Dec. 16, 2005 -- When asked to choose one word that best describes who she is, Teal Dowling pauses, laughs a little and gives a word that all who know her would heartily agree with.
The word would have to be "original," she told the panel of judges in her interview as a finalist for 2005 U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) Junior Equestrian of the Year. The 18-year-old from Spring Prairie, Wisc., does her best to live up to that word, charting her own course as she navigates life and the world of equestrian sport, as the newest recipient of the USEF Junior Equestrian of the Year award.
"I started my riding career after my grandfather bought me my first horse when I was five years old," Dowling wrote in her nominee essay. "My family had no previous connections to horses, so the purchase of a horse was a big investment at the time."
Since then, Dowling has turned riding into a passion that crosses multiple disciplines and championships with her preferred breed, Arabians and Half-Arabians.
"I didn't start off wanting to be the best," Dowling said. "I just wanted to ride horses. I love horses and that's why I do it. It's not even about the showing--I just love the thrill of the ride and the adrenaline rush. Riding makes me feel better. It makes me happy and it provides an 'out.' It's riding that rejuvenates me to do my other work."
Now attending Carthage College as a pre-med major, Dowling has decided to pursue a career in reconstructive surgery.
"I didn't want to be a regular doctor. I wanted to be different," she said. "It's about helping people out and improving the quality of their life. If someone has been burned, you're able to graft skin and improve the quality of their life--to help them get back to normal."
That's just one in a series of future goals that also includes starting up her own breeding business for Arabians and perhaps competing in the Olympics.
In celebration of her achievements, Dowling will receive the Ruth O'Keefe Meredith Memorial Trophy on January 13, during the Pegasus Awards Dinner of the 2006 USEF Annual Meeting, in Cincinnati, Ohio. The award was established in 1985 to honor a junior equestrian who exemplifies exceptional talent, sportsmanship and dedication to the sport and has made outstanding contributions to equestrian competition.