Trainer bio: Katie Willis
Katie was born in St. Louis, MO, on July 13, 1979, and lived there until her family moved to Cortez, CO, in 1981. In Colorado, Katie found an interest in riding and started out western on the family's QH, Ronkonkoma. When Katie was nine, she decided jumping looked interesting, and she and Ron (who was 18 at the time!) made the switch together. Katie joined the local Pony Club and was a member for three years. In Pony Club, Katie was introduced to Eventing, and she and "Ron" competed in several Pony Club Rallies.
Katie's next horse,Top Notch, was a green ten year old TB gelding. Katie and "Nick" started taking lessons with FEI Dressage rider/trainer Mary Walhood. Katie also spent part of the summers as a working student for Grand Prix Jumper Teresa Scott.
Any competitions outside of western events are few and far between in Colorado, not to mention the specific sport of Eventing. So, Katie concentrated on competing Nick at Dressage shows, which they enjoyed and were easier to get to. They had many wins and championships at Training and First Level.
After graduating from Montezuma-Cortez High School in 1997, Katie moved to Ohio to attend Lake Erie College. Nick also made the trip out to Ohio. LEC put on several hunter/jumper shows, and Katie and Nick competed in jumper classes up to the 3'6" level.
When Katie returned from college, she was happy to discover that Advanced Eventer Guenther Hardt had moved to the area and had started building a cross country course on his ranch. As there was now a place to school, Katie got back into eventing. That summer she and Nick competed in several Novice level events.
In October 1998, Katie moved to Virginia to become a working student for Phyllis Dawson. Katie and Nick quickly moved up to Prelim where they enjoyed much success! Katie stayed as a working student through September 1999, but continues to take lessons from Phyllis.
In 2000 Katie and Nick finished out their long partnership at the CDCTA 2-Day. They finished ninth in the young rider division, adding only time to their Dressage score! Nick was then retired with Katie's family in Colorado
Katie started working at Riverside Farm for C. Kemp Devereux in March of 2000. Katie does training from breaking to competing for Mr Devereux's wide range of homebreds. Several have gone on to have great success in the eventing world under Katie's tutelage, including Desert Mirage, who is now owned by Lisa Snyder. Katie and Mirage placed ninth in the Training division at the 2004 American Eventing Championships. Through Mr. Devereux, Katie met Susan Gustafson, a Dressage rider/trainer who had worked for him in the past. Susan has a great eye which has helped Katie and her horses really improve in Dressage.
Katie has foxhunted with Loudoun West and Blue Ridge Hunts since 2001. Katie has hunted everything from a 15 hand TB/Connemara cross to an 18 hand Draft Cross! Foxhunting is a great way to keep the horses fit and keen through the winter!
In May of 2004, Katie began leasing River View Farm, and started Top Notch Eventing. Katie is excited to be working with several horses that show great potential. It is a long road to the top levels of international competition to which Katie aspires, but she continues to train and work hard to achieve her goals.
In 2006, Katie had multiple top places at the Preliminary level with the horses Polar Storm and Pristine. Further, Polar and Katie placed 6th at Morven CCI*, finishing on their dressage score. Katie also spent the year as an exercise rider for steeplechase/flat racehorse trainer Jimmy Day.
2007 was also a very successful year. Katie had many top places from Beginner Novice through Intermediate on an array of horses. With her top horse, Polar Storm, Katie finished out the year by successfully completing the Ocala CCI**. In addition to her Eventing, Katie also started breaking youngsters for Randleston Farm, a big racehorse breeding and training barn. She also assists with the flat/jump schooling on the hurdle and timber racehorses.
Katie and Polar Storm successfully moved up to Advanced in 2008, finishing the year with an 8th at Five Points and a great go at the Fair Hill CCI** with a clear cross country and a lovely stadium round. Katie also successfully completed Morven CCI* with Irish Moon Dance who had just done his first event ever 4 1/2 months prior. Katie also become long listed - it must be a long list!
Highlights for 2009 include: multiple top 10 places at Advanced and finishing 16th at Jersey Fresh with Polar Storm. Katie started working with Lauren Sprieser. A FEI dressage competitor and trainer.
In 2010 Katie was 12th at Jersey Fresh CCI3*, in Advanced 3rd Millbrook and 1st Five Points with Polar Storm. Top 5 places with multiple horses BN-Training. In addition to Phyllis, Katie takes lessons from Stephen Bradley.
Katie and Polar Storm went on to complete the CCI3* at Fair Hill and Bromont.
Due to the retirement of the upper level horses in 2014 Katie has shifted her focus to starting under saddle, green horses, and sale. If one doesn't sell and she makes it back to the upper level that's great. If they all sell before getting there that's fine as well!