Hailing from Spring Hill, Kansas, 14-year-old Gabrielle “Gabby” Young can be found ringside most weekends, traveling all over the Midwest and Southeast to show with her family’s Rolling Acres Stable. Aboard veteran Welsh-Quarter Horse cross Hidden Springs Woodstar, Gabby is a regular competitor in the large pony hunters and has contested U.S. Pony Finals multiple times.
Junior reporter Ella Doerr caught up with Gabby after she won the $1,500 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby on 19-year-old “Woody” (Islander—Sipobrandy) during Week III of the Gulf Coast Winter Classic in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Congratulations Gabby! I’d love to hear about your wonderful pony. What’s he like?
He’s very sweet and loving. He’s very slow, but he can have his moments.
What do you love most about him?
If you have a big canter coming out of the corner, you could find any distance.
Does he have any quirks?
He really loves bananas.
Yes. Very, very big obsession of his.
Tell me about your winning trip.
Handies are his best round. I was sitting in first after my first round, so I wasn’t too worried about it, but I really wanted to win, so I tried not to make any changes. I tried to be as handy as I could around the corners. None of the jumps were too scary or anything, so I didn’t have to put my leg on super hard, but he was very tired after two weeks, so I definitely had to keep my leg on him throughout the course.
If you could describe your trip in one word, what would it be?
It would probably be…fun. My handy course was very fun because the ring was split in half, and we did this kind of a rollback turn, and it was cool because we had to go through the ring, again through it around, and it was really fun.
Do you have any pre-show routines or good luck charms?
Most of my pre-show routines are trying to keep calm and kind of treat it like it’s any other day because if I think it’s a really big deal, I get really worked up about it. Also at big shows I have these baby dolls that I put on my horses’ stall; it’s kind of a good luck thing. They’re voodoo, yarn doll things. I don’t know what they’re called.
How long have you been riding?
Since I was 3 years old.
Was that just pony rides or were you taking actual lessons?
It was a little bit of both: pony rides and little lessons.
What’s your favorite book or movie?
Probably “Toy Story.”
Do you have any hobbies?
It’s not really a hobby, but I like coloring coloring books and stuff like that—but mainly just horses.
They do take up a lot of time. What does a normal week look like for you?
Tuesday through Friday is riding, and Monday is my day off. It’s mainly schoolwork Monday through Friday. The weekend we show.
How often do you take lessons?
I take as many flat lessons as I can, but jumping, we don’t like to jump a lot at home. So once or twice out of two weeks maybe.
What do you like better? Taking lessons or showing?
Showing for sure.
Because when you’re in the show ring, you just have this energy that you can’t find when you’re at home. When you’re in a show ring, you’re always in a different place and going to different jumps. So you have this new excitement when you step in the ring.
Name a rider or a horse whom you really admire?
McLain Ward because his riding technique is beautiful, and his legs are perfectly still. I was watching him at the [Longines FEI] World Cup Finals in Omaha because I went there with one of my trainers, and she was like, “Look at his legs; they don’t even move,” and I was like, “Oh my God.”
Which of McLain Ward’s horses is your favorite?
I also admire Alex Granato. He is a very hard worker and produces all of his horses from hard work. He is also a very good person and does a lot of great rescue work. I like his horse Carlchen W.
Who do you train with currently?
Sarah Young. She is my mother.
Do you find it challenging sometimes to train with your mother?
It’s not really challenging because I can connect with her more, and we’re more honest with each other.
I was going to ask if anyone else in your family rides, but if your mom’s a trainer, does she ride?
Yes, she rides, and I have two moms actually, and my other mom, she used to ride, but she has her moments, and my brother rides sometimes. I have two brothers and my sister who rides for the NCEA team at Fresno State in California.
You said you have two moms. Do you feel like the equestrian community is supportive of your family?
I think that a very small part of the community is unsupportive because when people see or even just hear that I have two moms they get a little judgmental because [they think] it’s not right for two men or women to love each other. Even though it’s completely normal.
When we spend so much time around our trainers in our barn, and when you have two moms or dads in your trainers, and [people are not] supportive of that, it makes things really hard because you don’t want to change what you believe in just because someone doesn’t believe in the same thing as you.
Why should those who love each other so much and care deeply about each other change who they are and who they love just because one single person doesn’t think it’s right? Then there’s the rest of the community that is supportive of the LGBTQ community where they think it is beautiful for a woman and a woman or a man and a man to love each other.
Where do you keep your ponies?
They are actually at a barn on our property, so they stay at my house.
What’s your biggest worry?
I’ll fall off.
What’s something that you’re working on improving in your lessons right now?
I am working on my elbows because I really like to stick them out, and then I’m also working on keeping my body still and keeping it back.
Tell me what your lessons are like with your mom?
I lesson with my mom [Sarah Young], but I actually take more lessons from my grandma [Diane Young]. My lessons with my grandma are a lot of flatwork, so it’s mainly keeping my body back, chin up and straight, and we do a lot of pole work but not a bunch of jumping lessons.
What are some of your upcoming goals?
To make it to Devon on a junior hunter and then hopefully start doing the equitation, the big equitation and do higher classes with my jumper.
Tell me something that’s fun.
All of my friends from my barn, we all go up and watch the prix, and that’s really fun because most of my friends are getting ready to leave for college. It’s just kind of sad. So I cherish the moments that I have with them.
What’s something that you always have with you? Probably my phone. I charge my phone, but then I forget to bring a charger, and it dies. I lose my phone a lot, but it’s probably my phone.
Have you heard of the USHJA Horsemanship Quiz? I’d like to ask you a practice question. What is a horse’s normal temperature?
99 to 100 or 101 or something like that.
Ella Doerr, 16, from Avon, North Carolina, is a recipient of the USHJA Youth Leadership Award and the USHJA Foundation Gochman Family Grant. She competes in the pony hunter division and the equitation, and she keeps her ponies at home.