It was assumed by many that Elza The Snow Queen would never amount to more than a Walk Trot horse – one that had previously been headed to auction. But through the faith and determination of her best friend, Brianna Massie, the team turned that notion on its head this year at their summer majors.
By Delores Kuhlwein
Somewhere along the way, a promising young mare lost her way. Though Elza The Snow Queen was lovingly raised by Evelyn Allison, the 2014 Bay Tobiano mare by Gentlemen Send Roses and out of Ima Good Artist found herself unwanted along the line, that is, until youth Brianna Massie and her mom, Brandi Provow of Machesney Park, Illinois, discovered her with the help of Valerie Henderson in 2020.
The mare was earmarked for the auction until Brandi stepped up to buy her.
As a result of the rocky road she’d been traveling, it was assumed by many that Elza would never cut it at the world show level – her best was thought to be perhaps the Walk Trot division. But somehow in her heart, Brie knew better.
This was the child who started riding before she was two years old, explains Brandi. “I grew up showing and loved horses my whole life, and I passed that addiction on to Brie. It’s kind of funny, but how I potty trained her was bribing her to do her first Leadline class on my horse, Mackers. I told her horse shows don’t have diapers and from that day on she was potty trained. Brie did her first pattern class at four years old. She won it too. Not sure if it was sheer luck, but after that she was hooked.”
That passion and determination never wavered when they spotted Elza, and Brie never lost faith throughout their trials together. “Elza’s trauma taught her to fight, and she’s made my daughter into a fabulous rider,” Brandi explains. “Elza is my best friend,” Brie adds.
They began to gain ground with the help of trainer Julie Tenhouse, first as the 2021 Reserve Pinto Walk Trot All Around and in 2022, Brianna and “Elza” began to turn the notion of Elza’s limitations on its head, winning APHA Zone 5 in the Novice Youth 18 & Under division and the 2022 Pinto World Novice Youth Reserve Champion All Around.
With those titles under her belt, Brie set her sights on the 2023 Pinto World Championship Show followed by the 2023 APHA World Championship Show. “I’m a full supporter, and I knew they could do it,” says Brandi.
On the top of Brie’s wish list: winning Trail, another area of which some had doubts about Elza’s ability. Brie and Elza entered Novice Youth Trail at the Pinto World Show anyway, explains Brandi, and she ended up winning it! “She was leading the high point until the tornado touched down in Tulsa and the show was canceled early,” says Brandi.
They wanted to continue to follow Brie’s dreams and wanted to have the support of a team who believed in them, so they sought the help of Chad and Shane Christensen of Christensen Show Horses to teach them the ropes of the APHA World Championship Show.
With the support of Chad and Shane Christensen, Brie and Elza truly continued to blossom and demonstrated it was their turn to shine. With the Christensens behind her, they won a World Championship in the Novice Youth 13 & Under Horsemanship and a Reserve Championship in the Novice Youth 13 & Under Equitation at the 2023 APHA World Championship Show.
“Christensen’s helped us chase our world show dreams and believed in us. She placed in every class, earning Top 5 and Top 10 awards (including 8th in Trail),” says Brandi, who reveals Elza’s show persona. “Elza becomes this Diva when she enters the arena. Her ears come forward, her toes point and she sashays around living her best life. She has so much heart and when she and Brie enter the arena, there is a spark that makes them stand out.”
Brandi also admits she hadn’t realized how much the help and support of the Christensen team would mean. “We went from almost no support to more support than we could have imagined at the Paint World. It was so awesome. Brie is hooked now,” she says.
One of their biggest fans, Julie Harnish, who raised and stood the legendary, late Gentlemen Send Roses, sent “Gus’s” final bouquet of roses to Brie to celebrate their world championship, a tradition she’d upheld for many years during Gus’s life.
“I have watched this team bloom over the years and sat back and wondered how some other kid and trainer could pull so much out of that team,” Julie says. “The mare was bred to ride and out of A Good Zippo mare. Those Zippo crosses have always been the best with Gentlemen Send Roses. They took their time found the talent with both the horse and the rider. I have a 3 year rule – it truly takes 3 plus years to make a true team. These two are proof of that. They showed and paid their dues. I’m glad the payback was so great! I’m equally as happy for our client who bred her. She has had some great mares and to see the matches achieve high awards for her is very rewarding.”
Brie and Elza are continuing to strengthen their skills in Trail, and the family would like some Elza babies for Brie to show in the APHA Youth Yearling Futurity Project, Brandi explains, so they’re currently husband hunting for her. “The plan is for her to take care of all three of my girls,” says Brandi.
As for Brie, she says her advice to others is simple: “If you want to show at the World Show, just show at the World Show! If you wait for someone else to tell you that you’ll be good enough, you will miss out on your dreams.”