Gillian Warner
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Gillian Warner


About Gillian Warner

I'm a 17 year old eventer and show jumper. I compete at training level and in the High Children's jumpers. I am a HB/B USPC member. I have two horses; Erin and Putt. Erin is my dressage mount, a 17 year old QH mare. Putt is my new eventing partner, a 9 year old TB gelding.

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area Area 2
Highest Level Competed Training
Trainer Mara DePuy

Latest Articles Written

White Knuckles, Why Not? Learning to Drive a Horse Trailer

Driving a car is one thing, but driving a horse trailer, loaded with precious animals, is on a completely different level. It’s terrifying, and feels much, much different than driving a car. You have to be more aware, and prepared, in order to make stops and stay away from annoying drivers. Even though it’s a stressful task, it’s one that many equestrians are bound to have to learn.

After growing up driving trucks and trailers around the farm, I was ready to hit the road with a trailer, and a horse. As we were heading back from one of our many horse adventures, my mom asked if I wanted to give it a go.

“Sure, why not?” I responded, unknowing of the white-knuckled situation I just got myself into.

As I sat down in front of the wheel, I was feeling confident. My mom was right next to me, and my trusty steed, Putt, was happily hanging out in the trailer. I switched into drive and pulled out onto the road. I then realized just how terrifying it was. I didn’t want to mess up!!

Smiling? Or grimacing?

Smiling? Or grimacing?

My first trailer driving experience was sink or swim. Without remembering, my mom put me in charge at the hardest part of the drive. We were on back roads, with many, many curves, driving right on the edge of a cliff where the pavement had started to break away.

... Don't look down...

Don’t look down …

If that wasn’t nerve-wracking enough, we came to a one-way underpass bridge where I couldn’t see oncoming traffic. Good way to learn, huh?

OK, Mom.

OK, Mom.

Luckily, I was able to safely maneuver my way through that obstacle course, and the rest of the drive went well. I don’t think I went over 30 mph, but one step at a time, right?

If you’re getting ready to go out on a trailer adventure, make sure to check everything on your trailer and car to make sure you have the safest trip possible. If you’re going on your first trailer adventure, I would recommend driving somewhere easy first, not on a twisty-turny, narrow cliff road!

Safe travels!

About Gillian: I’m a 17-year-old eventer and show jumper. I compete at Training Level and in the High Children’s Jumpers. I am a HB/B USPC member. I have two horses: Erin and Putt. Erin is my dressage mount, a 17-year-old QH mare. Putt is my new eventing partner, a 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding.

Role Models and Mentors

With Michael Jung’s recent Grand Slam win, and the Olympics coming up right around the corner, the eventing world is incredibly busy. The world’s top riders are in the spotlight, highlighting their journeys to the biggest events in the world.

It’s inspiring to hear about the struggles and successes of these athletes, and many prove that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.

Having the opportunity to course walk with Jimmy Wofford and to see some of the world’s best riders at Rolex was so inspiring!

Having the opportunity to course walk with Jimmy Wofford and to see some of the world’s best riders at Rolex was so inspiring! Photo by Gillian Warner.

Having our top riders popping up over every inch of our social media accounts has had me thinking about how important it is for them to have a good presence online, and throughout our community in general, as it has a strong effect on their fan base and support team.

It’s not only important for business, but also for the next generation to see. The current upper level riders are the role models for our next generation of competitors, and how they act is setting an example for the younger riders that will one day take their place.

I’ve been extremely lucky to have had some great role models, coaches, and mentors to help and support me in the process of fulfilling my goals. The people you surround yourself with really affects how you act and respond to different challenges.

Looking forward to the year ahead with Mara DePuy!

Looking forward to the year ahead with Mara DePuy!

A role model doesn’t have to be a top rider; he/she should just be someone who inspires you to work harder, laugh louder, and go for your dreams, whatever those dreams may be.

Role models are there to help you through the bad times, and cheer you on in the good times. Sometimes our role models are taken from us far too soon, as the eventing world has experienced at Jersey Fresh, and a few other times this year already.

The riders we have lost will live on with us, as we will continue to strive to make them proud and remember them as their bravery inspires us as we ride.

We need each other in this sport through the high points, low points, and suffocating heartbreak. We need to look up to those who push us to be the best we can be, but everyone has the responsibility to support our friends, competitors, and eventing family.

We cheer as one, mourn as one, and work as one. We’re all in this sport for the love of the horse, and we all share the same drive and passion. We can all be role models, friends, and family; together we are a team.

Learning to Grow From Your Mistakes

Photo by Gillian Warner. Photo by Gillian Warner.

As riders, I believe we all have perfectionist tendencies. We work so hard, dedicate so much to our sport, and give up so much to live this lifestyle.  It’s easy to become so focused that one little hiccup can feel like it upsets everything! However, mistakes are made, and while it’s hard for perfectionists to accept, we have to realize we can’t avoid them. They’re bound to happen.

But we learn from our mistakes, and they do honestly let us grow. They give us the tools and knowledge to deal with later situations … we become more experienced.

Last weekend at Pine Top, I had the most educational event that I’ve had so far. “Educational” can sometimes be code for “not the best,” but actually my educational weekend provided me with the best show jumping and cross country rounds I’ve had to date.

A rider error picked us up time penalties in show jumping, but as Tamie Smith has stated, “It’s easier to fix the rider than the horse.” While I was disappointed by the penalties, I’m so lucky to have such an amazing partner in Putt, and glad that the little mistake of the weekend is an easy fix!

This weekend offered many lessons. I learned so much about my riding, Putt, and our partnership, and, although it was challenging, my mistake gave me the opportunity to put everything into perspective.

