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Meagan DeLisle

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‘I Don’t Need A Helmet’ … Until I Did

Megan and Joey.

This post originally appeared on EN’s sister site, Horse Nation.

This past weekend I had one of those “near death experiences” you read about online. A pivotal moment in my time as an equestrian that changed my life forever. The more days that pass by from the incident, the scarier the reality of it all gets.

Had I not had my helmet on, I probably wouldn’t be typing this today.

I grew up a backyard equestrian, so when I transitioned to jumping I knew helmets were most definitely important. There is a undeniable risk factor involved with pointing a horse at a stick and saying, “Hey, can you please jump this?” I didn’t, however, understand why I needed one on flat days or trail rides.

But, as it usually goes, barn rules overthrew my passive feelings towards helmets and I happily donned one for each ride. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it was just a thing I had to do. If I wanted to ride my horse I had to put the helmet on, so I did. Of all of my equipment, my helmet was definitely my most under-appreciated. I drooled over my saddle and my new stirrup irons. Heck, even my custom whip got more attention than the brain protection I wore each day.

How quickly that can change.

A friend and I went on a post-flat day trail ride through the woods on our barn’s property. Joey had earned a relaxing ride and I had no hesitation about taking him on the trails, which he had seen multiple times before. Always brave, Joey led the way with no arguments. As we neared our last leg of the trail, we had to go down a decline — nothing too steep and nothing new to either of our horses. Joey, the natural leader, walked on without a care in the world.

Something (and we are still unsure as to what it was) suddenly became a concern to Joey, and he shot his head up and immediately began backing up rapidly. I patted his neck, turned him in a circle, and talked to him softly and kindly. When he came back to me, we tried to go forward again but received the same reaction.

No big deal. My friend urged her horse forward to be the leader and give Joey a boost of confidence to make his way down the trail. At first, this appeased my big brown chicken, and he followed along, alert but not spooked. We made it past the original scary spot and all was well when the imaginary monster suddenly reared its ugly head again.

Like before, Joey began backing up anxiously, but unlike before I no longer had my power steering … I tried to calm him down and get him to turn around, but the only direction he was heading was backwards and as fast as he possibly could. I gave him a little smack on the butt in an attempt to switch the gears from reverse, but he had shut down mentally and was spiraling into a dangerous place.

He began backing into trees and brush, which only elevated his fear. I was at a loss. My normally brave and bold horse was reacting in a way he had never done before, and I wasn’t sure what my next step was. He was going so fast that I wasn’t sure I could safely dismount and guide him out of the woods by hand, but when I looked back and saw a deep rocky ravine quickly approaching, I knew something had to happen.

I made a few last ditch efforts to steer him out of the woods and back to the trail but he was in full on flight mode at this point, and I knew my only option was to bail.

I have never been one to enjoy a purposeful emergency dismount. I believe the safest place is on top of the horse and if you are choosing to meet the ground, you better be prepared for the consequences. In this instance, I knew it was safer for me to tumble down that ravine on my own rather than atop my horse. So I bailed.

I know that not everyone believes in a greater being, but I have no doubts that there was someone watching over me. The sequence of events that followed could have played out a variety of ways — with nearly all of them ending with me or Joey on our way to emergency care.

When I dove off of Joey, I held onto the reins in an attempt to keep him from flipping over backwards down the drop. This effort caused Joey to turn so he was facing the ravine, and he slid down it face first. Letting go of the reins, I tumbled halfway down the ravine, only to be caught by a nasty thorn bush. The force of my sudden stop resulted in the back of my helmet smacking a large rock. I looked up as Joey fell to his knees at the bottom. He immediately hopped back to his feet and trotted up the other side.

Filled with adrenaline, I pulled the giant thorns from my body (wearing a tank top while riding sounds like such a good idea until you’re plucking Godzilla-sized thorns from your skin) and made my way back up the incline to meet Joey at the top and keep him from trotting off in fear.

We were both scraped up, but we walked away. Neither of us took a lame step. Neither of us had serious injuries. And my head was still in one piece.

As we walked back to the barn I had yet to process what exactly happened, but my friend was still in shock having seen all of it unfold. It hit me right as I was untacking Joey — we should have been seriously hurt and we weren’t. I cooled Joey down, tended to his minor wounds, tossed him in a small paddock with a friend with some hay and fresh water, and sat down on my tack box, my mind a mess. I slid my helmet off and suddenly remembered hitting my head, so I turned the helmet around in my hands.

There was only a small rub on the back where the rock met my helmet. Knowing the dangers of riding in a helmet with a fall, I pulled out my phone and filled out an accident report on the Charles Owen website so I could send it back in for research purposes and order a new one. The accident report asked for a description of the event. As I pieced everything together, I quickly realized what would have happened had I not had my helmet on that day.

I used to say that I didn’t need my helmet on a casual trail ride. I used to say that I knew my horse and that he never did anything silly.

And had I not had my helmet on that day, everything in my life could have changed from present tense to past tense.

Mind your melon, folks. Wear that helmet and wear it proud. I firmly believe that had I not had my helmet on when my head met that rock that this story would have had a whole different ending. Every single decision has its consequences. Which consequences do you want to live with?

Best of HN: If Horse Shopping Were Like ‘The Bachelorette’

In the world of game shows, you can’t go a day without hearing about the latest drama on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Seriously, most of my friends are borderline addicted to this show and its many, many twists and turns. While I don’t personally think it’s practical to meet, fall in love, and get engaged to a random person in six weeks, who am I to judge?

The more I thought about the concept of the show and how it just doesn’t apply to the ever-practical equestrian community, I couldn’t help but wonder what the show would be like if done in a different theme… you know, one with horses instead of guys or gals.

Imagine a world where you can “speed date” a plethora of horses and make your pick of the crop… let’s call it The Equestrian.

Toss me in a room of 25 eligible event horses of all breeds — Thoroughbred, KWPN, Selle Francais — suddenly I understand how those girls are so happy all the time.

But now there is work to be done. I have to weed through all of these potential partners and find the good…

…the bad…

…and the most likely sedated….

On The Bachelorette they go on all these dates and do all these group activities so that the eligible lady can sort through all the candidates and find her one true match. I imagine on The Equestrian that a true test of character would be to require all of the horses to stand tied for great lengths of time and unleash a herd of small pony children running down the barn aisle … the least likely matches would weed themselves out, but the strong will remain.

In every group you have your stereotypes: I see the typical jock as the OTTB who has transitioned into his new career and is always a liiiiiittle bit too eager to go on course looking something like this guy:

Then you have your hunk who knows he is a hunk but you can’t help but like him anyway. It’s like my old trainer always says, though, pretty is as pretty does.

