In my opinion, genius is one of those words that’s generally overused. Genius is a rare quality that I reserve for such individuals as physicist Stephen Hawking, Pulitzer-prize winning author Thomas L. Friedman and golfer Tiger Woods (during his prime), to name just a few whom I admire and follow. About five years ago, though, I observed a prodigy in the show ring when I watched Victoria Colvin riding the small pony hunter Ballou during a show in Florida. She was just 8 or 9 years old at the time, and I was struck by her ability, grace and natural talent, so evident even then.
Now, at age 14, Tori has made a name for herself as one of the best riders in the hunter/jumper sport. She’s earned top honors at the highest levels against adults who could be her parents (or grandparents), in a sport that usually takes decades to master. Tonight, she added another major title to her résumé with victory in the $50,000 WCHR Palm Beach Hunter Classic Spectacular in Wellington, Florida.
During the post-event press conference, I asked Tori how she felt as the final rider in the competition, knowing she needed a great score to beat the defending champion Louise Serio, a 57-year-old established professional who held the lead at the time. Was there pressure? Was she nervous? Her answer didn’t really surprise me: “No, I wasn’t nervous at all. I never get nervous. I just go in and ride.”
Tori is so confident in her abilities there are no nerves. She just does what comes so naturally to her; she becomes one with the horse and simply flows around the courses. With Tori, there’s no wondering if she’ll make a mistake or “choke” when the pressure is on, as so many others do. I’ve watched her now for many years at the country’s biggest competitions, and I don’t wonder any more. Louise said it best, though: “I knew I wouldn’t win. Even though I was on top, I knew she was coming.” And that’s when you know you’re in the presence of genius.