As I was walking back to my trailer after hearing about my time penalties, I worked on processing what happened. I saw two things I could do: focus on the negative and let it ruin my weekend, or pat Putt, and focus on what a good boy he was. I chose to focus on the positive.

While I was frustrated with myself about the penalties, I had to accept that they happened and move on. I chose to focus on Putt’s fantastic performance, and how well we worked together. I feel as though this weekend helped everything click, and I felt the training and tips we’ve received really solidify in all three phases. I felt myself become more of a thinking rider throughout the weekend which, to me, was more rewarding than our final placing.

Photo by Gillian Warner.

Photo by Gillian Warner.

I realized how lucky I was to have the opportunity to come down to Aiken to train, and to compete with my friends, family, and other people I admire. Just because a mistake was made doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. As I plan to be in the horse world forever, I chose to see my mistake this weekend as a learning experience to help me in the future.

It’s important to remember this and take a step back to appreciate all of the progress you’ve made. In a world that moves so quickly, it’s easy to forget to take a moment to look around. Take the time to really think about where you are, who you’re with, and how you got to where you are.

I'm so thankful for my best friends!

I’m so thankful for my best friends!

Own your mistakes and grow from them. It’s not making the mistake that’s important, but how you respond to it that forms you, and your character. Celebrate your steps forward, and be grateful for the opportunities you’re given. Focus on the positive!

Forward, Confident Decisions

I set out to write this blog about how I wanted to become more decisive … that was a month ago. Why did it take so long? Partially because of multiple school finals (I was drowning in various subjects … Pre-Calc, German, Chemistry, etc.) but also because I was actually indecisive on how to start this blog.

So I got a little frustrated. How was I supposed to write a blog about being decisive when I couldn’t even decide how to write it?!

In a form of procrastination, I spent my Saturday night watching the cross country phase of the 2010 Badminton Horse Trials, studying the riders and how they rode through so many difficult questions. There were spills and refusals, but there were also a lot of inspiring jumps and clear lines.

Badminton helped me write because it made me realize that being decisive and clear is an enormous part of riding, especially when it comes to cross country. Now, I know that might sound obvious, but it forced me to just sit down and write; I just need to go for it.

And I’m going to challenge myself in my riding to do the same — to ride more forward and have the guts and confidence that my horse needs to succeed. I’m very much a perfectionist, and I notice that I mainly start having issues when I get in my head and overthink every little detail. As riders, we do have instincts for what the right feeling is. We need to trust it. Kick on, and ride forward.

If we get stuck overthinking everything, how can we be clear to our horse? Horses don’t speak our same language, but they’re very in-tune to our body. If we question ourselves, they’ll question the situation, which can then lead to a murky, unsure performance and dangerous results. If we’re confident in our own mind, our horses will connect with us and ooze confidence themselves.

Saying “be more decisive, clear, confident and forward” is definitely easier said than done. I have found a trick for this, though. If I feel myself lack confidence, and it starts to affect my riding and horse, I try to imagine myself in the shoes of one of my favorite riders. What would William Fox-Pitt do? Michael Jung? Mary King? It relaxes me to picture their riding, and I gain confidence by almost faking the confidence until it becomes real.

The other trick, which I always do and I always recommend doing, is to work hard. As well-known and well-respected hunter/jumper trainer Karen Healey said at the USHJA Emerging Athletes Program this summer, “Perfect practice makes your horse perfect. Imperfect practice doesn’t make perfect.” Work hard and practice, practice, practice (perfectly) to get better.

Photo by Tricia Booker

Photo by Tricia Booker

The more you work, the more solid your foundation becomes, and you will gain confidence and your horse’s trust. Make the decision to set a training program, stick to it, and you will succeed.

Having a Long Distance, Horsey BFF

Between traveling around for events, going to different clinics, and the random ‘I kind of know you (?)’ friend requests on Facebook, we’re bound to make new friends in the horse world… most likely all around the world!

Some of these friendships can turn into a strong best friend relationship, as other horse people understand your crazy ways. While it’s sometimes always difficult when you can’t physically be with your long distance horsey BFF, there are some bright sides to having support hours away.

1. You’ll always have a home away from home.

2. You have, and are, the best cheerleader, groom, supporter, therapist, dance partner…

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Your BFF will always be there for you to help you with whatever you need.

3. They’re a great travel buddy, and make long trips better, as you have SO MUCH to catch them up on since the last time you saw them.

“I need to cover the last 6 months in 5 minutes.”

4. They offer a unique perspective on your ‘normal life’ issues, as they know everything about your life, but are somewhat disconnected from the situation. They also help consider the effects that your ‘normal’ decisions would have on your horsey life.

-Charlotte Dujardin

-Charlotte Dujardin

Your long distance horsey BFF will always help you keep your priorities straight.

5. You’ve become masters of texting, FaceTime, and longgggg phone calls.

We can talk about nothing and everything for forever.

6. Your friendship teaches you life skills, such as clear communication, planning and sticking to a plan (when you have a plan to catch up), and understanding (if/when the plan falls through).

7. When in difficult times, they’re always there to wish for Aiken to come faster….

8. …. and they’re there to dream about skipping responsibilities to just make the trip down south NOW.

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9. They support potentially unrealistic plans for the future.

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10.Your Snapchat game is STRONG.

11. Your other friends and family members seldom ask ‘who are you texting?’, as they probably already know the answer.

12. While they might not be ACTUALLY by your side, they are always just a quick text away!

13. And while missing them makes you feel like this…

14. The countdown to when you see them next always keeps you motivated.

See you in:

Thanks, Em, for everything you do! Can’t wait to see you again soon!