And of course you can’t forget the quiet, sweet guy in the corner… who will most likely be afraid of everything and all sudden movements but darnit he is just so cute…

It all boils down to you picking the one you feel you mesh the best with, though, so you start eliminating them one by one…

Ummm, probably because you tried to kick me… like seven times… and you tore off your very expensive blanket like the first day that we were there and I have NO time for that nonsense…

…Only to find yourself later blindsided by a lameness issue from the horse you thought you had the best connection with.

The Bachelorette GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

In the end, you toss the golden carrot to the horse of your dreams and ride off into the sunset.

‘Cause girl, you got some ribbons to win and you ain’t playing no games.

Go Riding.

The Horse Show Husband Takes On Rolex

My husband Wayne and I recently celebrated our one year anniversary, a significant mile marker in our journey together. In honor of this momentous occasion, we decided to take a trip and enjoy some quality “us time” — away from work, away from the dogs, and most of all … away from the time-consuming, checkbook-leeching horse.

Luckily for Wayne, I am always game for an adventure. Unluckily for Wayne, Rolex fell just two weeks after our anniversary and somehow our weekend getaway turned into a horse-filled escapade with me practically running through vendor row while he cried into his empty wallet.

Of course, I couldn’t simply stand by and let the little golden nuggets of the Horse Show Husbands first ever Rolex slip by without recording these precious memories. So I did what any good horse obsessed wife would do- I created Wayne his own hashtag (#horseshowhusbandtakesonrolex) and documented each hilarious quip, quote, and observation for all of social media to see.

So enjoy, at my wonderful, patient, and loving husbands expense, fellow horse lovers. I present to you, the Horse Show Husband’s first ever trip to Rolex.

“Are you going to let me gamble on these horses?” Wayne asked, followed by my realization that Wayne had NO clue what he was in for this weekend.

“Oh my gosh: this show shirt is only $70!” I said with utter glee.
“WOW, WHAT A DEAL,” he replied, rich with sarcasm.

Upon observing dressage for the first time: “So I can walk a horse in a circle and have thousands of people cheer for me? Jumping a fence is scary, I can do walking in a circle.”

“Is that old guy going to be here?” He was referring to George Morris… I kept all of my comments aside and took it as a bonus that Wayne remembered one of my equestrian idols.

“Hopefully we won’t have to do as much walking today,” he said as we left the hotel on cross country day.

“Thank God these people drink,” he said as we gulped down a mimosa at the Eventing Nation tailgate.

Mimosas made the 8 miles we walked that day a little less tasking…..Photo by Meagan DeLisle

“Soooo…” he said while watching Michael Jung conquer the cross country course, “when do you start doing this again?”

“I don’t, I just do show jumping. I am not gutsy enough for this.”

“Thank God, this is terrifying and I was coming up with thousands of ways to tell you that you couldn’t do this,” he said with a look of terror on his face.

When I asked Wayne what has been his favorite part of Rolex so far, he replied “Well… I watched a horse jump over sticks. That was fun. Watched a horse walk in a fancy circle. That was fun. Got a $9 beer. That was fun.”

At the conclusion of stadium, Wayne was booking it back to the car faster than my little legs could handle. When I asked him to slow down, he provided me with these words of wisdom: “You just lived through three days of heaven, you can deal with ten minutes of hell.”

Wayne booking it to “beat the crowds,” but really I knew he was horsed out for the weekend. Photo by Meagan DeLisle

All in all, Wayne was an absolute trooper and we actually had a blast. He didn’t flinch when the girls at the SmartPak booth knew who he was when it came up in conversation that I was the one who wrote about horse show husbands for Horse Nation. He willingly turned his head as I bought plenty of goodies to bring home for Joey. And he didn’t complain, not ONE time, about the extreme weather changes and the hurry-up-and-wait atmosphere.

He even admitted at the end of the trip that he enjoyed the experience and was glad we decided to go, but followed that up with YOU can come back next year — not WE can come back last year, so I guess he is all Rolexed out for one lifetime. It was just another reminder that we as equestrians truly rely on the support of our loved ones as we pursue our dreams and I am one of the lucky ones.

Go riding and go horse show husbands.

Best of HN: All Kinds of Kinds: Alternate Careers in the Horse Industry

There’s much more to the equestrian industry than the conventional careers of riding instructor, trainer or breeder. Meagan DeLisle speaks with four industry pros in alternative career paths to learn more!

Many equestrians dream of quitting their day job and getting to spend their days surrounded by all things equine. For many of us, however, that isn’t in the cards: the costs of running your own training, breeding, or consignment business are high, and startup can be difficult. We chatted with four industry experts who have careers or exciting side jobs in the equestrian industry that don’t fall into “typical” equestrian categories to find out more about their “alternate horse careers”.

Meet our professionals:

Chelsea Smith: Owner of Smith Equine Media LLC, a provider of website design, social media administration, and marketing services to a string of high end clientele such as Double Dan Horsemanship, Meghan O’Donoghue Eventing, Indiana Eventing Association and Midsouth Eventing and Dressage Association.

Chelsea and Photo credits: Makenzie Lynn Photography

Chelsea Smith. Photo by Makenzie Lynn Photography

John McQueen: Owner of Queenie Productions LLC, a premiere horse show management company that provides a variety of show experiences such as the Lake St. Louis Winter Festival, Tulsa Rendezvous Horse Shows, Greater Oklahoma Go Shows, and the St. Louis National Charity Horse Show. John is also a member of the organizing committee for this year’s FEI World Cup in Omaha.

John and his confirmation hunter, Frank the Tank. Photo by

John and his conformation hunter, Frank the Tank. Photo by Windcrest Photography

Eric Sampson: Traveling horse show announcer, announcing at some very well-known shows in the United States including Three Lakes, Pine Top Intermediate and Advanced, Texas Rose Horse Park Horse Trials, MSEDA, Penny Oaks and Indiana Eventing Association Horse Trials.

Eric Sampson and Tardis, photo by Lee Anne Zobbe

Eric Sampson and Tardis, photo by Lee Anne Zobbe

Dr. Julia Gawley: Owner of Trail Ridge Veterinary Services, LLC. Dr. Gawley has been practicing veterinary medicine for 12 years, but in 2012 she tailored her clinic to specialize in veterinary spinal manipulative therapy after seeing the benefits of alternative therapies firsthand. Her services are available for pets of all kinds. Dr. Gawley enjoys horseback riding and owns a farm with two dogs, five cats and two horses.

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Doctor Julia Gawley. Photo by Kevin D. Gawley

Professional roundtable

What led you to start your own business?

