Megan Benjamin is an equestrian vaulter. She is the 2006 World Equestrian Games (WEG) women’s vaulting champion, 2006 WEG Team Silver medalist, 2008 World Championships Team Bronze medalist, and three time national champion. Following her success in 2006, the US Olympic Committee named her the August Female Athlete of the Month. She was also named the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Equestrian of Honor and a co-recipient of the coveted Becky Grand Hart trophy. She was named to the FEI Athletes’ Committee by FEI President HRH Princess Haya of Jordan, to the USEF Youth Council, and was nominated by her peers to serve on the American Vaulting Association (AVA) Board of Directors and the USEF Vaulting Technical Committee.
Megan was an eight-year-old gymnast and ice hockey player when she inadvertently caught her first glimpse at vaulting. Out with her parents and brother on a search for hay for their new bunny cage, the family stopped at nearby Garrod Farms and Stables, where they saw athletes standing and cartwheeling on horses. Megan was mesmerized, and told her parents the combination of gymnastics and horses looked like a lot of fun—just as Mt. Eden Vaulting Club Trot Coach Marianne Rose walked by. Three minutes later, Megan had extracted a promise from her parents to return to the stables the following Saturday, for the “no obligation, low-cost” drop-in vaulting class that Marianne had so aptly evangelized. After just one lesson, Megan was standing on a trotting horse; she was hooked.
Fast-forward to 2006. Vaulting with her horse Faronia, Megan headed into the 2006 season with two consecutive U.S. Gold Women’s National Championships, three A-Team National Championships and a CVI ** Saratoga win under her belt. That year, Aachen, Germany would play host to the World Equestrian Games, and Megan had her heart set on bringing home the gold for Team USA.
Days after graduating from high school, she took off to Europe with her team, Free Artists Mt. Eden (F.A.M.E.) and longtime coach Emma Garrod Seely to get to know Grand Gaudino, the team’s new equine partner. Using Germany as their home base for the summer, the team trained daily, tweaked their routines to perfection, and prepared for WEG by competing in (and winning!) the prestigious CVI** Munich. Although Megan focused much of her training on team, she practiced individually in her free hours, not that there were many! Megan competed individually in CVI** Munich and took 2nd place on the German horse, Centuro—her second time ever to stand on an international podium.
Less than 24 hours after F.A.M.E.’s big win in Munich, the team traveled back to California to compete in the USEF/AVA National Vaulting Championships. Megan once again won the women’s Gold division and F.A.M.E. took the A-Team National Championship. After only a week in California, the team once again hopped a plane back to Southern Germany. Megan split her time between Pfaffenhofen, Germany and Hvejsel, Denmark, where she worked with trainer and longeur Lasse Kristensen and her Danish Warmblood, Leonardo.
The summer culminated at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, where 500,000 equestrian enthusiasts gathered over two weeks to watch seven disciplines (dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, reining, show jumping and vaulting) decide each of their world championships.
In front of a sold-out crowd, the USA F.A.M.E. team came from behind to capture the silver team medal (Team USA’s best showing ever) and in the last performance of the entire competition, Megan clinched the Women’s Vaulting World Championship, becoming the first non-German woman in WEG’s history to win the gold.
After her win in 2006, Megan retired from vaulting to pursue dressage and a world without vaulting. She focused on her studies at Cornell University and tried her hand at being a normal college kid. Although Megan’s retirement was meant to be permanent, it didn’t last for long.
In the summer of 2008, Megan’s former F.A.M.E. teammate Rosalind Ross convinced her to join the Dark Side of the Moon team in their quest for another team world championship. Having taken two years off from the sport, Megan had to play catch up to be at the elite level of her teammates by the championship in August. Nonetheless, she made it happen. Her team won both CVIs they entered that summer, and took the Team Bronze at the World Championships in Brno, Czech Republic, vaulting on Megan’s horse Leonardo with lungeur Lasse Kristensen.
Megan’s passion for vaulting and for competing could not be contained. She decided once again to try out for Team USA, this time while simultaneously finishing her senior year at Cornell University. Admittedly, she spent much of her final semester off-campus, training, teaching, and competing in locales from Brazil to Denmark.
This time, Megan will compete as an individual only, looking to stand on that podium one last time. A recent Cornell graduate, Megan is working to incorporate everything her life has taught her since Aachen to give Kentucky the performance of a lifetime.
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