The Guide to Getting to Know a New Horse

Ahh how exciting! New possibilities, new adventures … it’s the honeymoon stage. It’s like having a crush on a cute boy in school, but it’s also about as uncomfortable as that awkward first date: getting a new horse.

First off, congratulations! You’ve set out on an amazing new journey. However, it can definitely be nerve wracking. After all, you have to learn how to trust a very large animal very quickly. It’s strange. But no worries! You got this. There are some stages that you might want to consider in your new chapter.

You’ll be overwhelmed with excitement. “Oh my goodness, he’s so PRETTY!” “Aw look how cute!” Which is all true. Countless pictures, videos and praise will be gushing out of you and into your friends, trainers and strangers. Embrace the PDA.

Look how cute he is!

Look how cute he is!

You might have to (get to?) purchase some new tack. Blankets, and saddles, and bridles, oh my! If your new horse doesn’t fit in your old horse’s equipment, or if this is your first horse, be prepared to go shopping. TIP: Write out a list, as if grocery shopping, to keep your focus on what you NEED. Maybe wear some blinders before entering the tack store so you don’t get distracted.

Gillian 2

Getting to know the horse around the barn and under saddle is a different experience too. Your new horse might not be similar to your previous horse. You need to relearn all of the quirks, favorite things and passionate dislikes of the horse … usually through trial and error.

In a SAFE setting, you have to go through things that might have been second nature to you and your old mount. Easy and comfortable tasks such as tacking up, hacking, leading the horse and feed routines will have shifted.

You’ll need to learn if the horse has issues with his or her face being brushed, or if there’s a certain kind of treat that they go CRAZY for, or a kind they hate. Maybe they’re scared of plastic bags, or cats or little kids. Getting to know a horse takes time. A solid relationship is never rushed.

Gillian 3

Getting a new horse is incredibly exciting. It’s a special bond where both horse and rider have to adjust to trust and respect one another. It’s a connection where I have trusted and fallen in love with an animal faster than I could have imagined. There are so many possibilities!

Just remember to be patient and look at the world from the horse’s point of view as well; everything has changed for both of you! Best of luck in your new partnership. And welcome home, Putt!

Perks of Eventing

Nothing else like cross country! Nothing else like cross country!

Equestrian sports in general are special; the dedication, passion, and insanity of the participants are out of this world compared to some other “normal” sports. Between the amount of money we spend on our horses, our clothes, and literally anything you can think of, equestrians are a rare breed; we’re like crazy cat ladies — but our “cats” happen to weigh over a thousand pounds and walk around, practically eating our money.

All equestrians can unite under our ways, but each equestrian sport creates a different type of person. We’re different in how we ride, dress, and act. Barns are managed differently and different types of horses are desired for different activities. Eventing has it’s own unique category.

The atmosphere at events are generally very kind, welcoming, and helpful. Forgot your watch? I’m sure you could find someone to lend you one. Need to review the course with someone? Any stranger would probably take a few seconds to make sure you’re on track for success. Eventers want to see each other have a safe and successful day. Even though it’s not a team event, it certainly does feel like one.

Even the biggest names in the business take the time to share some advice!

Even the biggest names in the business take the time to share some advice!

Judgement of other competitors is very minimal. They didn’t have the best round? That’s too bad! It just wasn’t their day. It doesn’t matter how expensive your horse is; everyone is where they are because they worked for it. We all appreciate the work we’ve done to get there. Events aren’t always seen as who can take home the blue; they’re also to push each rider individually to beat themselves. It’s an eventer’s aim to get a better dressage score, a clear stadium round, and a smooth, safe, and clean cross country course.

There’s room for a comeback. So maybe you didn’t have the best dressage test. Your horse was spooky, hot, or maybe lazy. Whatever it was, the bright side is there’s room to improve! Because of the three different phases, you always have the chance to comeback after a bad phase.

Eventers are well-rounded people with well-rounded mounts. One-trick ponies aren’t found in this sport! Eventing requires riders, and horses, to be graceful, technical, and brave. While this combination is difficult to master, great horsemen are produced. When a problem arises, eventers have the solid base to find a solution. Great dressage work produces great jumping which produces confidence which creates strong cross country rides. Eventers understand the importance of expanding their knowledge in all areas; they can do it all!

Want to find some kind, hard-working, talented, and non-judgemental friends? Go Eventing.

We’re All in This Together: Eventing Nation, High School Musical Style

We’re breaking free! We’re soarin’, flyin’... We’re breaking free! We’re soarin’, flyin’...

I recently passed my United States Pony Club ‘B’ certification in early August which definitely required a lot of time, energy, and work, but was worth it in the end! Reflecting on my experience, I realized how many people it takes to tie all of the ends together, and how grateful I am for everyone who helped or supported me as I was working toward my B. I couldn’t have done it without a team.

Congrats to all of the other B candidates who passed!

Congrats to Brenna, Colin, and Katelyn who also passed their B!

One of my favorite things about being an equestrian is being surrounded by others who are passionate, caring, and hard working. Equestrians are generous and understanding of the commitment that is required to pursue a life of riding.

Even though it’s just you and your horse competing together, it’s still a team sport because the eventing community is there to back you up and help you out along the way; we’re all in this together, and it shows when we stand, hand in hand, make our dreams come trueeee (off-pitch singing of any High School Musical song is my forte).

When I realized that I was going to have to find a horse to borrow for the cross country section of my B (I didn’t have the time to prep my jumper mare), Tracey Bienemann stepped up to the plate and let me use her former intermediate level horse, Zoomer.

Tracey and Zoomer. Picture from Tracey’s Facebook.

Tracey and Zoomer. Picture from Tracey’s Facebook.

