The Debrief: Taylor McFall Recaps Her 2023 Season

Welcome to The Debrief, where we’ll recap the experience of a rider following a big result or otherwise memorable competition/season. Click here to read more editions of The Debrief. This week, we catch up with young rider Taylor McFall, who hails from northern California out of her family’s Dragonfire Farm. This edition of The Debrief is brought to you in collaboration with Athletux’s Young Professionals program.

Photo by Sherry Stewart.

What was your number one goal for this event/season?

My main goal in 2023 was to make the Area VI eventing team.

What did you practice the most in the weeks leading up to the event/season?

I worked most on my dressage and show jumping, with a big focus on my posture. I’ve had to work specifically on how I carry my shoulders as I had an old habit of rounding my back and being too giving in my reins.

I was lucky to have the chance to compete on my mother’s horse, Hallelujah DF, who taught me alot about riding on the flat since she has a beautiful range of movement. She gave a different feel that really allowed me to push for better movements, where the other Thoroughbreds I ride would become more tense. Being more bold in my flat at home really helped me work up to more confident dressage performances at the shows.

Photo by Richard Bogach.

Describe your feelings after finishing cross country in three words:

Out of breath.

What do you do after a big event? Do you spend a lot of time rewatching your rides? Do you go back and watch any of the live stream?

My favorite thing to do after a particularly difficult show is to reset the courses or parts of the courses to practice at home. After most shows last season my parents and I would re-set the show jump courses jump for jump or recreate a difficult cross country line in our cross country field. It helps me process my ride to feel how I could have ridden things better or differently.

While I do like looking back at my footage from every event, I personally don’t like to re-watch old rides too much since I like to look ahead and focus on what I’m doing next.

What is the number one thing you learned about yourself this season? What about what you learned about your horse?

I learned that I’m too passive of a rider, leaving things up to the horse when I should (and do) know better. I’ve learned that all my horses at the moment are really quite tough and brave — so one of us needs to be the brains of the operation and reel things in a bit…

What would you say has been the biggest thing you’ve overcome en route to having the season you did?

I’d say the biggest thing I’ve overcome was learning to ride a new mount after the injury of my main horse Stoneman. My original plan was to ride him on the Area VI CCI3* team at Galway in November, but after a trailering injury midway through the year I was left without a horse. I could still then have a shot at the CCI2* team if I could learn to ride Hallelujah DF who is nearly a polar opposite of Stoney. She required a lot stronger, more confident ride, being both a warmblood and a young horse.

I’d say this has been one of the biggest learning curves in my riding career. In the end, I went from being so outside my comfort zone to having a partner I knew I could perform well with at NAYC.

Taylor McFall and Stoneman. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

What is a piece of advice you would give to yourself, 5 years ago, now?

5 years ago was when I started my career as an FEI rider and my advice to that Taylor would just be to stay brave and stay hungry. Keep having big goals and keep fighting to reach them. Just because you don’t win a show doesn’t diminish any personal victory you may have achieved, and just because you win a show doesn’t mean you’re perfect and have nothing left to learn.

How do you plan to spend your off season? What do you like to do when you’re not riding and competing all the time?

When I’m not riding or showing I’m often catching up on my college school work or creating art. I like to draw and paint both traditionally and digitally. Throughout the year I work on painting requests for personal portraits I receive and make cartoons or animate on my ipad to help me fall asleep. Since it’s the off season I should be able to get a lot more personal stuff done and hope to keep improving my art.

Describe your history with your horse:

I started riding my horse Stoneman in 2021 just before the West Coast NAYC and was lucky to have such an awesome partnership with this horse. We were super confident together 2* and then continued to have great rides at Intermediate and 3*. He was an off the track Thoroughbred my mom bought at 4 years old from a friend and then re-trained for eventing.

My 2* horse, Hallelujah DF, is a 8-year-old homebred mare that I’ve known since birth. Produced out of my family farm at Dragonfire, we are all so proud of her and what she’s done so far. While I only started riding her half way through the 2023 season, she has taught me so much and I feel lucky to have both my amazing mounts.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I’m looking forward to 2024 with Halle, Stoney, and several more exciting young prospects. I hope to apply what I’ve learned this season and help my horses be the best they can be.

3.7 3 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments