I volunteered to go to the Cloud 11-Gavilan North LLC Carolina International CCI4*-S (North Carolina) because I need to work on my grooming skills, and why not get experience grooming at a Fédération Equestre Internationale show? Eventually, I’m going to have to do it for myself. Plus, I like going to the horse shows and watching the horses perform.
We took four horses. Olivia Dutton was in the two-star, Phillip Dutton had one in the three-star, and then he had two in the four-star—Carlchen and Sea Of Clouds. Barn manager Emma Ford, Aisling Carroll, Lila Brown and I helped with all of the horses.
I was nervous after cross-country because I’ve never been to the finish, and it always looks so hectic. It was like at the racetrack whenever certain horses would come back from breezes. We had to learn to catch the horse as it’s walking, put the blanket on as it’s walking, untack the horse as it’s walking. You had to learn to do all of that, so I was like, “Oh yeah, I know what to do. I can do this. It’s not that bad.”
It was definitely an experience, and I would like to groom at more FEI events. You’re surrounded by a bunch of top riders in the country, and you get to see how hard they work. Whenever I grazed the horses, I’d watch everyone flat and give lessons. It was inspirational, and it keeps the engine going for what I want to achieve because you want to be those riders. It’s always fun to sit and watch, and you can always learn from watching. Everyone’s horses move differently, and everyone rides differently, so it’s fun to see how each horse is performing.
Phillip let me go on the course walk with him, and that was fun. I walked the lines with everyone to understand what he’s explaining to them. Seeing how Phillip conducts the course walk gave me perspective for when I have students and am bringing them up the levels—noticing how he explains how to ride each line whether you have a strong horse or a more quiet horse. Listening to how he put it into words—and then watching how everyone set the horse up to ride the obstacle—was pretty cool.
Seeing the jumps on foot and then seeing the horses do it and do it well—you get so happy to see that they tried so hard, and it’s an incredible feeling. You just feel good on the inside.
It was motivational and made me want to go a little harder to get a horse so that I can work toward riding. It was an eye-opener for what is to come. I don’t know if I will ever get there, but the goal is for me to get there, and it gave me that ambition for what I need to work toward.
The months we spent in Wellington, Florida, earlier this spring were awesome. I got to meet people I’ve wanted to meet, and I finally connected with Ashani Hamilton—a rider who has goals of one day representing Jamaica at the Olympics. I connected with dressage rider Philesha Chandler of Chandler Dressage, and I got to lesson with her, which was great.
I am more comfortable at work. I feel like I’m stronger, and I’ve improved a lot as a rider. My knowledge has improved, and I feel like I’m finally starting to step into myself a little more as a professional. Seeing how Phillip works definitely has motivated me to put myself out there more. It’s starting to work out in my favor, and now I have an understanding of what he’s looking for as far as the work I’m doing in the barn. I feel confident enough that I can wrap his horses and tack up for him.
Emma is the one guiding us through it, and she lets us know what each horse needs. When we’re grooming the horses, she’s very adamant about us being super detailed. That’s just a common horse care tip—to pay attention to small nicks that could eventually become a problem in the future if you overlook it. She has so many different exercises, too, for stretching horses or why she wants this particular piece of tack for this horse. Phillip, too. Both of them are very good at helping you understand the structure in the barn.
Emma—she’s like a book. She knows so much about groundwork, the horse’s body as well as treatment. I’m definitely learning a lot, and she’ll always test you about what she should do in a situation, and she’ll let you know if you’re right or you’re wrong or if you’re halfway there. Teamwork plays a significant role in day-to-day tasks at the barn, and I can’t thank everyone enough for helping me get into the flow.
Emma always tells me, “Every barn’s not black and white.” People have developed their style and what they want in their program, and no one knows a horse better than the person who spends the most time with it. You learn as you go, and every day is different, but each day you continue to grow.
Deonte Sewell began working for Phillip Dutton in September 2020. Sewell, 23, grew up in Elkton, Maryland, and started riding when he was 12. After high school, he worked at Tom Proctor Racing Stables in Elkton, where he got his first horse, Godard, an off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding.
Sewell went on to work for Overlook Farm and Appleton Equestrian before joining Chris Barnard and Justine Dutton at show jumping barn Notting Hill Stables (Florida). The Chronicle published a profile of Sewell in the Sept. 7 & 14, 2020, issue.