As a graduate Pony Clubber, and as a rider, Tracey understood why my certification was important and trusted me to take care of Zoomer. Zoomer and Tracey helped me pass my rating and I’m definitely grateful for the experience to learn from such a confident and willing horse!

While I was nervous for the testing (and nervous while I was galloping towards a tall — and very wide! — flower box), Zoomer seemed to serenade me with ‘Get’cha Head in the Game’. His confidence helped boost mine! Thank you to Tracey and Zoomer for their generosity and support!

Aces Zoomin’ Dude… a little rockstar!

Aces Zoomin’ Dude… a little rockstar!

Also, as always, a HUGE thank you to my wonderfully supportive parents, sister, trainer (August Torsilieri), and friends for keeping me calm, helping me prepare, and making sure I stayed organized while the daunting ‘B’ certification approached.

Rolex Riders Teach Pony Club Past, Present and Future

Some of the Lion Country Pony Club riders with two of our instructors, Allie Sacksen and Kate Chadderton. 

Photo Credits to Sue Cavanaugh. Some of the Lion Country Pony Club riders with two of our instructors, Allie Sacksen and Kate Chadderton. Photo Credits to Sue Cavanaugh.

Lion Country Pony Club, located in State College, PA, hosts an amazing and very educational summer camp every year! This year, LCPC was lucky enough to have TWO Rolex (and former Pony Clubbers!) riders Allie Sacksen and Kate Chadderton to teach lessons to our older Horse Masters, our upper level members, and our younger members.

I had the chance to pull Allie and Kate to the side to see what they had to say about Pony Club and how it has helped them to get to where they are today.

Two LCPC members work together to safely complete a team exercise. Photo by Gillian Warner.

Two LCPC members work together to safely complete a team exercise. Photo by Gillian Warner.

EN: What’s your favorite thing about Pony Club?

Allie: My favorite thing about Pony Club is that it gives all kids opportunities to experience many different disciplines and all walks of life to be part of the horse world. It’s a fun way to learn about horses!

Kate: My favorite thing about Pony Club is the values that it gives kids with respect to how they treat their horses and that riding is not just riding but also taking care of the horse. Pony Club teaches kids to become horsemen. Through Pony Club, kids spend as much, or more, time on the ground working with their horses than they do actually on their horse. Pony Club also creates an awesome group energy.

August Torsilieri, of Torsilieri Show Stables, was another one of our ‘A’ rated instructors. He tried cutting after camp one day and all of the campers enjoyed the demo. Photo by Gillian Warner.

August Torsilieri, of Torsilieri Show Stables, was another one of our ‘A’ rated instructors. He tried cutting after camp one day and all of the campers enjoyed the demo. Photo by Gillian Warner.

EN: What was your experience in Pony Club?

Allie: I started in Pony Club when I was five and rated to my ‘A’ rating when I was eighteen. Pony Club was part of my whole childhood and gave me opportunities to ride and learn that I would not have had otherwise.

Kate: I went to Pony Club meetings and lessons out in the country in Australia. We did a lot of mounted games and show jumping and we learned so much about the basics of horsemanship and developing a relationship with our horse.

I didn’t have a trailer, so I would ride two hours to Pony Club and then two hours back! My experience in Pony Club was an independent and intense one with just me and my horse. It taught me to become a better rounded horse person.

Allie Sacksen teaches a Pony Club member how to properly wrap a tail bandage during one of our horse management lessons. Photo by Gillian Warner.

Allie Sacksen teaches a Pony Club member how to properly wrap a tail bandage during one of our horse management lessons. Photo by Gillian Warner.

EN: How has Pony Club affected your career?

Allie: Pony Club was the base of my career. I grew up in Pony Club and it gave me opportunities for instruction that allowed me to grow as a rider and a person that led to my future as a professional.

Kate: Pony Club gave me a springboard to learn that I wanted to ride as a career. I grew to understand how to interact with people and I learned to recognize strengths and weaknesses of horses — what makes them good for a sport or not.

Kate Chadderton helps members learn how to train their horses to make improvements. Photo by Gillian Warner.

Kate Chadderton helps members learn how to train their horses to make improvements. Photo by Gillian Warner.

EN: What is your favorite thing about teaching at a camp? What is the hardest thing about teaching at a camp?

Allie: I’ve been an instructor at Lion Country Pony Club camp for 8 years. My favorite thing is being able to watch kids grow from up/downers to almost starting their own careers. The hardest thing is the weather! It was very hot this year, but we always work hard to make it safe and fun for the kids and the horses.

Kate: My favorite thing about the camp is that it’s fun! It’s fun to teach and I love to meet everyone. I like to see people and their relationships with their horses and helping them further that connection.

Since the camp is only a few days, we can’t change everything, but I can give pointers to help that will hopefully make them think and understand their horse on a deeper level. I don’t have a good answer for what’s the hardest thing! I love everything about teaching.

Upper level members teach younger members the basics of riding and horse care. Photo by Gillian Warner.

Upper level members teach younger members the basics of riding and horse care. Photo by Gillian Warner.

A big thank you to Allie and Kate for the wonderful instruction. We’re already looking forward to LCPC Camp 2016!

‘Whatever You Are, Be a Good One’

Me and b(abe) Me and b(abe)

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” This quote from Abraham Lincoln is my favorite quote for more than one reason. 1) As a history nerd, Abraham Lincoln is probably definitely, my favorite historical figure. 2) I honestly believe it’s true and live by it daily.

Things sometime don’t go as planned. Whether something changed at school, work, or the barn, the plan isn’t always going to stay the same.

As horseback riders, we encounter change daily while riding; we have to adjust our plan to accommodate for the horse we have that day. And hey, change isn’t necessarily a bad thing! While you might be upset or confused when the path changes, it might lead to bigger or better things.

