Eventers are comfortable with contradictions. Fast out of the start box; slow down the center line. Heat things up with fitness work; cool things off with ice boots. Up the adrenaline on cross country; become careful and thoughtful in show jumping.
Angela Mitchell (professionally Angela M. Catanzaro, A.C.E.) may not have been an eventer her whole life, but she’s definitely been living the life of one. Born in Los Angeles, but having grown up in the midwest, she was that fairytale girl who got a pony for her seventh birthday.
“He was a young Appaloosa with almost no training and was a bit much for a seven year old,” she recalls. “I think my dad may have traded a tractor for him (and his saddle). But from the moment I kissed his muzzle, I was a horse girl for life.”
As cool as it would be for the eventing chapter of the fairytale to have started with this pony and have them rocked up the levels, it was a hunter trainer who took up residence in Angela’s little western barn. She found herself competing in Pony Hunters across the midwest at facilities like the Kentucky Horse Park and Lamplight, where she was literally sharing space with eventing.
But just like a typical meet-cute situation, it would be years before she’d realize where fate would lead.
Soon, the lure of teenage life would draw her out of the barn and onto the path back to her West Coast roots. While attending UCLA she fell in love with the movie industry, and became a film and television editor after completing school.
The long days, fluid schedules, and variety of personalities of the film industry felt similar to the barn life that she loved as a young equestrian. Not wanting to be a ‘one trick pony’, her portfolio includes a range from horror films to television dramas — but even the wide variety of projects on her roster couldn’t keep her from the nagging feeling that she needed some time back with horses.
“The smell is really the thing that always gets you. I feel like after you’ve been away from it for a while, there is nothing that gives you greater comfort than that horse smell,” she muses.
Comforted by the smell and a lesson pony named Bows, she eased her way back into lessons, which became weekends at the barn, which morphed into a part lease, and then a full lease — and then she became a horse owner.
She was hooked — again.
By chance, the barn Angela had started back at was one that was eventing focused. A self-described adrenaline junkie, she immediately fell in love with the rush of cross country, and has acquired an appreciation for the nuances of dressage.
“My first event I went to, I really had no idea what I was doing, everything was happening so fast,” Angela says. “My mind was just exploding with all the things I needed to do. I don’t even think I brought buckets. I didn’t bring buckets! I was very unprepared. But it’s one of those things: you’re either hooked right away, or you learn quickly it’s not for you. I was hooked.”
She would soon get the opportunity to learn from a schoolmaster, Nicodemus, who taught her the fine art of running fast at big fences. They partnered for her first Preliminary, and finished in the top twenty at the 2019 American Eventing Championships where she was able to experience the magnificent Kentucky Horse Park again, this time as an eventer.
The education Nicodemus provided, Angela is now sharing with Cornwall Cormint, an imported gelding that she’s introducing to the life of three phases — a process that provides new perspective. “It drives me more than the competitions or the results — the bond with him, and seeing him understand and really trust me,” she explained.
For Angela, there is dependence, not balance between her life as an eventer and her professional role as an editor. “I’m in a dark room all day looking at computer screens, and more than anything I just need to be out in the world,” she says. “So there are times when I can try to race out to the barn to get a ride in, but I know if I get that email or I get that call, I’m going to have to pack it up and head back. I’ve taken a conference call on the back of a horse, but who hasn’t?”
Trying to find enough time to be a good editor and also get the time she needs in the barn requires creative scheduling, a great team of people, and familiarity with the pavement. “I shouldn’t say that work gets in the way of my horse pursuits, it should be the other way around — but that’s how I see it!”
Careful planning, a husband that understands the time demands, and purchasing a living quarters trailer where they can pack up the dogs and head several hours to a competition or clinic have made the adventures slightly less complicated and lots more fun.
Angela does manage to occasionally find work/life crossover, often in unusual ways — her mare’s squeal made the final cut of the Predator’s vocalizations in the movie Prey. (All mares around the world are now jealous, we reckon!)
Angela may be comfortable with her creative scheduling, but living and competing in Area 6 has its own share of challenges. “Most of the events out here are at least two and sometimes three days, which is really hard to make work when you have to work those Thursdays and Fridays,” she says. “And as an editor, no one else is doing my job so I can’t be like ‘oh, can you cover for me?’.”
This year’s scheduling may become especially ‘creative’ for Angela, as she has goals of her first FEI competition on her mind. “I spend a lot of time just figuring out how to make it work without sacrificing the well being of my horse. But that’s the thing. If you love something, you’ll figure out a way to make it work.”