  • Chelsea: After graduating from the University of Kentucky with a BS in Equine Science and management and completing my MBA while working for equine-related offices like the United States Equestrian Federation, United States Dressage Federation, and the American Association of Equine Practitioners, I knew I wanted more. I wanted to directly connect with equestrians, and, more specifically, to enable them to spend more time doing what they love to do — ride!
  • John: An opportunity presented itself and my wife had been in corporate America for 20-plus years. I had been on the road as a judge and trainer and this was an opportunity for she and I to work together and we took it!
  • Eric: Depending on how I count, the announcing business is either the third or fourth business I’ve started. I’ve been a freelancer in several very different fields over the years, everything from working as a sound technician (OK, fine, I was a roadie) to being a freelance wildlife photographer. I’ve just always been drawn to work where my interests lead me.
  • Dr. Gawley: I’ve been a veterinarian for twelve years. When I became certified in spinal manipulative therapy (chiropractic), I realized its unique approach to overall health. I wanted to be able to reach out to horse and dog owners and felt the best way to promote this relatively new modality was through my own business.

How long have you been following this career path?

  • Chelsea: I officially started my own business, Smith Equine Media, LLC on April 4, 2016 (my 26th birthday!) and went full-time on September 1, 2016.
  • John: I have been managing horse shows for probably the last 10 or 12 years but doing it on a very small scale. When we got to start Queenie Productions we increased our time managing horse shows greatly.
  • Eric: Announcing is a side job for me, a really fun way to work in the horse industry that doesn’t depend on my riding ability or horsemanship… thank goodness! That wouldn’t get me far. But I’ve been doing this for something like 11 years.
  • Dr. Gawley: I have been practicing spinal manipulative therapy for five years now. I have the advantage of years of experience with conventional veterinary medicine, knowing what it can and cannot offer. Being able to combine that knowledge and experience with chiropractic allows me to guide my clients toward the best approach for their pet’s individual health care.

What was the “a-ha” moment for you when you decided to give your own business a shot?

  • Chelsea: Let me be completely honest. I had NO INTENTION of EVER starting my own business. After a few months of being the webmaster for one of my clients I found myself overwhelmed by both website work and sponsorship management. After several months of trying to balance my own business with having a small farm, two OTTBs competing in eventing, three dogs, and a husband on top of a full-time office job, I knew something HAD to give, and fast! So I went full time with my business.
  • John: Transitioning into horse show management didn’t really take me off the road, it actually put me on the road a bit more but it gave my wife an opportunity to be a part of the company and for us to spend some time together! That was the best part!
  • Eric: After a few years of just muddling along, doing mostly dressage shows, I got to work with the wonderful Cyndi Kurth, who is a full-time horse show announcer. With Cyndi I learned that the job is so much more than announcing names, scores, horses, owners and breeding. It’s about communicating useful information to riders, instructors and spectators. I learned that I could help a show run smoothly and on time, as well as help deal with the inevitable problems that come up. That’s when I knew it was a job for me, when I felt marginally useful.
  • Dr. Gawley: I knew I could best promote and apply this type of treatment if I had control over my own schedule, to focus on providing spinal manipulative therapy. I also wanted other veterinarians to be able to refer patients to me, and that works best with me running it as my own business.

What was the most difficult part of stepping into this new career path for you?

  • Chelsea: Starting your own business is financially terrifying. I went from an office job with a salary and benefits to nothing. From day one I knew had to hustle — sink or swim. All I knew was that I wanted it badly and that I did NOT want to find myself back in an office working for the proverbial “man.”
  • John: Having been involved in all aspects of the horse show industry, I had a pretty clear ideas of what needed to happen and what didn’t need to happen. Keeping the health benefits of the horse and rider foremost and going forward. I very much think we are a service industry and sometimes I think that is forgotten. I never felt like this was a new career for me. I just felt like I was changing my job title.
  • Eric: Ignorance being bliss, I didn’t find any of it very difficult! Until I started to grasp what the job is really about. I’m just really grateful to the shows that got me started, and were very patient and encouraging while I sorted things out.
  • Dr. Gawley: Not knowing how it would be received by pet owners and colleagues. However, many owners and veterinarians go to the chiropractor themselves, and know how good it makes them feel. It wasn’t hard for them to extrapolate that to their pets and patients. And when clients and fellow veterinarians see the amazing results after adjustments, there’s no denying the benefits.

What would be your biggest piece of advice to those who may want to venture into an “alternative” career in the equine industry?

  • Chelsea: Know your limits, set business hours, save everything, and you CAN say no!
  • John: The biggest piece of advice is don’t be late, don’t expect to leave, and plan on working harder than you have ever worked in your life. If you are not willing to do all of those things, go get another job.
  • Eric: My advice applies to any job or career: Show up. On time. Ready to work. Ask appropriate questions. LISTEN to the answers. Work to get better. See a problem that you’re comfortable fixing? Fix it. Be as self-sufficient as possible, without exactly going rogue. Volunteer. Get a sense of how a show flows. There are a dozen jobs — paid and volunteer — that you likely have never heard of; ask about those.
  • Dr. Gawley: Follow your heart and believe in yourself. If it’s something you as a horse person see a need for, other horse people will likely see it too. Be willing to commit and work really, really hard. Many people work two jobs while they are getting their dream career going. Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself. I pursued an intense functional neurology and neuroanatomy post-doctorate training course, while working full time, in order to become certified in spinal manipulative therapy.

What do you do to set yourself apart in the industry from your competition?

  • Chelsea: My goal is to make websites, social media administration, and sponsorship management EASY for my clients. I love to remind them there is no need to recreate the wheel. Let’s focus on what needs to be done and move on.
  • John: What I try very hard to do, and once again it goes back to customer relations, I spent 40+ years at the in-gate. That hasn’t changed a lot. I am out in the field, I know if you have a bad day or a good day, I am there to support you and cheer you on. The entire staff has been instructed to be the same way. We are hands on.
  • Eric: Well, I try my best to follow the advice I’ve outlined above! To be honest, I really don’t see the other announcers I work with as my competitors. They have all been very kind, generous with their advice and assistance, and fun to work with.
  • Dr. Gawley: I am one of only a few veterinarians certified in spinal manipulative therapy in the area. Also, I do small animal medicine, surgery and chiropractic, but my horse work is exclusively chiropractic. That allows other veterinarians to refer horse cases to me for chiropractic, without feeling like I will take their clients. I strongly recommend owners seek a veterinarian certified in spinal manipulative therapy to provide this care.

What has been your proudest moment since starting your own business?