I had always expected that I’d always keep my focus on eventing and eventing only. However, some cross country spookiness came up and so I decided to dabble in jumpers for a while to get our confidence back up. And we didn’t just get our confidence back, we even gained some.

Punky’s just extra careful… just in case!

Punky’s just extra careful… just in case!

Something clicked and everything felt right. The confidence boost helped us both in the jumper ring as well as at our events!

While I had NEVER thought I would do jumpers (cross country is way too much fun), I found myself enjoying it more and more until I realized I was a show jumper as well as an eventer.

Being careful pays off in jumpers!

Being careful pays off in jumpers!

This also applies to non-horsey life. As a sophomore (rising junior!) in high school, I have been testing out different interests of mine that I might expand in college.

I’ve found that I’m very interested in politics and business, which was something I hadn’t really considered before. While I would absolutely love to become a professional rider, I understand that I also need a back up plan since, as every horse person knows, the horse world is not easy.

As I consider different options for my future, I have no idea what I want to do or what I will do. But I do know that whatever I do, I want to be good at it. Maybe I’m just a naturally competitive person, or maybe I just want to do the best for the people around me.

All I know for sure is that whatever I become, I want to be a good one.

Thanks to Abe for always inspiring me, pushing me to be my best self, and reminding me that I don’t have to decide everything right away.

The Little Mare That Could

My little mare that could, Punky, standing at 15.2 hands. My little mare that could, Punky, standing at 15.2 hands.

The following is loosely based on the original story The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper.

Neigh, neigh, neigh. Whinny, whinny, whinny. Trot, trot, trot. The little gelding circled around the arena. He was a happy little gelding.

He was loved by a little girl — a girl with a pony tail sticking out from under her helmet, a girl with bows in her hair, and a girl who carried carrots around with her everywhere she went! The little gelding was carrying his little girl around anywhere the girl wanted. He trotted and cantered along merrily.

Then all of a sudden he stopped. He just simply could not go on! He was too tired. His little girl hopped off his back and went to another, younger horse. “Mommy, Daddy, will you please buy me this new horse?” But that horse was too cranky! He would buck and buck and buck until the little girl’s parents said “No more!”

Another horse came along. This gelding was bigger and stronger. He was better behaved except for when they jumped; he was just too strong for the little girl!

The little girl’s parents decided to find a safer and older option for their daughter. But that horse was too tired and sore from his years of riding with other little girls and boys. The search for the perfect horse seemed to be hopeless!

But then came a small pony. The little girl fell in love with her, but her parents had doubts; was she too small to do the job? They decided to give her a chance. The little girl popped onto the mare’s back and warmed her up. They were then ready to jump! After some smaller fences, the jumps were raised. The mare had never jumped this high before!

Then she said, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” And she cantered towards the jump. Huff, huff, puff, puff went the little mare. Closer and closer to the jump she got until she took off — and up, up, up they went high into the air! The little girl and the little mare put every effort into the jump until they reached the ground.

“Hurray, hurray,” cried the little girl’s parents. “The search for the perfect horse is complete! Our daughter will be happy because of this one spectacular little pony.” And the little mare smiled to herself as she was showered in carrots and love. She seemed to say “I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could.”

Based loosely on my own hunt for a new horse.



How To: Do Barn Chores the Right Way

Caring for horses is a lot of work. The chores can be tiring and they aren’t the most glamorous jobs. However, barn chores can be made fun too, as my friend Emily and I experienced in Aiken.

My friend Emily Peairs and me preparing for barn work

My friend Emily Peairs and I preparing for barn work

Step One: Grab your best friend; someone who you enjoy spending time with and who can laugh with — and at — you.

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Step Two: Get to work! As you work, feel free to chat with friends. But, make sure you stay focused and work hard.

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Step Three: Take occasional dance breaks. There’s nothing better to lighten the mood. Warning: innocent bystanders might be confused to why you are dancing which will then make them infer that you’re crazy.

Step Four: Turn some chores into a (SAFE) competition. I know I’m a competitive person, as are many riders. To keep the hard work going, see who’s the better worker. Who can clean more stalls perfectly in a shorter amount of time? Who can make a bridle cleaner in 3 minutes?

Step Five: Take some naps.

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Naps are important. You have to be rested to do your best and most efficient work. Naps are essential for a happy barn environment (no cranky people allowed!). They’re especially great when someone isn’t using you as a pillow, but beggars can’t be choosers…

Step Six: Find an experienced and friendly barn dog that will both oversee your work and cuddle.

Thanks to Jane Jennings for letting us borrow Toby. He was the perfect watch dog while we loaded hay.

Thanks to Jane Jennings for letting us borrow Toby. He was the perfect watch dog while we loaded hay.

Step Seven: Laugh!

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Time flies when you’re having fun. Before you know it, barn chores will be done for the day. But don’t worry! You have tomorrow’s chores to look forward to.

A Foodie’s Guide to Aiken

Even the horses enjoy the food in Aiken! Even the horses enjoy the food in Aiken!

For the past four years, I have had the privilege of traveling to Aiken in the early spring to escape the cold and snow of central Pennsylvania and to get in some excellent training rides and early competitions.

I am back home now catching up on all of the school work I missed and dreaming of Aiken’s sun, warmth and FOOD! Maybe it’s all the fresh air and exercise, but everything seems to taste better in Aiken. In addition, there really is something to that southern hospitality! Here are some of my favorite places to go eat:

Emily and I love the milkshakes!

Emily Peairs and I love the milkshakes!

