Breeder and Professional Rider/Trainer
When I decided I wanted to not only have a career in Equine Reproduction, but go farther and have grand dreams of being known for breeding high quality athletes I was barely 20. All I knew, at the time, was the horse competition world (I had competed in several disciplines at almost all levels across the US). I knew how to spot talent in a 6 year old and up, how to show and ride, how to take care of the horse, and I was well versed in the vet side more than most for that age. I was in college when I came to this career revelation…my whole life I, of course classically, had wanted to be a vet. So instead I directed all my credits towards anything that would get me into post-graduate school for equine reproduction.
What I didn’t know was that I cared more about the everyday farm reproductive aspects and decided that sitting in a lab beyond just collecting and cooling or freezing semen was not what my heart desired.
So I began my journey to be a breeding farm manager after college and learn everything I could about the stallion and mare side, needless to say, I still don’t know much in comparison to the well versed breeders, vets, and managers who are probably reading this blog… but I am still on the road to knowledge!
Which is what brings me to the point of this unintentionally long story…
As I achieved the coveted Breeding Manager positions I so sought after, I realized I knew the medical side and training side, but not the Registry side. Even worse, I didn’t know how to promote a young horse beyond just the pedigree and snapping some nice photos.
I naturally had shown at Devon, I followed stallion licensing in most registries across the world, and at my last job I was privy to seeing the inner workings of the foaling/registry inspections for Hanoverian and Oldenburg NA. Slowly I started to see the talents of the foals that I, ten years earlier, could only see in developed horses going under saddle. I also started to appreciate certain crosses of pedigrees, the breeders themselves, and even the handlers.
But what about after those registry inspections? This is where I started to see quite the gap, from doing a foal inspection to (maybe) doing a mare inspection test to then waiting until the horse was 4 or older for under saddle classes in their respective disciplines. This created a predicament for me for several reasons. One was that the horse got no exposure unless you wanted to have it tag along at shows to hang out in the show atmosphere and enjoy the trailer ride. Two if the horse didn’t sell as a foal, then most buyers rather see it later (after 4 years old) and buy it already working under saddle and usually showing as well. Third is that I am what most would call a “slow” trainer. I start them late and do a lot of groundwork and longlining with them, lots of trail rides and just learning to have natural balance and confidence until about their 6 y/o year, especially if they are jumpers. That is a long time for a horse for sale to be tucked away hidden on the farm. This also created an issue because my 4-5-6 y/o horses were not able to compete in their respective age classes under saddle at regular USEF competitions considering my training program was structured so much differently in comparison to most.
Luckily at that time I was doing solely dressage, and the USDF was promoting yearling and 2 y/o in hand classes at several big shows across the nation. This was the only kind of in-hand competition I was able to get access to, and still it was pertaining to one discipline only. Then USDF started to delete a lot of these classes, or the show coordinators themselves; I suspect because of lack of numbers and interest. This led to just the biggest shows, such as Devon, to offer these kind of young horse classes.
So I was stumped again at what was best for my young horses, and comparatively what was best for my name as a breeder, seller, and trainer.
In 2019, just as I was about to give up hope on being able to show any young horse I produced prior to being under saddle and well schooled, I happened to find myself on the avid search for a new personal competition and breeding horse to start my own farm with. I wanted to buy directly from the breeder, for the first time, and along this venture I met countless new colleagues across the world. I ended up finding two horses, a three and four years old, and AGAIN I was presented with this problem of where to get them experience in a supportive and age appropriate competition atmosphere?
Those new colleagues I had just secured came through with the answer… all over my Facebook feed my new breeding friends started posting about The Young Horse Show, particularly since the 2019 Finals was along the horizon! I started to inquire with my new friends to hear personally what all the hype was about, and enough great things could not be said about the competition series. From management, to the quality of horses, age-appropriate classes and judging, involving several disciplines in one show, great venues, to just being a downright fun and supportive show for breeders and young horses owners.
Needless to say I was smitten immediately with the thought… and started to look at the calendar for 2020. I picked the GA 2020 show to take my new four y/o mare to so she could strut her jumping pedigree through some jump chute action against her fellow peers. I had no idea what to expect, even though I had been showing the last 25 years. All I knew was that I was about to have a weekend to hang out with other like-minded people hopefully, be around high quality young horses, enjoy a relaxed and positive environment for my new horse at her first show, and potentially come away with some bragging rights.
The venue was glorious and luckily, for being in the summer in Georgia, the weather wasn’t miserably hot. I entered my mare, Lady Ada Bloom, into the 4 y/o jump chute class for her entry, but when I arrived I was able to see how things worked and decided to also add her last minute to the in hand flat class as well.
The show could not have gone better for Ada or me! The entire show was relaxed, the people were truly supportive of each other, and I instantly felt as if I had found “my group”. It was a little odd just getting her ready and escorting her off to other handlers, but at the same time it was so fun to truly act like an owner. I got to give her away ringside, knowing the handlers were professionals, and just watch her go! By the end of the show I was hooked, and it was a perk that her placings ended up almost paying for her entry fee… prize money is always a win! Beyond her placings, her individual scores qualified her for Nationals and the judges seemed incredibly pleased with her. I could not have been prouder of her or more enthralled with my first show at the Young Horse Show.
As my life progressed, and I know most everyone’s changed drastically as well, in 2020 I made sure to keep my eye on YHS Finals at Tryon in November. At times I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it, but as the date drew nearer, I realized that going to YHS Finals with my qualified mare was just as much for me as it was for her. I wanted that comradery again and to be in the presence of everything I love about breeding talented horses.
Therefore, I made it happen and we set off to Tryon the first week of November. Since my mare had already qualified and I was short on time I was forced to only go for the weekend, but oh man was it worth every minute. Of course Tryon is a world class venue, and with Covid spiking it was also like a ghost town… YHS competitors were the only ones there and so we essentially got the whole venue to ourselves. I know this is not the norm, but it created an even more relaxing atmosphere (if possible), despite the high stakes of it being Finals.
Just as in the Ga show, the management did a fabulous job throughout both shows (qualifying show plus Finals over 4 days) especially considering it was the highest number of entries they had ever received before (also a testament to the need for this Series and everyone’s positive experiences to want to come back). The handlers could not have been better, and with the live streaming even my family and friends could watch Ada go live. My mother, who has supported me my whole life in this crazy horse venture, watched live all day and even made this comment about the handlers, “You can tell they really love these young horses, strangers to them personally and they still manage to do a great job nurturing the personality of the horse so the judge can see them in their best light.” High praise from my mom, let me tell you.
Ada and I walked away from YHS Finals with some ribbons, goodies, cash in hand, and a feeling of progression as well as appreciation. It is now a show series that I brag to everyone about, considering they have age-appropriate classes from yearlings to 6 y/o’s. Beyond that it’s a show series where you can come and dust off the world, meet people who are similar to you in more ways than you realize, allow your young horse to be just that (and appreciated for it!), and probably most importantly is that YHS offers the opportunity for a young horse to shine ALONG with it’s breeder and owner. These horses are the highest quality in the nation, they are our future.
It is a win-win-win in my book, and after this initial year of testing the YHS waters… I will surely participate every chance I get from here on out with all the young talent I have the privilege to own. I hope to see you there 😊
A collaborative effort produced by the USSHBA Education Committee, USSHBA members, and our partners.