  • Chelsea: Launching the Midsouth Eventing and Dressage Association is, so far, my proudest moment. Since the website went live in January 2016, we have seen a significant increase in engagement and membership. It has truly been incredibly rewarding and humbling to work with the MSEDA.
  • John: I guess the proudest moment is when one of the dads stopped me and asked me if I was John McQueen. And I said, “Well that depends are you happy or are you mad?” Every Thursday during the winter we do Free Soup Thursday, it’s my way of giving back to people who are coming to my horse shows. And he said, “I just want to thank you. I’ve never had a horse show manager offer me a saltine cracker, but you gave me a bowl of soup and saltines to go with it!” That was my key that I was right with the goal of customer service because they were hunting me down to thank me.
  • Eric: Any time I can fix something that was not previously working, and it makes the show just a little better, or life a little easier for the organizer, that’s a win. When I can help a competitor or volunteer smile, that’s always a big thing for me. Overall, though, I think I am proudest that the organizers I work for trust me, trust that once I step on to the show grounds I am there to work and happy to take on almost anything they need.
  • Dr. Gawley: My proudest moment is always when my patients feel, move and behave better as a result of being adjusted. When I can help these athletes maintain peak performance, or when I can help resolve a roadblock that was pain based, there is nothing more gratifying! Some of my best outcomes include a mare who was extremely head shy, improved tremendously after I adjusted her neck; a horse who started bucking when going into the canter, stopped after his pelvic misalignment was resolved; and a dressage horse who didn’t want to flex to the right, improved after releasing the shoulder.

It is never too late to pursue your own dream, so take these helpful tips, trips, and potential career paths in mind and forge ahead! There are many ways to immerse yourself in the industry, so take your passion and make it a career. And most of all — never give up! Just because it is hard doesn’t mean it is not worth it.

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Best of JN: What it Means to be Adult Ammy Strong

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Photo by Sassy Strides Photography.

Sarah Mahoney caught the riding bug at the age of seven after attending a week long ‘pony-camp.’ At the end of the week, she found herself crying her eyes out because camp had concluded and she wouldn’t be seeing the horses again. After seeing how much riding meant to her, her parents made arrangements with one of the trainers at the camp to allow her to come out and work at the barn in order for her to learn as much about horses as possible–and that’s where it all began.

Ten years later, she was still riding with that trainer and had even purchased her first pony and made it through the pony hunter ring on him. As it often happens, however, adulthood snuck up on Sarah. At the age of 17 she sold her ponies as she prepared to attend college in North Carolina. She still finds herself teary-eyed thinking about those ponies loading up on a trailer knowing they would never return. Sarah tried her hardest to make time for horses in her life and even rode a handful of times while in college, but her time playing NCAA Division II volleyball made it difficult to have horses in her life.

After college, Sarah coached a variety of high school and club volleyball teams, but volleyball had taken its toll on her physically. After moving from Florida to Georgia to be with her now husband, she decided to take some time away from the court only to find herself without a hobby to consume her time. On a whim, she scheduled a riding lesson at a local hunter/jumper barn.

Sarah recalls telling her husband after the lesson, “I can’t believe I hadn’t gotten in the saddle in 10 years. I forgot how much I loved the sport, the horses, and the barn atmosphere.” That lesson was the hook, line and sinker. Sarah found herself 100% submerged back into the equestrian lifestyle.

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Photo by Sassy Strides Photography.

While riding in Georgia, Sarah made many friends, several of whom were also Adult Amateurs. They bonded over many of the same struggles as devoted but busy horse lovers, in particular balancing their passion with  ‘real world’ responsibilities. At the time Sarah was driving 45 minutes to the barn 2-3 times a week to ride her lease horse at the time. Sarah and her teammates joked about making t-shirts with Adult Ammy Strong on them because of all of their struggles making their dream a reality, but nothing really came from it.

That is, until she and her husband relocated to Florida and she found herself looking for a new job and a new barn. Of course, the job search had to come first because without a job how was she going to pay for equestrian expenses? Her mind flashed back to the motto ‘Adult Ammy Strong’ and she thought to herself that she couldn’t be the only Adult Amateur struggling with balancing their real life with their passion for the equestrian world. Adult Ammy Strong was officially born.

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Photo courtesy of Sarah Mahoney.

Sarah credits the success of Adult Ammy Strong to the fact that it’s a vast demographic of the sport, and yet deeply underrepresented. Juniors are often highlighted for the Equitation and Junior Hunter Finals and professionals will find the limelight when they score big prize money. She knew that AA’s work extremely hard (in more ways than one) to afford their time in the saddle and felt it was important that the community be able to connect to support and celebrate each other.

With the start of a new year, Sarah has plenty of goals in mind–both for herself and Adult Ammy Strong. She has intentions of showing her 2010 Thoroughbred gelding Wow Factor in the Thoroughbred Hunters and wants to dabble in the National Hunter Derbies. Their partnership is still fairly new, as she has only had him for about a year and they have experienced some rough patches along the way. He may not be the easiest of rides, but he makes her a stronger rider. The more they go through, the more excited she grows about their future.

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Photo courtesy of Sarah Mahoney.

As for Adult Ammy Strong, Sarah wants to grow the audience base and continue to share stories that connect, inspire, and support the Adult Amateur community. She has selected the 2017 Adult Ammy Strong ambassador squad and is very eager to see what they will bring to the table this year. They come from all over the country and represent Hunters and Jumpers of all levels of experience, attending everything from local shows to WEF, HITS, and more. She can’t wait to see how they will connect with other Adult Amatuer riders and embody what it really means to be Adult Ammy Strong.

Check out Sarah and all of the Adult Ammy Strong Ambassadors and their stories at www.adultammystrong.com, and you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Jumper Nation offers a dynamic array of engaging content custom curated for hunter/jumper enthusiasts. In addition to aggregated horse show news and results, we feature rider profiles, training tips, barn tours, style guides and much, much more, all complimented by a vibrant social media presence. Check us out today! 

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Best of HN: 10 Scary Things I Have Said To My Horse Show Husband

I write a lot ABOUT the infamous “horse show husband,” but the world rarely gets his perspective. Naturally silent, Wayne happily plods along and nods his head as I blabber on endlessly about all things horses for hours on end. I finally decided it was time for the world to hear (or read, rather) his voice and to place some shame on me for once. So I handed him a notebook and pen and asked him to write down the ten scariest things I have ever said to him and rank them in order from kind of scary to downright terrifying — and he has spoken!

10. “Babe, look at this cute photo I took of Joey at the barn.”

Wayne’s thoughts, “They always look the same and I feel like I am in some kind of trap.”

But....I swear each photo of him gets cuter and cuter! Photo by Meagan DeLisle

But….I swear each photo of him gets cuter and cuter! Photo by Meagan DeLisle

9. “Wayne, can we make a quick trip to the barn today?”

Wayne’s thoughts, “The barn is an hour away. There is no such thing as a ‘quick trip’ to the barn and we are going to drive up there, brush Joey, feed him a treat, take some photos, and drive home. Almost a whole day… gone.”

8. “Hey, the barn offered me a job today.”

Wayne’s thoughts, “Your job is salary, has great benefits, and pays for all of the horse expenses. How the heck are we supposed to make that work?”