Betsy’s On the Corner

Right in downtown Aiken, Betsy’s is a great place to go for soups, salads, burgers, grilled cheeses, ice cream, milkshakes and so much more! The workers are friendly and the food is good. Their spinach salad is a delicious and healthy option for lunch!

A cheeseburger from Dave's makes any day better!

A cheeseburger from Dave’s makes any day better!

Dave’s Grill and Grocery

On Wagener Road, Dave’s is both a grill, gas station and small grocery store (hence the name). You can either pick up something you need for later or get fast, delicious food. There are many options: burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs and AMAZING fries. Dave’s is a perfect place to pick up lunch between rides.

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The Green Monster Shake at New Moon Cafe.

The New Moon Cafe

In downtown Aiken, The New Moon Cafe is an adorable little coffee shop with pastries, soups, sandwiches and shakes. A delicious and healthy option, the food is also fresh. The Green Monster shake (pictured above) is one of my favorite healthy options, made from kale and other nutritious ingredients.

Aiken Brewery

Aiken Brewery is also located in downtown Aiken. The Aiken Brewery has a lot of tasty options; some of my favorites include the Brew Burger and the Chicken Sandwich. They also have yummy fries! Also, according to my parents and friends that are over 21, the beer is also good. I unfortunately did not get a picture of the food; we couldn’t wait to eat!


Takosushi is another restaurant located downtown. This unique restaurant offers an interesting mix of Asian and Mexican food. So, if you’re craving sushi, enchiladas or both, Takosushi is the place to go! Takosushi does get busy on weekends, so make a reservation if you want to decrease wait time!

It was so pretty I almost didn't want to eat it! Almost...

It was so pretty I almost didn’t want to eat it! Almost…


Maria’s is also another fun Mexican restaurant! They offer many different options including quesadillas, enchiladas, salads and fajitas, all of which are very good and are presented in a creative way (the beautiful toppings can be seen in the picture).

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The Willcox

The Willcox is a beautiful and historic hotel with very good food. If you’re looking for more of a fancy evening, definitely go here. The servers were friendly, and I went home very full and very happy!

Thank you to everyone at the barn for such a wonderful night!

Thank you to everyone at the barn for such a wonderful night!

Pizza around a bonfire with friends

One of my favorite nights in Aiken was spent at the barn, around a fire, eating food and talking to friends. The pizza was from Mellow Mushroom (a restaurant located downtown with very good pizza!) and everything else was homemade. Gather your friends together for a memorable night!

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After you’re done eating … don’t forget to shop!

Downtown Aiken also has a lot of good stores … perfect for shopping on a rainy day or if you have some extra time. Whether you want to browse for riding clothes at Equine Divine or if you want “normal” people (non-horsey) clothes from a place like Threads, Aiken has it! Aiken also has some great tack stores out of town like Oak Manor and Boots, Bridles, & Britches. Warning: it’s easy to spend a lot of money … if you’re not careful 🙂

Punky and me, August Torsilieri, and Jane Jennings with Calvin

Punky and me, August Torsilieri and Jane Jennings with Calvin.

Pictured above from left to right is me on my mare Punky, August Torsilieri (my trainer) and Jane Jennings on her gelding Calvin. A huge thanks to Jane, August, Mary Clair and Emily Peairs for exploring Aiken with us; everyone else at the barn; and my parents, friends, and my high school teachers at home for the endless amounts of support and help! I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work hard as well as to make lasting memories with both old and new friends.

Cards for Your Favorite Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day, EN! Feel free to use these original creations to express your love to your horse, family, friends, or significant other.

I love you to bits



Hoof it on over to be my Valentine



Hay… won’t you be mine?



Don’t deneighhhh it… you love me too!



Stop horsin’ around and be mine!



My love for you is unbridled


You’re my mane man



My heart races when I see you



Mare(y) me?



How to Train Your Non-Horsey Boyfriend

I’ve been riding horses and learning how to train them for years, but this is a completely new concept to me: How to train a “non-horsey” boyfriend.

Where to even start? There’s so much to cover…what is dressage? What is cross-country? What’s Eventing Nation? All of the different types of tack, what it means when my horse ‘spooked’ or ‘refused’, and, most importantly, the all encompassing love for riding (and how to respond appropriately to this obsession).

With the help from my boyfriend, I hope to give you a little more insight on how to ‘train’ your significant other who might be new to the ‘horse world’. Disclaimer: I am definitely not an expert.

Start them slowly; if you rush things and show your ‘crazy horse side’ too early, they might become nervous. If you’re ‘friends’ on social media, they probably already know that you are a horse person (from the countless pictures of your amazing horses).

For the first few dates, try not to talk too much about horses so they don’t think that’s all you do. Focus on some of your other interests or what else you have done. Then, when you feel like they’ve become relaxed and comfortable around you, start talking more about your rides, your horses, upcoming shows, etc. while continuing conversation about other things as well.

As they start to understand the importance of horses in your life, you can start teaching them terms that they will need to know in conversations. Eventing, dressage, show jumping, and cross country are all very important because they will understand more of what you really do. Visual aids help; show videos of upper level riders to show how intense the sport really is. Once they understand the basic terms, you can start talking about types of tack, feed, and anything else.

Now is the important step: Introducing them to the horses. This is really make or break. They might be a little timid around the horses for the first few visits because it is new to them and they might be scared. Reassure them by showing that horses are gentle; have them pet a horse, have them lead (a very quiet horse), and maybe even brush a horse.

They will become more comfortable, it just takes some time. If they don’t want anything to do with your horses, they might not be best suited for the horse life so you might need to rethink some priorities and the future of the relationship.

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Eventually, they will need to ride the horse. This will make them understand just how hard it is and they will appreciate what you do so much more. Make sure to put them on a quiet horse and that it’s in a safe situation; a good experience will produce confidence and good results. This step might take some time, so don’t be too forceful about them riding right away.

