she and her coaches at Willow Run Stables in Mequon expected. She rides with the stable’s WR Eventing team.
Can Ya Dig It deserves much of the credit, Becca said.
“He came with the name, and it fits him,” she said. “He’s very playful, a little nosey and very loving. I teach him different cues and he moves by my leg pressure. He’s very attuned to what I want him to do.
“I know him inside and out and know his every quirk, and he knows mine.”
Her mother added, “He trusts Becca. They have an amazing relationship. He’ll do whatever she wants him to do. He trusts she won’t put him in danger.”
The Canadian competition included a test in which horses do specific movements at different spots in the ring, a cross-country course through a woods with obstacles and water hazards, show jumping and dressage. The horse is examined after each event to make sure it’s healthy enough to continue.
Becca and Digger’s favorite event is cross-country. Riders can walk the course as many times as they want before the competition, but the horses can’t. If a horse balks three times, the rider is eliminated.
“You walk it enough times to memorize it. You have to get your game plan and know what you have to do to get everything done,” Becca said.
She and Digger did the course flawlessly, but received a five-point penalty because they didn’t finish in seven minutes.
If she had to get a penalty, that’s the best way to get it, Becca said, noting she will work on speed.
“When I walked the course, I was a little nervous,” she said. “The fences were a little larger than I had expected and prepared for. I went a little slower to make sure we didn’t miss anything and he wouldn’t get too excited.”
Becca qualified for Junior Young Riders two years ago, but Digger strained a tendon a week before last year’s international competition and needed three months of stable rest to heal.
Becca went to the competition to support her team. Watching the events as a coach, she said, gave her a different and invaluable perspective.
She and Digger trained in Florida from late January to early March with Becca’s competition coach Jon Holling to ease the horse back into competition.
“It was a lot of fun. I learned a ton in my riding and horse skills,” Becca said. “It got him fit again and ready to go.”
A senior at Cedarburg High School, Becca submitted her school work online while she was in Florida.
Becca learned to ride from Shawn Schanen at Flying S Ranch in the Town of Grafton and competed in shows with quarterhorses and ponies.
She now works with coaches at Willow Run and also with Holling before Young Riders events.
Becca and Digger will spend a week in Chicago working with Holling before heading to Kentucky.
“The plan is to have him (Holling) move up to the two-star Young Riders level with me and Digger,” Becca said. Although many equestrians board their horses, Digger is one of five horses on the Galls’ 10-acre farm, which has a large stable, indoor ring and grass and dirt paddock areas.
“I love having Digger at home,” Becca said. “I can watch him and make sure he doesn’t get into any trouble. Sometimes in the paddock he gets very playful.”
She often sleeps with her horse, especially if he’s not feeling well, and works with him every day. Digger likes to gallop, which he can do when she rides him in a neighbor’s field. Jumps are set up on their farm for practice.
Also on the farm are two trail horses, Becca’s former event horse Tucker and her pony Valentine, who rules the stable despite her diminutive size. Becca got Valentine when she was 6.
“We love Valentine. She showed me the ropes, but I got too tall for her,” Becca said.
Becca then got Tucker, a master event competition horse that she rode until she worried she was pushing him too hard for his age. That’s when she got Digger.
Becca is the oldest of three children. Everyone in the family rides horses. Matt, 16, competes in 4-H Western barrel racing and is a trapshooter who will compete in nationals the same week Becca is in Kentucky. He, Becca and their father also compete in mounted trapshooting.
Leah, 12, is her sister’s groom and is in the 4-H horse project, but she prefers dressage to jumping.
Mrs. Gall enjoys trail riding and often pulls the horse trailer to competitions because her husband, who owns a plumbing business, can’t be at all of his daughter’s events.
“I never thought I would be pulling a horse trailer for 22 hours to Canada,” she said. “Becca can pull the trailer now, and we take turns driving.”
Becca also gives horse riding lessons at the farm.
Image information: Becca Gall and her horse Can Ya Dig It showed off the ribbons they won in Quebec, Canada. Photo by Sam Arendt