Thursday, Jun. 20, 2024

Callie Schott Dedicates Herself To The Day-To-Day

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After being selected to represent the United States during the first leg of the Longines League of Nations Series in Abu Dhabi in February, Callie Schott has again been selected for a League of Nations team. She will join Tokyo Olympians Laura Kraut, Jessica Springsteen and McLain Ward for the final leg of the series, taking place Friday in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

As Callie Schott closed her finishing circle, half a world away from home, tears started to blur her vision. Riding Southern Arches LLC’s Garant and wearing a Team USA jacket, Schott had just realized a dream to represent her country. 

Four years earlier, she sat down for a job interview with the ownership of Southern Arches LLC, based in St. Louis, Missouri, and Wellington, Florida. In that interview, Schott expressed her goal to pursue the top levels of show jumping. As she looked to return to five-star competition after a decade-long break, Schott added representing her country to her wish list. And when she produced a clear round in the $1 Million Coachella Cup Grand Prix CSI5* (California) in December 2023, Schott and her team of Southern Arches and John and Beezie Madden reached out to U.S. Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland to express interest in the Abu Dhabi leg of the Longines League of Nations. 

“We were like, well, maybe we should let Robert know that if he needs the team for Abu Dhabi—because I think most people don’t want to travel that far—we would be willing to go there to prove that we’re ready to step up,” Schott said. “Then we got the phone call.” 

“Being hands-on with all the horses every day just helps me keep growing and keep getting to know the horses better and seeing their progress,” said Callie Schott, pictured with Garant. Kimberly Loushin Photos

On Feb. 11, 2024, Schott found herself center ring in the United Arab Emirates for the first round of the League of Nations with her partner of two years, the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Warrant—C’est La Vie, Verdi TN) Garant. Though they nicked the top rail of the first fence, the rest of her round was fault-free. 

Not only did she get to wear that historic pinque coat, but she felt worthy of it. 

“The emotions as I came through the timers were just unbelievable,” said Schott, 38. “I am here, competing on a team, and we just did it. I know we had a mistake, but it was quite respectable, and I felt like we did our job. We were there; we performed—my whole life leading up to that was preparing for that moment.” 

The Kid That Did Everything

The roots for that initial team selection grew in the bluegrass of Versailles, Kentucky, on her family’s River Mountain Farm. Schott’s introduction to horses came through her father Trey Schott’s equine veterinary practice and polo playing and her mother Elaine Schott’s eventing passion. Callie grew up surrounded by off-track Thoroughbreds turned polo ponies. She learned to ride on a few of them as well as a 30-year-old Shetland pony. But it wasn’t until she joined the Lexington Pony Club that she received her first formal lessons. 

“Pony Club was a very valuable part of my upbringing because you really learned horse care, like really learning how to wrap bandages,” Callie said. “There were always people overseeing how we took care of the horses, but we got to do it ourselves. So, I feel like from a very young age, I got to learn horse care properly and do things myself.” 

Callie attended Pony Club camp at Masterson Station Park in Kentucky. “[The horses] would stay there for the week, and every day we’d go and do activities and spend all day just in the barn,” she said. “They’d always have different teachers come teach and give clinics, and they’d have horse care clinics. It was just fun.” 

By 12 years old, the pull of the horse show world drew her away from Pony Club, and Callie started riding with David Wright of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Under Wright’s tutelage, Callie developed as a junior catch-rider in the hunter and jumper rings, and by 17, she competed in her first grand prix in Gulfport, Mississippi, on Wright’s sales horse, Coco Chanel. Simultaneously, her family bred horses or bought young ones for her to make up and train. 

“This one mare that we bred, her name was Miscongeniality, and she was a little chestnut, and I broke her,” Callie said. “I did the whole thing myself, and I think when she was 6, or maybe even 5, we won NAL Children’s Hunter Finals at [the Pennsylvania National].” 

However, before attending the University of Kentucky, Callie took a step away from the show ring. After years of the caravan life, she wanted to make sure pursuing horses was her choice, not her habit. 

“I always thought that I would end up wanting to do it, but I wanted to take a little bit of a break from the show horse side of it and just really see if that’s what I wanted to do or not,” she said. “The summer before going to college, I actually prepped yearlings at Lane’s End Farm [in Versailles].” Prepping involved feeding, mucking stalls, turning out, grooming, handling and walking the yearlings as they prepared for the Keeneland Thoroughbred sales in Lexington, Kentucky.

“It was a different way to be with horses, and I learned a lot,” Callie said. “But after taking a break of not riding—I still rode occasionally, but not as my main focus every day of my life—I missed it.” 

She rode as an amateur throughout college and competed on Kentucky’s Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association team. She served as vice president and in 2008, during her senior year, the team won the IHSA National Championship (California). 

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“We were complete underdogs,” Callie said, “but we were national champions.” 

Like Graduate School In Horses

Callie wanted to experience the equestrian world beyond her family farm. As she counted down the classes to graduation, she began looking for a professional riding position. 

At a barbecue hosted by her uncle, Callie spoke with Dell Hancock of Claiborne Farm. Hancock offered to reach out to her show jumping contacts: Michael Matz and John Madden. John agreed to give Callie a shot.

The promise was a job through the winter circuit in Wellington—and only that. The Maddens didn’t guarantee what the job would be. That part fell on Callie’s shoulders. “The job I was trying to get was the assistant rider,” Callie said. “But [John] said, ‘I’ll guarantee you a job through [the Winter Equestrian Festival]. If you don’t work out as a rider, you can be a groom or just help out in the barn.’ ” 

From John’s perspective, he expected Callie to fill the assistant rider role, but he wanted to witness her commitment and work ethic. 

“The big things aren’t what matter for success in this, for Callie’s success or for anybody’s success,” he said. “It’s all the little things. Like Beezie, she showed up every day. I know that sounds a little oversimple, but you’d be shocked the people that talk a lot and can’t do the basics.” 

“The big things aren’t what matter for success in this, for Callie’s success or for anybody’s success. It’s all the little things. Like Beezie, she showed up every day. I know that sounds a little oversimple, but you’d be shocked the people that talk a lot and can’t do the basics.” 

John Madden

John tested Callie—quipping after one of her first lessons, “If you want to show up tomorrow, you can. I don’t know why you would, but you can, if you want to show up.” Callie kept showing up. 

“We just like to separate the wheat from the chaff early,” John said. “Somebody’s got to have the passion and ingenuity and the drive to be successful. And Callie has that. She has the ingenuity, the drive and the passion, along with everything else everybody has. You need those things.”

Life at the Maddens’ felt like graduate school in horses, especially regarding the flatwork. Callie said she didn’t wow anyone, but she just kept trying to absorb all the information—though at the beginning her brain felt more like a sopping towel than a sponge. 

“I had never had such formal training,” Callie said. “David was very relaxed, and I think I’ve always had a natural feel. It was a whole different system. John and Beezie have a very particular system in relaying their styles of lessons. It was very overwhelming at first. All the lessons and schooling at home, I didn’t look like the shiny star. 

“I was on this horse Creme Brule, who was a very stiff horse that Beezie competed,” Callie added. “She was just hard to get on the bit in general. It was my first or second day riding, and I did not leave a 20-meter circle around John. And I don’t think I got the horse’s head to ever go down.” 

But when she finally competed, things clicked. 

“The first time they saw me compete in the ring on my 6-year-old [they let me develop], John was like, ‘Oh. All right, you really can horseback ride a little,’ ” said Callie. 

From a job only guaranteed to last a couple months, Callie stayed at John Madden Sales for close to five years. 

“It turned into quite a great experience and opportunity,” she said. “I always had a few sale horses to compete, client horses to compete. I got quite involved in teaching some of the clients. 

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“I got to go with Beezie to Aachen [Germany] one time and help her flat and get ready—help her ride and groom,” she added. “They wanted me to get that experience over there, and I got to compete in Europe a couple times on some young horses.” 

Aboard the Maddens’ horse Wrigley, Callie experienced Spruce Meadows (Alberta), Fédération Equestre Internationale competition and five-star classes. 

“She’s got a great feeling for the horses,” said John. “She has plenty of talent, but talent is just a small part. The biggest thing I would say is she’s got great empathy for the horses.” 

Hard Work Pays Off

After leaving the Maddens’ in 2013, Callie wanted to return home to River Mountain and bring her newfound knowledge to her family’s business. She dabbled in a bit of everything, from hunters—she’s the one who first introduced hunter derby standout Mindful to the land of fill—to jumpers to teaching children, adults and young horses, all while managing to compete a horse or two in national grand prix classes. 

In 2017, Callie accepted a job working for Lee Ann Ingram at Riverview Farm LLC in Tennessee. Though she kept a jumper for herself, Callie’s focus shifted to preparing and competing Ingram’s hunters. But by 2020, when the job at Southern Arches opened, Callie’s gut told her to interview. And after competing Chappy—now Greg Crolick’s derby mount—she got the job. 

Callie Schott made her U.S. team debut this year at the Longines League of Nations Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) with Garant before competing in the grand prix at the Longines League of Nations Ocala (Fla.), and the pair’s now been named to the U.S. Jumping Team Olympic Short List. 

“In my sit-down with them before I started, they asked what I would love to do as the goal, and I just said to try to get to the top level of show jumping,” Callie said. “Southern Arches couldn’t be more supportive. We’ve really found horses, and they’ve made it possible.” 

Southern Arches purchased Garant from the Maddens in 2022. Callie had been working with John and Beezie again for about a year at that time, and when Beezie decided to stop targeting team competitions, the Maddens approached Callie about buying the gelding. 

“I give Southern Arches a lot of credit because I knew they would be patient and give the time needed for the partnership to really gel,” said John. “I’d obviously seen Callie ride a lot of horses when she worked for us and also after that. I absolutely, 100 percent believe in Callie, and I 100 percent believed in Garant and always have. So, it seemed sensible.” 

“Some of the horses I’ve ridden in the past for them were quite spicy horses, so they thought maybe I could handle him because he is quite a character in the ring,” Callie said. “We just decided we’d like to see if we were a match.” 

In their first year together, Callie and Garant won the $216,000 MLSJ Grand Prix CSI5* in Traverse City, Michigan. They placed third this March in the $330,000 Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix CSIO5* in Ocala, Florida. 

And beyond Garant, Callie and Southern Arches have developed a string of horses as well as a well-oiled machine with John and Beezie and a team of staff. In March she placed second in the $62,500 Vogel Grand Prix CSI2* in Wellington aboard Fair Field. 

“The story with Garant is absolutely fantastic, and I wanted to finish that, but there’s a lot of other work going on,” said John. “I really enjoy being part of developing something that’s bigger. It really doesn’t interest me to be too involved with something that’s just normal, business as usual. We like to set pretty high goals and be involved in the highest level of things, and I just think it’s been fantastic. Callie’s done a great job. Southern Arches has done a great job of building a team and building an organization that can support hopefully long-term success at the highest level.” 

In April, U.S. Equestrian Federation officials named Callie and Garant to the short list for this year’s Paris Olympic Games. Five months ago, Callie never thought she’d be in that position, but true to character, she’s approaching the uncharted territory as an opportunity to learn. And while she appreciates the new vantage point, she continues to focus on doing the work. 

“Being hands-on with all the horses every day just helps me keep growing and keep getting to know the horses better and seeing their progress,” she said. “I really focus on the day-to-day things. I don’t really think about much more than that. 

“Without my own financial funds to make this happen, I worked very hard to get to a point where I was noticed, so that I could get this opportunity,” she added. 


This article originally appeared in the May 2024, issue of The Chronicle of the Horse. You can subscribe and get online access to a digital version and then enjoy a year of The Chronicle of the Horse. If you’re just following COTH online, you’re missing so much great unique content. Each print issue of the Chronicle is full of in-depth competition news, fascinating features, probing looks at issues within the sports of hunter/jumper, eventing and dressage, and stunning photography.

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