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The final step is getting them to understand just how important horses are to you. Yes, they know you love them and they know that it’s your passion, but it’s more than that. To prevent future arguments or confusion, sit down and talk to them. Make sure they know it’s not ‘just a horse’.

Your horse is your priority and pretty much your entire life. Make them know you’re a crazy horse person so they aren’t shocked later. Warning: Do NOT take this step too early. You should be at a secure place in your relationship to prevent any break ups (if they get freaked out). They will also learn from time; as they are around you and your horses more, they will start to understand your world.

It’s not a simple task; there’s just so much to learn! Make sure you’re returning the favor by trying something that they like (I went running which was definitely an interesting experience). Relationships are double sided so make sure you learn about their passion too!

New Year’s Resolutions

The New Year brings the opportunity to start fresh. Out with the old and in with the new, right? As the New Year is quickly approaching, I want to start forming a list of riding-related New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s to improvement!

1. I will always smile in my dressage lessons.

Smiling will send good vibes to my horses which will (hopefully) improve their performance. Or I can channel Charlotte Dujardin here and maybe my horses will pretend that they’re Valegro.

Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro at WEG. Photo courtesy of  FEI / Arnd Bronkhorst / Pool Pic.

Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro at WEG. Photo courtesy of FEI / Arnd Bronkhorst / Pool Pic.

2. I will clean my tack daily.

Clean tack leads to comfortable and happy horses. Also, since I’m a control freak, always having clean tack will lower my anxiety and increase my overall mood.!.jpg

3. I will look at the big picture and understand that good things take time.

The Great Wall of China wasn’t built in one day. Riding takes lots of time, practice, and dedication so, as riders, we must look at the big picture and not take a bad ride too personally; look at the overall progress you’ve made.

4. I will do daily ab workouts.

Stronger core = stronger rider. I’d love to have a six pack too.

5. I will run three times a week.

Stronger legs = stronger rider. If I have stronger legs, I’ll be a more secure rider and I’ll be more comfortable riding with no stirrups for a longer period of time.

6. I will clean my trailer right after every trip (aka I will not be lazy).

I don’t want to forget about the piles of horse poop in the back of the trailer and then wake up early for a trip and realize that I have more work than I’d planned on having.

7. I will always change into ‘normal’ clothes after the barn before going into public.

The picture pretty much sums this one up. At this point, my friends have gotten used to my parading around in my tight fitting pants and dirty boots; they’re used to the weird looks we get. Through this resolution, I hope to embarrass my friends less.

8. I will learn to understand that the smell of horse doesn’t appeal to all.

This is going to be a tough one. Honestly, to me, there’s nothing that smells better than horses, and more specifically, my horses. Now, non-horse people don’t think that’s the case. I want to be able to understand and accept their opinion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I will smell like horse less (sorry…actually… not sorry).

9.  I will stick to a healthy diet.

Fit fit fit fit fit. This resolution goes with my two other exercise ones. In 2015, I want to be even more fit for riding than I already am. Overall, I’m a decently healthy person, but maybe I should eat less ice cream.

10. I will find a healthy balance between barn time and social time.

I give this resolution two weeks before I go back to my old habits.

Photo by Deanna Behring

Photo by Deanna Behring

These are all easier said than done…  Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? Put them below in the comments!

Holiday Wish Lists

Although my last blog focused on the reality of winter and the cold, this time we’re going to focus on something brighter and happier; winter holidays! The holidays take (some of) the bitterness out of the winter months. They’re a time to gather with friends and family, and also a time to get (and give) presents!

Holiday gifts can cause stress for both the giver and the receiver. I always feel bad about how expensive some of the gifts I want are. Gone were the days when I was ecstatic with just a stuffed animal horse (sorry Mom and Dad)!

My first 'horse'!

My first ‘horse’!

Since I felt so bad about how expensive some of my horse-related gift wishes were, I decided to do some research on how horse-related gifts compare to non-horse-related gifts money wise! Surprisingly, they were very similar with the average price of the “horsey” gift at $160 and the average price of the “normal” gift at $150.  Below are ideas from some of my rider friends and “normal” friends.

Ideas for horse friends (Thank you to Dominique Guimond, Nicholas Hansen, Emily Peairs, and Maia Jensen for the ideas!):

Eventing Boots (~$90)

Half Pad (~$125)

Tall boots (~$290)

Helmet (~$160)

Vet wrap ($1.99)

A new jumping bridle (~$300)

(More) Riding Pants (~$150)

Ideas for non-horse people (Thank you to some of my school friends for their input!):

Warm boots (~$160)

Gold jewelry (~$300)

Hair straightener (~$300)

Makeup (~$35)

Skateboard (~$50)

Video gaming equipment  (~$180)

Chocolate (~$20)

Hopefully this blog relieves some pressure as you start to think about the holidays and as the cold weather really starts to move in! Stay warm everyone!

Preparing for Polar Vortex 2!

It’s inevitable; winter is approaching and it’s going to be cold… very cold, especially for the east. The Farmer’s Almanac predicts lower than average temperatures for central and eastern United States.

I’m dreading these upcoming winter months; negative temperatures, snow, ice, indoors, no events, and extremely frisky, bored ponies (and riders!).

Instead on focusing on the negative (no pun intended!), we should be preparing for the upcoming months. What can we do to be less miserable? I was able to interview a few different riders about their preparation for winter, fashion, and winter exercise. Hopefully some of these responses will help you in this coming winter!

 1.  What do you do to prepare your barn, your horses, and you for the winter?

Dom Schramm: I guess the most important preparation we make is MOVE SOUTH.. Although alcohol plays an integral part in my winter plan.

