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How a horse with a “heart of gold” inspired one US Equestrian supporter to help her Team “bring home the Gold.”

Del Gardner and her husband Steve have been supporting the United States Equestrian Team for 30 years now. She’s a big fan of the US Dressage team and of jumpers Bezzie Madden and McLain Ward.

But what really inspired her support was a horse in her own backyard. A horse named Starshine.

When Del married Steve, then a young Coast Guard officer, he made her a promise: as soon as they had their own place, he’d get her a horse. And oh, what a horse Starshine was.

At four, Del’s daughter would shimmy up Starshine’s leg “to make Mommy’s Star canter.” Starshine also touched the lives of children with disabilities as she and Del gave time to volunteer work. She was just a gentle soul.

But for all her calm demeanor, Del’s “fat little quarter horse” had a winner’s heart.

Starshine would surprise Del, clearing the widest puddle on a trail to keep her hooves dry. After just six weeks of conditioning, she and Del completed a 30-mile endurance test as reserve champion — a title they took in a gymkana as well. And they held their own in amateur competitions against horses from well-known stables with professional trainers. “She could do it all,” says Del.

“I just wanted to prove that my horse was great. And she was.”

That’s one of the things Del loves about High Performance equestrian sport. It’s a world where a “backyard horse,” a horse not unlike her Starshine, can prove they’re great. Where they can shine.

But the main reason Del supports her Team? She has a winner’s heart too.

“I like to win. I want to see America take the Gold.”

And thanks to dedicated supporters like Del — and you! — American horses and riders are able to do just that!

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