7. “Do you think we can set aside some extra money for the horse show next month? I miscalculated.”

Wayne’s thoughts, “Of course you did.”

You can tell by Wayne's face in this horse show selfie that he is absolutely THRILLED about me refusing to tell him where the Show Office is so he won't preemptively look at the bill....Photo by Wayne DeLisle

You can tell by Wayne’s face in this horse show selfie that he is absolutely THRILLED about me refusing to tell him where the Show Office is so he won’t preemptively look at the bill….Photo by Wayne DeLisle

6. “I hate being so far away from Joey, what are the odds of us building a barn on the farm one day?”

Wayne’s thoughts, “You mean the farm that makes us money because we can plant soybeans on it?”

5. “If we did bring him home, he would need a friend. They are herd animals, ya know!”

Wayne’s thoughts, “Sounds like an excuse to get a 2nd horse to me…

4. “Joey needs a blanket, he’s cold. Joey needs his feet done, his toes look awful long. Joey needs more supplements. Joey needs an ‘ovaltine’ pad for his back” (when Wayne was writing these he LEGIT wrote ovaltine instead of Ogivly. I. Am. Dying.).

Wayne’s thoughts, “How did these things survive back when the Indians were the only ones around?”

....he asks all of these things as he carried our beloved late ShihPoo Yoshi around at the horse show so his feet wouldn't get dirty. Photo by Meagan DeLisle

….he asked all of these things as he carried our beloved late ShihPoo Yoshi around at the horse show so his feet wouldn’t get dirty. Photo by Meagan DeLisle

3. “How long do you think until we can buy another horse?”

Wayne’s thoughts, “Your @$$ can only be in one saddle at a time, what is the point of more than one horse?”

2. “Ohhhhh, my new breeches came in the mail today!”

Wayne’s thoughts, “Uhhhh… what new breeches? And what are breeches?… Does she mean britches?”

1. But the worst is when she doesn’t even say anything. The worst of all is when she is looking at her phone and all I hear is ‘clip clop clip clop’ in the background because I know that is going to be followed with, “Ohhhh Wayne look at this horse Amy has for sale!”

Poor poor Wayne never grew up around horses so he didn’t know what he was getting into when he started dating me. But he has taken it like a champ and plays along with me no matter how annoying I can be. And to prove that I am not all that God-awful to be around, he left this little dandy of a note at the bottom of his list of scary things the horse wife says.

“Regardless of all the crazy things you do and say about everything horse related, I love you more than you will ever know. And while it gives me a headache to see money fly into the stall door of that horse with the perpetually dumb look on his face, I am willing to do anything to make you smile…except for cleaning his sheath. I agreed to that before you told me what that was.”

Go horse show husbands.

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A Horse of a Different Color: Repeat the Beat

"A Horse of a Different Color" features horses and ponies that have been successful in the sport of eventing while representing a unique breed. Do you have a horse that you think would be a great feature subject? If so, email [email protected]

Ashley Jones and Pete at FENCE Horse Trials. Photo by Liz Crawley Photography. Ashley Jones and Pete at FENCE Horse Trials. Photo by Liz Crawley Photography.

When Lisa Murray acquired Repeat the Beat, a double-registered Tennessee Walking Horse and Spotted Saddle Horse, from a breeder in Michigan, she was at a loss about what to do with the hot-headed 2-year-old gelding. But as often happens, life rolled out a very unique plan for the pair, and “Pete” found his calling in a place you don’t find many Tennessee Walking Horses: the eventing and hunter/jumper arenas.

Now, at the ripe age of 17, Pete has broken down breed barriers and changed lives along the way — so much so that he is receiving one of the equestrian industry’s greatest honors. Pete, along with select other horses, will be celebrated at Breyerfest 2017 at the Kentucky Horse Park in July and will line the shelves of tack stores as a Breyer model.

Pete has broken the mold associated with the Tennessee Walking Horse, and Lisa aims to continue doing what makes him happy as long as his heart desires: jump.

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Lisa Murray and Pete. Photo by Lauren Duffy.

Different from Day One

Lisa grew up riding in field trials and competing in the show horse industry and has always loved the Tennessee Walking Horse. She heard about Pete through mutual friends, Dr. Harv and Brenda Carlon who bred him (by Pushers Repeat out of My Sophisticated Lady) with the intentions of having a winner in the breed show performance classes. However, the Carlons’ trainer informed them that the horse just wasn’t cut out it.

Pete’s final show ring performance was at the Spotted Saddle Horse World Championships late in the fall where he was crowned Two-Year-Old World Champion. Weeks later, he was on his way to a new life, leased to Lisa Murray and her daughter Jeren, who had plans to trail ride him.

Pete quickly gained the nickname of “Unpredictable Pete” at Lisa’s home. He hated being alone on the trail and was extremely tense. Though he trotted when at liberty, he paced when under saddle.

While some friends from Germany were visiting Lisa they decided to take a trail ride on her 20-acre property. Lisa stayed home to tidy up and when her friends returned a while later, she was happy to see they were all smiles and giggling.

“Pete, we like him! He jumps so nice,” one of her friends told her. Lisa was stunned and questioned which horse they were on, but they kept saying it was “the gray horse, Pete.” She was sure they mistook Pete for her gray Arabian in the field, who had been a former jumper, but they were insistent that it was Pete the Tennessee Walking Horse.

To prove to her their point, they set up a little course in her field and took Pete through in English tack and a plain snaffle bit (Pete had always been ridden in a curb bit). As soon as she saw how happy and relaxed he was going through the course, she knew what she needed to do.

Victoria Bennett-Gomez on Pete at Hunters Court. Photo by FlowingMane Photography.

Victoria Bennett-Gomez on Pete at Hunters Court. Photo by FlowingMane Photography.

Breaking Barriers

Lisa started calling barn after barn after barn, but each time as soon as she told the trainers that she had a Tennessee Walking Horse that she wanted to start jumping, they shut her down. No one wanted to help her.

One day, while driving around, she came across a barn called Runaway Stables and thought to herself, “if anyone could help me, it had to be a barn with a name like this.” To her surprise, the barn owner told her of a young rider by the name of Sarah Mack Clark who “would ride anything” and could probably be of help to her.

Lisa and Sarah became quick friends as Pete progressed in his training. It was decided that Pete would venture into the jumper ring and begin a whole new training regime. Once the Carlons realized Pete had found his place and a lifetime home, they gifted the horse to Lisa.

Pete quickly became popular among young riders, and Lisa had several catch riders on a growing list to would help her show him. While at a horse show in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a young rider by the name of Mawghan McCabe decided to show him in the hunters, just for fun.

To everyone’s surprise, he won.

