Five years ago today, on my 23rd birthday, I taught my first lessons on the farm here in Virginia. I taught them out in our front fields, because my indoor wasn’t yet finished, and the footing in my outdoor was new and a little deep and needed to settle. I had no employees, six horses in the barn (four of my own: Billy, Cleo, Ella and Midge, plus two of my mother’s), and a dream.
About a year later, the bottom of the economy fell out. I qualified Cleo for my first senior, not-rider-age-restricted National Championships but couldn’t even dream of affording the $25,000 trip to California. There was a period of time where, with only half the barn full, I feared I saw the writing on the wall.
But things started to get better. Winter brought me horses in training with owners who wanted to take advantage of my indoor arena, a relative rarity here, south of the Mason-Dixon. My successes in the show ring, along with those of my students, brought more people to my door.
And so, five years later, my students and I have this to show for it:
- One national championship, for a student who won the USEA Beginner Novice Rider of the Year, as well as Horse of the Year
- Placings in the top five at two National Dressage Championships
- Wins at the state level for 4-H Dressage
- Wins at the national level for Pony Club and a trip to the NAJYRC
- Multiple wins at the Region 1 Youth Team Championships
- Placement on the Developing Rider List
- A place on the Canadian Short List for the Pan American Games and on the Canadian Long List for the Olympics in Eventing
- Clinics throughout the Mid-Atlantic, and as far away as Illinois
- Upwards of 20 regularly competing students in dressage
- Clinics with several U.S. Olympians
- Countless wins from beginner novice to advanced, training level to Grand Prix, Jr/YR, amateur, open, local to CDI and CCI/CICs
- Four horses to Grand Prix, two from scratch
- Five more knocking on the door to the Prix St. Georges, all also from scratch, including two students on homebreds
- And more than 100 students and more than 30 horses in training
I’m so incredibly proud of my people and my horses, of the community I’ve made here, but I’m not resting. We’ve added two stalls to the barn, to allow for more horses. My incredible assistant trainer, Allison (the 11th person ever to get the Pony Club Dressage “A,” another huge achievement), has brought in even more people to the program and increased our capacity to help our local dressage community. I’m going to keep bringing in people to help expand my own knowledge, so I can better help my students. Within the next two years, several of my students will make their FEI debuts on horses they’ve trained themselves, and Allison and I share two young ladies who will qualify for the National Pony Championships.
And even with all that going on, on the national and even international scale, we’ve never one day lost sight of all the riders we help who will never go beyond schooling shows or even compete at all, never lost the joy of seeing someone experience on the bit or througness for the first time.
The incredible thing about this sport we’ve picked is that there are so many achievements, so many levels at which to play.
And we at Sprieser Sporthorse support them all: five years ago, today, five years from now, and beyond.
So here’s to the next five, and the next, and the next. If this five was any indication, I think they’re going to be pretty exciting.