Rebecca Hart, 36, is a stalwart of the U.S Para-Equestrian Team and of her local Starbucks. The Loxahatchee, Florida, resident has been serving up coffee at Starbucks for as long as she’s been representing her country in international para-dressage competition, having first been named to Team USA for the 2008 Hong Kong Paralympics. An eight-time U.S. Para-Equestrian Association national champion, three-time Paralympian and three-time FEI World Equestrian Games competitor, Hart won silver and bronze aboard El Corona Texel at the 2018 WEG in Tryon, North Carolina, making her the first American to medal at a WEG.
Hart, who grew up in Pittsburgh, was born with a rare genetic disease called hereditary spastic paraparesis, a progressive condition that causes muscle wasting and paralysis from the mid-back down. She began horseback riding at 10 and got involved in para-dressage as a teenager.
She started for working Starbucks as a college student in 2008 to support her horse habit and never left. Now a Starbucks sponsored athlete, she balances a day job that begins well before dawn with riding and training two horses to compete at the Grade III level of para-dressage.
3:30 a.m. Wake up and smack the alarm an ungodly number of times. Hello, again, o’dark thirty.
As much as I would like to be one of those people who wake up perky and raring to go, I am most definitely not. Luckily, I put my clothes out the night before so I can just roll out of bed and stagger my way into them.
I get ready to head to my day job at Starbucks. I have been a Starbucks Coffee Co. partner and sponsored athlete for the past 12 years, working at different locations in Pennsylvania and Florida, depending on where my horses and I are training. (Conveniently for me, almost anywhere you can find horse people, you also can find a Starbucks. Coincidence?)
4 a.m. I am lucky to live on Rowan O’Riley’s Fair Sky Farm with the horses, so I head out to the barn for an early morning peek at them. I like to check and make sure that everyone is OK before getting into the car and heading into Wellington to open the store on Wellington Trace and Forest Hill.
4:30-11:30 a.m. I open the store and get through the morning peak (i.e. mainline caffeine and work on my hustle). The first thing I do walking into the store is hit the espresso button! Once the espresso turns me into a functioning human being, I do my supervisor job, figure out where everyone will work for the day, and try to set the store up for success.
I love working at the store because it’s one of the closest to the Winter Equestrian Festival and Adequan Global Dressage Festival show grounds, and I get to say hi to a lot of my fellow equestrians and catch up with everyone during the season. As a longtime corporate sponsor of mine, it’s great to me that I can represent Starbucks not only on the store floor, but also in the international competition ring.
12 p.m. Grab the drink order for everyone at Fair Sky and head to Havensafe Farm to meet up with Kjersten Lance, my groom extraordinaire, and my top horse, “Tex” (El Corona Texel), for a lesson with my coach, Jenn Baumert. Tex (Wynton—Urieta Texel, Goodtimes) is a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by my amazing sponsor Rowan. Tex and I won a bronze and silver medal at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, making us the first American pair to ever medal at a WEG. We hope to get to represent the U.S. again at the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics.
We like to take Tex off property at least once a week to work on our motto: “Same job; different sand box.” We want to expose him to lots of different environments so that he has confidence in any situation or show environment he encounters. No flower monsters will get us!
1 p.m. Head back to Rowan’s Fair Sky Farm, a pony/people paradise in Loxahatchee’s White Fences community, with Tex and Kjersten. Tex gets to go out and be a horse in his paddock, and we get “Moolah” (Fortune 500) ready for a training session. Moolah (Fidertanz 2—Weinrose, Don Romantic) is an 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding also owned by Rowan. He’s my back-up horse but is incredibly successful in his own right, winning at the CPEDI3* level and giving his “brother” a run for his money.
1:30-2:30 p.m. Lesson with Jenn and Moolah. We have been working on the technical tests with both horses for the final selection trial for Tokyo, which will be held June 17-20 at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, in North Carolina. No pressure, ha-ha!
3 p.m. Pony spa treatments and the feeding of a hangry rider. Tex comes in and gets cleaned up from a good roll in the paddock, and both horses get a session in the magnetic blanket while their legs are iced. While the boys are luxuriating, I will grab a quick bite. My go-to is the egg and cheese protein box from Starbucks because I need to represent, and it’s super convenient.
4 p.m. Time for the ponies to eat their evening meal. While they do that, I get ready for a training session with Matt Otero of Results Personal Training. If I expect the horses to be fit and ready for competition, I have to hold myself to the same standard.
4-5 p.m. Rider torture … I mean, “personal training.” I actually love my training sessions with Matt. He trains a lot of riders during the winter show season, and he’s great at really picking apart your weaknesses and working on them until they become a strength. As a disabled athlete, I have a unique set of challenges with my body, and I have never felt better (despite the copious amount of whining I may or may not do during one of my training sessions).
5-5:30 p.m. Barre time. I have a slight obsession with ballet, and my legs always feel the best on training days, so I throw on my pointe shoes and play with my balance. I can’t actually feel my feet, but I like the challenge of trying to be “straight,” which my body does not like to do. This is a mental brain-game for me as well as a physical challenge. I also just find it fun. I will never be a dancer, as I can’t actually let go of the bar and take a step, but my inner 12-year-old child sees myself in tutus floating across the dance floor. I think we all need to embrace letting our adult selves “play.”
6 p.m. Cook some dinner and have some down time. I check emails and watch some TV; my go-to escape is watching “The Great British Baking Show” and old episodes of “Firefly.” Yes, I am a total nerd!
8:30 p.m. Do late-night check for the horses and tuck everyone in for the evening.
9 p.m. Bedtime. I love crawling into bed after a day of getting to live my passions to the fullest. That alarm will go off all too soon!