Lisa and Mawghan were ecstatic, until the judge made an announcement requesting Mawghan come to the judge’s stand. He requested that Mawghan demonstrate a running walk for the spectators to prove the versatility of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed.

It was at that show that Lisa met Heidi Rockhold and her daughter Victoria Bennett (now Gomez). Heidi had also previously shown performance Tennessee Walking horses and wanted to compliment Lisa on Pete, while Victoria requested the opportunity to ride him.

Victoria had great success with Pete in both the hunter and jumper rings. They won the Hunter’s Court Circuit Grand Champion title and were consistent winners in the 3’3” Adult/Junior Equitation division. Pete and Victoria were also winners over fences and on a whim, Victoria decided to go back in for the flat class. Once again, the pair won.

As the team grew, so did Pete’s winnings. Lydia Whitlow Fisher showed Pete in 2005 at the Tennessee Walking Horse Versatility World Championships and won the Hunter Over Fences World Championship title.

In 2006, simultaneous to the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration taking place in Shelbyville, Pete was being ridden by Rebecca “Becca” Hoos at a show at Brownland Farm. It was decided that Becca would enter the jumpers so all she would have to do was walk and canter to avoid any pacing.

Lisa recalled that the course was quite difficult for a .85-meter class and that several eventers were there to school the show jumping in preparation for an upcoming competition. As Pete went into the arena, Lisa overhead a conversation from a few women on the rail who were not aware that she was his owner.

“One woman said, ‘I don’t know what that horse is,’ and the other responded kind of catty, ‘I heard it was a Tennessee Walker,’” Lisa recalled with a sigh.

“I just looked at her and as calmly as I could I said, ‘Yes, he is a Tennessee Walker. I’m not here to prove anything; I just want to know that he can do this. I want him to be happy. There are horses at the National Celebration right now doing a high-stepping gait and I promised this horse that he would never have to live that life again.’”

The woman at the rail actually teared up and replied, “I never thought of it that way.” As if to prove Lisa’s point, Pete came in second place in his jumper class that day out of a hefty division of competitors.

Rachel Norton and Pete during his time with the UK Eventing Team, Photo provided by Rachel Norton.

Rachel Norton and Pete during his time with the UK Eventing Team. Photo provided by Rachel Norton.

It’s All About the Horse

Pete is also a familiar face in the Kentucky eventing scene, and Ashley Jones and Rachel Norton have both competed him for the University of Kentucky eventing team. He has competed regularly at both FENCE Horse Trials and Chattahoochee Hills and can often be spotted at local hunter paces.

In all his years of showing, Pete has gone clean at every licensed eventing or jumping competition he has entered. Despite original concerns that Pete wouldn’t be able to hold his own in eventing due to the gait requirements of the dressage tests, he makes it work — and makes up for what he lacks in cross country and stadium jumping.

“Just look at what these horses are capable of,” Lisa says, pride in her voice. “They don’t have to be padded. They don’t have to wear chains. They can do so much more. Everyone thinks they can’t, but they can.”

In Lisa’s estimation, jumping made Pete confident and erased his unpredictable behavior. Nothing phases him now, and he tries his heart out. When the the trailer pulls up to a trail, he is calm and peaceful, but the moment he sees jumps in the distance he is alert and pawing at the ground, ready to go.

“I have told everyone who has ridden him, ‘Don’t ride him if you’re ashamed of him,’” Lisa said. “They ride him because they love him and because he loves his job. My granddaughters both ride him and he is great for them. And then you can take him into the ring and he can perform.

“In his younger years, this horse was jumping up to 4 feet. He was doing everything he wasn’t supposed to do. And now in addition to jumping, I can take him into a Cowboy Challenge and walk across teeter totters and drag Christmas trees.”

The combination of Pete’s success and his unconventional breed for his chosen disciplines had several of his top supporters encouraging Lisa to reach out to Breyer about him. On a whim, she wrote to the company and told Pete’s story. Her expectations weren’t high, knowing countless deserving horses apply every year, but when she got the phone call that he was to be considered she was ecstatic.

Pete's Breyer model. Photo courtesy of Breyer.

Pete’s Breyer model. Photo courtesy of Breyer.

She contacted all of Pete’s former riders to let them know, and three of his former riders — Chelsea Kolman, Victoria Gomez and Ashley Jones — will be performing demonstrations on him during the 2017 Breyerfest. All of his former riders but one will be able to attend to support the horse that gave them so much and celebrate this monumental honor.

“If we can just change one person’s mind about this breed, we made a difference,” Lisa said. She always wanted to do whatever made Pete happy — the special recognition of the breed just came with the package.

It has been an exciting and life-changing ride with Pete, and Lisa wouldn’t want it any other way. From thinking, “can this horse actually do this?” to watching him bring home ribbon after ribbon, Lisa has always been Pete’s number-one fan. Congratulations to Lisa and Pete on this most deserved honor!

This story originally appeared on EN’s sister site, Horse Nation.

Best of JN: 8 Spots You Won’t Meet in Heaven

When sitting in the stands, jumping looks easy enough. Ride like you know what you’re doing, approach the fence, instill confidence in your horse (and yourself), and jump that sucker. It’s understandable why outsiders to the equestrian world can look at a wonderfully ridden round and say, “That isn’t hard, the horse is doing all the work!”

But we, as the ones on the backs of thousand-pound animals who are deathly afraid of a leaf blowing across the arena, know that the best riders make it look easy. One of the greatest challenges we face when approaching a fence is finding the appropriate distance. I am occasionally guilty of getting in a line that is a little worrisome, forgetting to breathe, and watching in slow-motion as my whole ride goes downhill — sometimes literally. We hear a lot of talk about ‘the perfect spot,’ but what about the other honorable mentions?

The Hail Mary spot:

hailmary

Photo by Kimberly Cornelius

Also known as the ‘oh crap’ distance. There is no scientific reason as to why this happens, but somehow you and/or your horse felt awfully brave and decided to shoot for the moon (literally). If your horse clears this jump, you better go buy all the carrots at the grocery store because they deserve it. And when you get home be sure to wash your breeches thoroughly because they probably need it.


The “OH GOD THERE IS A DRAGON UNDER THERE” spot:

omgtheresadragon

Photo courtesy of Kira Topeka, by Suz Cornue

You could say this is mostly experienced by green horses, when really you can thank the horses with a innate fear of anything and everything.  You as the rider must be prepared for a massive over-jump and then make lots of jokes as you exit the arena about how your horse just hates jumping small as your heart tries to slow down from its dangerous pace.


The “I Jump. You Jump. Remember?” Spot:

youjumpijump

Photo courtesy of Tess Fortune

An ode to one of the classic love tales of all time, only your horse doesn’t know that. Caused by a miscommunication somewhere along the line or a verrrryyy naughtyyyy pony. Either way, one of the two of you is jumping without the other, which can lead to some funny stories you can share later as you ice various parts of your body.


