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‘Get Good Help’: Chelsea Canedy Launches New England Spring Symposium

Chelsea Canedy and Unexpected. Photo by KTB Creative Group.

In May of 2021, the first annual New England Spring Symposium will be held at Unexpected Farm in Wales, Maine. Each year, this event will bring two internationally known equestrian professionals together for a full weekend of immersive education in varying disciplines.

This year they are hosting ICP Certified Instructor and Olympic Team Reserve rider, Sinead Halpin, along with shortlisted Canadian Eventing Team Rider, two-time Thoroughbred Makeover Freestyle Winner and author, Tik Maynard. The topic for this event will be: The First Year of Competition for Horse, Rider or Combination. Perfectly timed at the beginning of the 2021 New England show season, this weekend will be full of learning opportunities for riders and auditors alike.

With two rings going, vendors and food trucks, this is essentially a mini Equine Affaire. After a year with little or no competition and clinics, we are thrilled about this new event.

To get the inside scoop, we sat down with founder Chelsea Canedy of Canedy Performance and Horsemanship. But first, here’s how Tik Maynard describes Chelsea, her work and her new farm:

“Chelsea combines her knowledge of competition, horsemanship and mindfulness in a unique way. Chelsea is a constant learner, which I love.  She has super feel. She finds a great balance between understanding the demands of competition and knowing when to back off to give the horse more time.  Chelsea has a truly unique and powerful approach to teaching. The best reference I could give her is that I would love her to teach my own son when he is ready.

“In addition to Chelsea’s teaching ability there is also her new farm. Which is gorgeous. I have no doubt it will quickly become a destination facility for students from all over the North East. A place to learn, to host clinics, and for people to not only become better riders, but to become the best versions of themselves.”

EN: Tell us a little about your background, Chelsea.

CC: I grew up in Connecticut, and started riding when I was about 11. I was a member of Litchfield Pony Club, and earned my H-A certificate before leaving for college. I rode and taught lessons through those four years, while I earned my Bachelor of Fine Art degree. And then I jumped headlong into horses!

I ran a farm in Northeastern Tennessee, where my eyes were opened to some horsemanship ideas and tools that I had never seen before, and then went over the nearby border into Virginia where I expanded my business into a larger facility. I remained there for several years and during that time, brought along project horses from the track and other careers into eventing. I had several horses move up to the Preliminary level before being sold for their owners, and was also able to ride up the levels in dressage, which really helped my eventing game! I was also lucky enough to meet a wonderful client who brought me on to run her private farm and show her amazing horses. I was working there when I met my now husband, and soon after it was clear that we needed to move back to the northeast where both our families were, for various reasons.

At this same time, I was doing a lot of soul searching about my personal goals in life and in the horse world specifically, and this led me to exploring meditation, which became a huge part of my life going forward. When we moved to Maine, I backed off from horses as my sole profession, and pared it down to teaching just a few clients, while working in social service. But over the last 10 years, while I have also had two children, my clientele has grown and my business is full-time horses again … though now I can say I am in this business in a much healthier and more sustainable way than I was in my early days, which allows me to help my horses and my clients so much more effectively!

EN: Unexpected Farm, the name of your facility, what’s the story there?

CC: Well, I had a horse named Eddie, who’s show name was Unexpected … When I saw him the first time, he was so unhealthy and homely, but when he moved, I thought “that was unexpected!” That horse taught me so much. He had a lot of baggage and quirks, and I had to get way out of my usual training box to work with him. It was really challenging at times, and also the most rewarding relationship with a horse I think I’ve ever had. I sold him in May of 2020, when I realized my goals and his abilities weren’t in alignment. He went to the literal perfect home, and letting him go still kicked my butt. I so loved that horse!

It was around that same time that my husband and I started tentatively looking at farms, which was NOT in our 2020 plans at all. The whole thing unfolded over many months, with A LOT of paperwork and finagling. When it looked like all of the impossible things that needed to align for the whole thing to come together were actually going to fall into place, one of my students asked me about a farm name. When I said I had no idea where to begin, she asked if maybe there was a special horse I could name it after. I immediately thought of Eddie … Unexpected. It was perfect on so many levels. The whole fact that we were buying a farm was completely unexpected at that moment in our lives, and so was the fact that it actually came together!

We also bought a real diamond in the rough, which is exactly like Eddie. Quirky, with plenty of issues, but so full of character and potential that you can’t help but love it. Every time I tell someone the farm name, I think of Ed and of this crazy journey our family has been on, and all at the same time I feel shocked, amazed, proud, and grateful.

EN: What inspired you to create the New England Symposium and what are your goals with this event?

CC: I used to live in Virginia, basically within three to five hours of every major event in the southeastern U.S. And then I moved to Maine. There was one rated event here when I moved, and it has since stopped running. There’s not a lot going on in the way of upper-level eventing in this area. But I know there are people here who want to connect with that world! I want to bring that level of education and professionalism to this area. I strive to do that with my farm each day, and especially with the clinicians I bring here.

We get a slow start to the show season in Maine, since we basically can’t ride outside until April (if we’re lucky)! I wanted to create something that people look forward to each year as they emerge from the long winters and dust of their show clothes. I want it to be something that helps them step out on the right foot for the season … inspired and confident, with new ideas and tools to apply.

I want the Symposium to be an event that people from all over New England look forward to every year, not just if they have a horse to ride in it, but also to just come and be a part of. I want it to be something that breathes life into the horse industry and community in Maine, and shows people that what we have to offer isn’t all that far away, and is so worth the drive!

EN: We love Tik and Sinead — how did you pick them, and what will go into choosing the next clinicians?

CC: I have been so lucky to get to know Tik and Sinead over the past few years after connecting with Tik at Equine Affaire. I have been having him up to Maine to teach clinics regularly over the past 2 ½ years, and have been fortunate to spend time at Copperline Farm, Tik and Sinead’s home base, in the winters.

Tik and I actually came up with the idea for a yearly event like this while talking about my desire for more regular help with my own riding. He basically said “if it’s not here, then bring it here!” We have already brainstormed a list of clinicians that would be amazing to have, so get ready!

As far as having Tik and Sinead for the inaugural event, our work is so aligned in terms of our emphasis on horsemanship and our thoughts about that training process that it was a no-brainer for me to ask them. We were supposed to kick this off in 2020, but we all know what happened there.  The delay means that I now get to host the first New England Spring Symposium at Unexpected Farm, which is both thrilling and daunting!

EN: Advice for the younger equestrian generation?

CC: Go slowly and learn from the ground up. Things will come together much more quickly if you take your time with the foundation, and if you build it carefully, your plans won’t collapse as they grow. Learn how horses learn. Learn about animal behavior and training techniques. It will make everything you try with your horse make more sense, and your horse will thank you for it! When things get hard, slow down. Break things down into smaller questions that both you and your horse have a chance of getting right. Build both of your confidences this way. Get good help. Don’t be afraid to make a change to get the help you and your horse need.

EN: That sounds like solid advice for all of us! Anyone you would like to thank?

CC: Absolutely! I would like to say thank you to my sponsors, Prestige Italia and 100x Equine. Also a huge heap of gratitude to my husband, Nick, who is non horsey but always supportive and incredibly hard-working. And of course, to my amazing students and clients who have stuck by me through the move to the new farm, and in particular, Katie Liscovitz, my “life manager,” without whom none of this would be running smoothly!

 Thank you for taking the time to talk, Chelsea. Congrats on your farm and we’ll see you at the Symposium in May!

There are still auditing tickets available for the Symposium. These can be purchased here.

For vending and sponsorship options, contact Chelsea Canedy (email: [email protected])