Phyllis Dawson:  The first cold nights of the year, we start getting in the routine of draining the hoses, closing up the windows and doors, putting on the blankets and making sure all the horses are tucked in and cozy.  I hate the cold weather, but really the horses don’t mind it, and prefer it to the heat.

And on those really awful cold, snowy nights, there is a special warm feeling when you have battled the snow and cold to do the barn work, and the horses are standing snug in their clean stalls eating their hay, cozy in layered blankets, and oblivious to the awful weather outside. They are dependent on our care, but totally not worried about it, because they trust us to take care of them.

Doug Payne: We’re very lucky being in North Carolina; our winter prep isn’t near what it used to be! We spend an afternoon making sure we have enough appropriately sized blankets of varying weights for each of the horses at our place. We try to have them cleaned and repaired in the late spring, so just confirming that nothing was missed. Aside from that, make sure our clipper blades are sharp and clippers tuned up.

Jane Sleeper: For the winter, the biggest prep I do is fill the barn with hay and straw, enough to go through the end of May so it’s mighty tons!!  And I check out my sheets, blankets, & hoods for all of the steeds.  We’ve already been clipping & blanketing so winter is closing in.

 2.  What is your favorite apparel?  For you?  For your horses?

Dom Schramm: Clothes are tricky. Jimmie always manages to look somewhat cute even with 14 layers and I look more like a homeless man.  I really don’t have many appropriate winter clothes, but I just keep piling them on to keep my organs functioning.

Phyllis Dawson:  Toastie Toes! Those little adhesive-backed toe warmers that you stick to your socks inside your boots, and they keep your toes warm for about 6 hours. I buy them by the case, and just automatically put on a pair each morning when I go to the barn.  On bitter days I might use a second pair in the afternoon. You can put them in your gloves too!

For the horses, I love a good well-fitted turnout rug. I must admit I am partial to the Rambos.

Doug Payne: I’m always cold, so I generally layer as follows: Under Armor, Patagonia light fleece, EMS perm-aloft jacket and down vest if needed. When winter hits for real I rely on a heated vest made for motorcycling. It’s ideal in that you can crank the heat when teaching or between horses and turn it down when riding. Our horses are incredibly lucky, we rely on the entire line of Horseware products. We tend to abuse our equipment, and their blankets, coolers, etc. seem to last significantly longer than anything else we’ve used.

Jane Sleeper: My favorite article of clothing for the winter is a good, brightly colored neck warmer- keeps my shoulders warm & can pull it up to cover my face when the wind is knocking me over!

 3.  What is your favorite way to maintain a horse’s fitness if you don’t have the chance to go somewhere without snow?

Dom Schramm: Historically we do a LOT of hacking and jog sets bringing the horses back in when we are in Aiken (as there aren’t any hills!) We ride no matter what the weather is, six days a week.  If it is icy we still try to at least hack the horses if it safe.  I think its important to try and keep a routine even if the weather is pretty miserable – its good for you and the horses!

Phyllis Dawson: I am lucky to have a nice indoor arena, and you might be surprised how fit you can get a horse in one!  In Virginia the winters vary a lot; some years we can gallop and school outside most of the winter, and other years we are stuck in the indoor for months. But schooling on the flat with plenty of extended canters, you can get a horse quite fit inside, to where they are ready to compete upper level with just a couple of outside gallops once early spring comes.

I got horses fit for Rolex for 20 years without going south in the winter, and that was in the days of long format, so it certainly can be done!

Doug Payne: I think it’s very important to give them some downtime after a long season. So they usually have 4-6 weeks off following the fall season. They slowly start back to work in the beginning of December. They spend a few weeks just walking and slowly get back to full flat work. We start jump in early January. If and when the snow hits, take advantage and get out hacking. It’s great exercise and perfect for their mind, nothing like getting out of the indoor or salted 20 meter circle.

Jane Sleeper: We do many, many trot sets up the Chester County Hills- no indoor for us! Can ride almost everyday except for thick ice! We go to Aiken, South Carolina and it does get cold and rainy – there was a big ice storm last year – but we love to go cross country schooling at Full Gallop Farm in February!

Photo from Jane Sleeper

Photo from Jane Sleeper

Thank you to Dom, Phyllis, Doug, and Jane for giving us many great ideas! I know I’m definitely going to be grabbing a bunch of blankets, grabbing some Toastie Toes, and battling the cold weather to go for many hacks this year. Who’s with me?

The Eventer’s Guide To: Sleeping On the Go

As a 15 year old who lives in the middle of Pennsylvania, at least four hours from every event (and almost everything else!), I have become quite good at sleeping in/at numerous locations; cars, tables, etc. Since it’s hard to take selfies while you are sleeping, I’ve relied on “friends” for capturing these moments and they rely on me to do the same for them. I would like to take this time to embarrass myself and my friends and also would like to introduce you to some helpful sleeping positions when you’re out and about.

First, there is what I call the “Rubber Neck”: Note: This is not for everyone and probably not for anyone over a certain age as it can probably cause permanent damage…

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The “Buddy Sleep”: This works best when one person is resting on the pillow (like Maia is demonstrating) and then the other person is resting on the person resting on the pillow (how I’m resting on Maia).

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The “Car Hog”: We all have those friends who aren’t the best at the “Buddy Sleep”. Emily kindly introduced me to the “Car Hog” on our trip down to Aiken last year…



The “Sleep Dance”:

And then the times when you sit down for a moment and end up falling asleep?

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And thanks to Taylor for posting this unique selfie up on Instagram!

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Do you have any unique/embarrassing photos that you’d like to share? Put them in the comments!