The “I Believe I Can Fly” spot:

ibelieveicanfly

Photo by Katie Powell

Sometimes our horses decide to over jump. Most of the time we aren’t prepared for it. It is in these moments where we learn to grab mane and hold on as we attempt flight for hopefully the first and last time in our lives. Let’s leave the flying up to airplanes, ponies.


The “I Saved You and You Know It” spot:

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Photo courtesy of Natalie Klaver, courtesy of Spotted Vision Photography

This spot is often paired by a very grumpy look from your wonderful mount and your trainer yelling at you from the sidelines “YOU DIDN’T DESERVE THAT.” Your horse deserves all the cookies and love for this grand gesture. I am very guilty of this crime.


The “Emergency Brakes” spot:

ebrakes

Photo by Linda Surmeier

Even worse than bailing out, here your horse demonstrates his ability to be a reiner rather than a jumper and slams on the brakes. Why jump when you can stop?


The “I Forgot How to Jump” spot:

iforgothowtojump

Photo courtesy of Leesa Blank

This could pertain to the horse or the rider and is literal reflection of a brainfart. It is hard to explain how or why these events happen and thanks to great photography, we can study them for many years to come and try to sort out how years of training can disappear in seconds.


Annnnnd my personal favorite,

The WTF spot:

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Photo courtesy of Victoria Anne Gomez, by Heidi Rockhold

There are no words. I cannot tell you what this is or why this is happening…..I think this horse forgot how to horse.

There are so many ways that things can go oh so terribly wrong while jumping. Sometimes all you can do is grab mane and hold on for dear life…..or if you aren’t in the ring grab a camera and take photo of the year!

And if you can’t even make it through the course walk:

coursewalk

Photo courtesy of Shannon Steldt-Schlitz by Alex Plat

…maybe it’s time to consider knitting.

Go Jumping.

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One Hunter Jumper’s Epic Cross Training Lesson with Meghan O’Donoghue

Photo by Wayne DeLisle

Photo by Wayne DeLisle

You can ask my family, I am probably the most unlucky person on the planet. I can’t even win a free ticket on a scratch-off, but despite the handful of lemons life throws my way, every once in a while I manage to land a big win. So when on a wild hair one morning I decided to message pro eventer Meghan O’Donoghue to see if she could squeeze me in for a lesson while she was home for the winter, I never expected her to message me back with an enthusiastic, ”Happy to help!” There I was two Saturdays later loading up my mount Joey into a trailer and making the trip to Le Cheval de Boskydell, Meghan’s home barn, for the lesson of a lifetime.

While in college, I rode for my University’s IHSA Equestrian Team and we would travel to compete against nearby colleges, which is how I met Meghan’s mom, Jill O’Donoghue (coach of the SIUC team). Jill is one of those coaches who always dons a smile, despite your placing, and supports all the riders in our region. With Le Cheval being just a short hour from our home base in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, we were regulars at the schooling shows they host. Even after coming back from my hiatus from riding, Jill spotted me in the crowd and made it a point to give me a big welcome and a hug.

It is easy to admire Jill and in my time getting to know her, I also learned of her family, including her two daughters Meghan and Kelty who were in the pursuits of establishing professional riding careers. It was my junior year in college when Meghan took her own Pirate to their first Rolex and several of us on the team would ooh and ahh when we saw him in the barn on our visits to Le Cheval. I was mesmerized by her success and small-town roots and challenged myself every day to work as hard as she had to make her dreams come true. So when I saw Meghan at one of the Le Cheval schooling shows shortly after my return to the saddle, I decided to get in touch with her in order to help take my big dreams to the next step of becoming reality.

Back to the Basics

My horse, Joey, is a green OTTB with just a year off the track. I am bringing him along in the hopes of moving towards the rated jumpers and he is still in that moldable stage where every ounce of education we can get is beneficial. I rode into that lesson with hopes that by cross training with an Eventer, I would not only gain some great experience in the jumper ring, but also in improving our flatwork skills. I am a firm believer that your horse is only as good over fences as he is responsive on the flat. Thankfully, Meghan shares that thought process!

We started with a good thirty minutes refining Joey’s trot and my canter seat. The first thing Meghan had us tackle was achieving a more aggressive trot. In a majority of the video captured during the lesson you can hear Meghan telling me, “Trot. Trot. More Trot. Make him take you somewhere. More. More.” Just as we adjusted to trotting with a purpose, it was time to perfect our transitions. Our main focus was to be able to slow into the walk without the use of my hands. I struggled with the concept at first, I have relied a lot on my hands in the past which has led to some frustrations, but Meghan continued to encourage me to place my trust in Joey and allow him to understand my body, not just my hands. The first time I loosened my reins and sat back, Joey slowed down. After that successful demonstration, it was time to canter.

Let me tell you, at this point I thought I might be dying. Two days prior to this lesson I read a post by Denny Emerson about the importance of the warm-up and how too many people call a 5-10 minute ride on the flat a warm-up to fences and thought to myself, ‘do people really do thirty minute warm-ups?’ I can now answer that — yes they do, only I don’t so I was pretty darn out of shape.

We talked a lot about my seat and my posture. I can be a bit of a leaner, and Meghan explained how my position on the flat and over fences inhibits Joey from getting into the correct frame. Since purchasing Joey, I have ridden in a half seat because he has always seemed to go forward better. Meghan opted to have me sit, and I truly mean sit, the canter. “Think like dressage,” she said as I considered seat belting my butt to the saddle to make it stay there. At first, Joey and I were both a bit bewildered by the new amount of contact, but then I began to notice how his head was coming up into place without me having to pull him there.

Finding My Seat

Then it was jumping time! Thankfully, after our great warm-up on the flat Joey was not his typically chargy self to the fences. We jumped around a few singles and then Meghan made up some fun courses for us. Reminder- my horse has been jumping hunter courses. So when Meghan assigned us this really cool, but slightly intimidating five-stride bending line in a somewhat S shape, I was sure I was going to die. Joey is game for anything, though, and took each question in stride, even when I struggled to find the right distance the first few times around.

Meghan’s personality made working with her an uplifting experience. As we topped the last fence in the line with the correct striding to each fence, Meghan called out loudly, “Good for you!” Even though my back was to her, I could hear the sincerity in her voice. She was truly happy that I had succeeded at this challenging task. I have seen so many trainers/ professionals use negative reinforcement to ‘teach’ their riders, but this environment was nothing like that.

