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September 2, 2010

Who Is Erica McKeever?

Taking car of the superstar mare Sapphire has been thrilling and rewarding for Erica McKeever. Photo by Tricia Booker

It's been a long and winding road to traveling the world with Sapphire!

I have worked at Castle Hill for 22 years. I grew up in England, where I first started riding when I was 10. I was pony mad, and my parents bought me my first pony when I was 12. I showed at local shows and spent every second I could at the stables. 

When I left school at 17, my horse was sold, I think due to financial reasons. I saw an ad in a horse magazine for a job in the United States with eventers, so I came here for 6 months. I loved it but got a little homesick, so I returned home.

I missed the horses again, so then I went to Spain to work. I traveled all over Europe with show jumpers and loved it. I came back to the U.S. and worked for Tim and Michelle Grubb taking care of hunters and jumpers.

I happened to stop by Castle Hill one day, and I loved it from the minute I walked in. I met McLain’s dad Barney, and he mentioned he was looking for someone to manage his horses on the road. A few weeks later I arrived at Castle Hill and have been here ever since.

My husband, Lee, has been here a month longer then me; he came over from Dublin, Ireland.

McLain wasn't here when we first arrived. He rode with his mom at her farm a couple of miles away. When he was about 12, he started doing the jumpers with his dad and moved to Castle Hill. 

So much has happened in that time it could probably be a book! I got to travel for years—we always had great horses, went to the best shows, and I always thought I had the best job in the world! McLain always worked really hard at his riding, always trying to be better. You never had to look for him to come and ride.

In 2002, I had Bradlee, our son. Then we had Baylee, our daughter, in 2004. At that point my role changed. Now I manage the farm at home and run the office, but I still go to Florida for the winter.

For the past two years I have taken care of Sapphire, which is a huge privilege. I get to ride her every day, and I go to most of the shows with her, unless she's in Europe. Then Lee goes with her. I left my kids for the first time to go to Geneva for the FEI World Cup Final with her as I really thought she was going to win the World Cup Finals, and I didn't want to miss it.

That turned out to be one of the worst experiences of my life. I felt so sorry for McLain and Sara. They deserved to win.

So a huge part of my day is taking care of Sara and Goldika. We have the greatest staff, which is really important, as you have to love what you’re doing and love the horses. We import a lot of horses from Europe, so that's always exciting.

McLain and his dad are always producing young horses, which I love, especially when they walk into their first grand prix. That's a great feeling. We have several young riders that train here, and that’s always fun when they do well. I get to work with my husband, which I love. Life can be quite stressful, but there are a lot more good days then bad!