As a junior, Samantha Schaefer was a prominent winner in the hunters, jumpers and equitation, winning the 2009 Washington International Horse Show Equitation Classic (Washington, D.C.), the 2011 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals—East (New Jersey) and the individual gold at the 2011 Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (Kentucky).
After aging out, Schaefer picked up accolades in the amateur-owner divisions before going pro in 2017. A regular in the USHJA International Hunter Derby classes, Schaefer has several wins with her partner In The Know. She currently runs her family’s Shadow Ridge Farm in Westminster, Maryland, and Ocala, Florida, with the help of trainer Kate Conover and barn manager Haleigh Landrigan.
On Aug. 21, Schaefer finished second in the Platinum Performance USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship (Kentucky) with newer ride Caristo. We caught up with her to see what a day on her farm is like.
On a typical day, I get up around 7 a.m. I normally spend my mornings catching up on paperwork, just organizing things, making schedules and plans for the weeks ahead—just kind of getting everything in order.
I feel like I spend a lot of time on my phone, and people think I’m texting all my friends, but I’m writing things down or taking calls or ordering things. I always have a list going of random thoughts that I don’t want to forget, a list of things to do or, if one of the clients calls to ask me for something, I try to write it down because, a lot of times by the end of the phone call, I’ll forget why I called or what the opening question was! So I do try to jot things down.
I love breakfast. I’m not a huge coffee person. A lot of times, eating breakfast requires me to get up earlier, so there’s times where I just grab a bar or a cereal on the go or something quick. At the horse shows, I find myself eating an egg and cheese sandwich all the time. It’s really bad, but that’s my go-to, my little pick-me-up at the horse show.
8 a.m.-1 p.m.
The horses are fed at 7:30, and typically I get to the barn around 8 o’clock. We’re big on turnout, so the horses typically eat their breakfast, and then they go in the paddocks. We normally have two rotations of turnout for the horses. Some go in the morning, some go in the afternoon.
I enjoy building new courses. Especially if we have a certain event coming up, I try to mimic what we’ll see there. Everybody always jokes with me about it. They don’t particularly like changing the course, so they’re like, “Ugh, Olaf wants to change the course.” So that’s my nickname, “Olaf” after the course designer Olaf Petersen. We change the gymnastics periodically, but depending how much time we spend at home, I typically change the course every week or every other week.
Kate Conover and I work together during the day. If we’re going to school a horse, we’ll do it first thing in the morning—that way she or I can be on the ground to help the other person. We go through our lists and flat them and get all the riding done.
There are certain horses that I usually ride, and there’s certain horses that Kate usually rides. It fluctuates a little bit if someone needs to jump, and Kate and I are really good about helping each other. If I’m struggling with something, I’ll be like, “Kate, can you ride this horse for a couple days or a week and see what you think?” Our egos are never too big, so if we’re struggling with something, it’s nice to be able to use each other to bounce ideas off of each other.
We used to have all day to do that, but with COVID-19, a lot of our students began home schooling which meant we were starting lessons as early as noon.
Depending on what the day calls for, we normally start our lessons and teaching around 1 o’clock, and that occupies most of the afternoon.
At Shadow Ridge, we go from small pony to short stirrup ring to the grand prix ring. We teach a wide variety of students, and we’ve been lucky to see a lot of our students start in the pony ring and work their way up to the junior hunters and junior jumpers and grand prix level, which has been really fun to watch. Sometimes it’s hard to group riders together by level. Here and there, we’ll incorporate a flat lesson or a gymnastics exercise lesson together, but more times than not, we are doing private lessons.
In Maryland we have two rings, so there’s times where Kate and I would have two lessons that would overlap, but for the most part we try to schedule everything where everyone feels like they have their own time, and there’s no rush.
A lot of times, we’ll end up eating a late lunch or sometimes not at all, just depending on how busy we are and what we need to get done in the day. Sometimes it will get to 2 or 3 o’clock, and we’re like, “Has anybody eaten?” And we’ll send someone out to grab some food. It’s not uncommon that we just don’t end up eating in the day until an early dinner.
3 p.m.-5 p.m.
Finish up lessons.
We try to work backward from our end goal, whether it be a horse show or a set lesson day or a trial. We just kind of work backwards from that day to make sure the horse isn’t doing too much leading up to it or doing enough that they’ll feel in the groove. Each horse is on its own schedule. We try to cater to all of them individually.
Typically, Tuesday is a flat day. If the kids come for a lesson after showing over the weekend then they will have a flat lesson or a pole lesson or maybe a few cavaletti. It’s very rare that we’ll jump any of the horses on Tuesday.
Once the last horse is being ridden, I let the guys feed.
I enjoy being at the barn after all the lessons are done. All of the horses are in their stalls, and it’s kind of a quiet time. It’s a nice time to get things straightened out and organized and labeled. That’s my peaceful time to reflect and get ready for the next day.
We do the boards at the end of the day, too.
The way we do our whiteboards and our turnout boards is that I have a map of the property, and I have these little round magnets with the horses’ names on them, so I have a morning and afternoon or a morning, midday and afternoon depending on the day’s turnout schedule. If I don’t want a horse to go out, or a horse gets vet work or something, we just move the magnet to the column that says “at the show” or “no turnout” or “vet work” so the guys know that horse isn’t going out today.
The way we do our riding list board is that, on the right side, there are 40 magnets with horses’ names on them, and then on the left side we have white magnets with all the rider’s names plus handwalk, body clip, Theraplate, ice—everything that could possibly be done to the horse on the left-hand side, so then when I make the board I make the list under those magnets, and that way I don’t forget anybody or forget anything.
Haleigh Landrigan, who is my barn manager/right hand/very good friend, is an amazing cook, so she’s kind of always on top of the dinner plans. She’s like, “We’re going here. We’re doing this. We’re having a cook out.”
When we’re at home, we try to spend a lot of time being at home. We spend so much time on the road that I enjoy slowing down.
We spend so much time together. It’s amazing we still can work together and operate around each other, but we are able to do that, which is great.
I watch a movie here or there. I try to catch up on some news and my social media. I’m a big list-maker, so I would say my mornings and my evenings are the time that I work on my planning on my scheduling. I love Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel—I don’t know what I’d do without them.
I love crime shows, so “Law and Order: SVU” and “Criminal Minds” are on my TV a lot. I have a hard time getting into any TV shows because I often will fall asleep when I’m watching them, and I don’t know where I stopped, which is frustrating. In the winter, we have an electric fireplace and a really cozy TV room with a beanbag called a Love Sac and I do spend a lot of time there at the end of the day.