As we continued to jump courses with new challenges for us to puzzle out, Meghan stressed the importance of me being able to find my seat at the canter, especially before the fence. As Joey grew strung out over a particular line and kept charging out of the first one and barreling into the second, Meghan sent us back out on the rail to work on our canter again. As we came to the corners, Meghan had me picture myself picking up Joey’s ears in preparation for a fence. I did so by pushing my seat down and into my saddle, allowing my body to scoop with the movement, and giving a gentle lift with my hands. Instantly, Joey had his head up and would lock onto the straight-away in front of us.

Photo by Wayne DeLisle

Photo by Wayne DeLisle

 

Then it hit me- up until this point I had been riding Joey comfortably in a half-seat but to compensate for my slight lean (which I am still working on, it’s totally a posture issue on my part), Joey was ducking his head down and becoming too heavy on the forehand. By rocking back and engaging his back, he began to rely on his hind end more and was able to keep his head up in preparation for what was ahead of him. We took the next few fences with this thought in mind and I felt it all click together.

One Step Closer to the Dream

Joey and I had a lot of firsts in this lesson, but we also improved a ton on our basics. From jumping our first skinny (I knew I was going to knock a standard over but, darn, my horse is a perfect saint and didn’t blink at it), to adjusting my posture over the fence, I learned so much in that one hour that will continue to impact my future riding goals with Joey.

The best part of the whole day was that while I was afraid I was going to be nervous, I wasn’t. Meghan made this lesson such a positive experience and never made me feel like I am just some wanna-be jumping 2-foot fences with unobtainable dreams of the Grand Prix ring. My legs were wobbly when I dismounted, but I couldn’t stop beaming. What an exhilarating and enlightening experience! My husband and my coach attended the lesson with me (Wayne was the designated videographer, Cassie was excited to watch and learn from another professional) and even they were excited about mine and Joey’s future after seeing him adapt to these new challenges with ease.

Being a small town girl, it was so inspirational to ride with another small-town girl who made her dreams come true. Meghan was so welcoming to work with and riding with another trainer gave me a lot of positive things to work on and a new perspective on my partnership with Joey. I am so very thankful for the opportunity to get to ride with Meghan and hope to ride with her again one day.

Until then, you will see me sitting on a cushion because nothing will break in your tailbone more than cantering like a Dressage rider. You win, Dressage … You win.


Meagan DeLisle is a regular contributor at our sister site, Jumper Nation. To see more of her adventures and interviews, be sure to swing by and check out JumperNation.com!

Best of JN: Making a Maclay Winner – Exclusive Interview with Hunter Holloway


Hunter Holloway and C’est La Vie at the CP National Horse Show. Photo by Taylor Renner/Phelps Media

Everyone has a unique story about how they got into equestrian sports, but Hunter Holloway can’t remember a day where horses were not in her life. In fact, she told JN that her mom fell off of a horse the day before she was born! It takes a strong support team and years of hard work and dedication to create a champion, both of which Hunter was able to lean on. A lifetime in the saddle and a supportive family who always encouraged her to pursue her dreams helped her get to that victory gallop on Sunday, November 6th when she was dubbed the 2016 Maclay Champion.

Hunter told JN, “this [riding competitively] was what I always wanted. I can’t imagine my life any other way.” It hasn’t always been as glamorous as competing at the Kentucky Horse Park at one of the equestrian industry’s most prestigious events, however.

Photo courtesy of Hunter Holloway on Instagram.

Photo courtesy of Hunter Holloway on Instagram.

On a typical summer morning, Hunter is usually in the barn by 7AM and starts riding around 8AM. She normally rides anywhere from 8-10 horses a day, ranging from her own string, clients horses at the barn, re-sale projects, and young greenies.

Around the 6th grade, her traveling schedule for shows became more intense and she and her mother/trainer made the executive decision to pursue an online education for her so she would be able to show year round. “It took a lot of dedication,” she claims, “but it was worth it!”

Dedication seems to be a great word to use when describing Hunter. She grew up in Topeka, Kansas, not exactly the worlds largest equestrian hub, and rides/trains out of her mother Brandie Holloway’s barn. “It can be difficult,” she said when describing working with her mother as her trainer, “but I wouldn’t want it any other way. We had to learn how to balance the roles. She is my trainer when I am on the horse and my mom when I am off the horse.” The strong foundation her mother set for her and her massive amount of support made Hunter the rider she is today.

By the age of 12, Hunter had won her first Grand Prix — a goal many competitors won’t accomplish until well into their adult years, if at all — but Hunter spoke of the win humbly. There is nothing about this young woman that doesn’t reflect the character that has been instilled in her through years of hard work.

Watch: Hunter Holloway and Argentina in Hunter’s first Grand Prix win, the $25,000 Dallas Harvest Horse Show GP. 

It was around that age that the Holloways made the connection with Don Stewart of Don Stewart Stables in Florida. Hunter formed a working connection with him and he took her on as one of his students when she was in Ocala and traveling for indoors. That partnership was a stepping stone in her career.

Hunter’s heart is in the Jumpers and she speaks of her many days in the Grand Prix ring without the slightest hint of hesitation in her voice, but the Equitation ring is a different story. “Equitation actually makes me more nervous,” she said with a giggle. “Which is strange because the courses are only set to 3’6” and I am used to jumping Grand Prix!”

She tells JN that when those nasty nerves creep up, she always remembers that the biggest competition you have is yourself. She likes to listen to music and focus on her rides as she waits for her turn to make her round, but she has a great amount of help from her team to keep her calm and collected. “Don is known for his humor! He always seems to crack a joke at the in gate which helps get my mind off of my nerves.” Hunter’s positive outlook has been a contributor to her success, and says that even when she inevitably makes mistakes, she keeps persevering.

That perseverance had to play a big role on the Friday before the initial Maclay testing when her mount Any Given Sunday came up with a fever. “He just didn’t feel right,” she said, “we were warming up and he wasn’t off, but I knew something wasn’t right.” She continued saying she was more upset over the illness of her beloved mount who has been in the Holloway family since he was 5 than she was nervous about riding a new horse in the finals.

Watch: Hunter Holloway and Any Given Sunday Reserve Championship Performance in 2015 Pessoa/US Medal Finals

The handsome gray the she won atop of, C’est La Vie, was her backup. He was actually purchased right before USEF Finals as a resale prospect and was clipped the day before the competition began. Despite the last minute switch, Hunter was smooth and polished and rode her way to the win with ease.

For now, Hunter is winding down and soaking in the reality of her new accomplishment, but she won’t be that way for long. She has her ambitions set high with planning her future career as a competitive equestrian (she has yet to decide if she wants to move on as a Professional or start off as an Amateur) and deciding which online college program to enroll in. She is happy for now being a hometown girl in Kansas, but this won’t be the last we see of her. That passion for horses instilled in her from before her birth will live on past the Maclay win and we should expect great things from her in the future.

Watch: Hunter Holloway’s winning ride in the Maclay earlier this month: