Andrea Pfeiffer: Coaching Done Right

Ever wonder how three-star riders Matt Brown and Kelly Prather got their start? Andrea Pfeiffer and Chocolate Horse Farm are a big part of their story. Longtime CHF student Dana Wilcox explains Andrea's tremendous contribution to the sport in her own words.

Dana Wilcox schools cross country under the watchful eye of Andrew Pfeiffer. Photo by Alice Duffy. Dana Wilcox schools cross country under the watchful eye of Andrew Pfeiffer. Photo by Alice Duffy.

I have been in the eventing world for 14 years as this woman’s student and recently have realized just how many people and horses I have read about over the years that have benefited from Andrea Pfeiffer’s talent. Strangely enough, there is often no mention of her contribution to this sport, so as her longtime student I’m putting in my two cents worth.

At Chocolate Horse you can find people from all walks of the horse world with most staying for their entire career with horses. What inspires that dedication in her clients is an understanding that she possesses for the needs of both rider and horse. Her most obvious successes in the eventing world is the raising up of two rather prominent riders, Kelly Prather and Matt Brown.

They both were with Andrea until their 20s before moving on, as all children should do. Andrea was able to provide two talented riders with the help they needed and horses too. It didn’t matter that these kids didn’t come from families set up to provide more than moral support.

She always made sure they had what they needed to fulfill their potential. What that included was giving them the space to make their own mistakes, trusting them with horses before they were made riders and, most importantly, taking the information she slowly handed them and doing something with it!

As for the horses, I’ve seen them in articles over the years attached to many different riders. Most recently was that lovely video of Blackfoot Mystery. Beamer came from Chocolate Horse. Lisa Peacook, who rides with Andrea, has been riding and rehoming OTTBs long before there even were OTTBs, picked him out and with Andrea’s help began the long journey. 

Kelly took over when Lisa was injured while still at Chocolate Horse, and then later Lisa gave Kelly preference when she decided to sell. That horse has Andrea’s little footprints all over him!

Happenstance, owned by Mary McKee and recently ridden by Matt Brown, was started by Andrea and Kelly. More footprints! Believe me, the list really is quite long. From professionals of the caliber of Deborah Rosen to the parents of the kids they drop off in the parking lot, they all trust that Andrea will take care of business.

This brings me to her “real” successes. That would be the adult amateurs and kids that call her coach. Andrea has a rare ability to assess both horse and rider together and then construct a plan based on that knowledge that fits that individual couple. She is not afraid to change said plan either, even if it means saying she was wrong. That really is rare.

She teaches with a lady-like demeanor that is refreshing and speaks to the intelligence inside and is always positive even when delivering difficult news. She knows when to hold your hand or toss a water bottle at you! Andrea inspires trust in all of us — trust to take care of our horse, ourselves and, yes, our money.

I’ve always said if you want to know how good a coach Andrea is just watch us old lady amateurs ride. It’s easy to look good coaching natural talent, but making us look good is a miracle! Speaking of natural talent, Andrea is helping a new talent go the distance. Amber Levine and her talented string of horses are coming along just fine.

It’s wonderful to have someone to watch ride that makes me shake my head and say, “Just how does she do it”? Amber also helps us create horses that we can achieve our dreams on by doing the work we amateurs can’t. We love having another great rider to cheer for rising up the ranks representing us but, frankly, it’s us lifers at Chocolate Horse that are the true testament to this talented coach.

If you’re out west, drop by sometime and take in the view and the truly happy horses and have a chat with Jean Stokes, who owns the property we all enjoy. Jean is a difficult woman to impress and Andrea did that over 20 years ago, and they have been a team ever since.

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