Wayne, Ill.—Aug. 22
When asked about her student Grace Young, Diane Brandow didn’t hesitate before she said, “Pretty much if she wasn’t 14 she’d be running the barn.”
Young, who hails from Cazenovia, New York, doesn’t have a huge budget for riding, so she’s earned her opportunities through hard work. Most mornings at 7 a.m. you’ll find her at Brandow’s Spruce Valley Stables LLC, mucking stalls, cleaning water buckets, mixing grain and feeding, turning out and driving the tractor to pay for her board and training.
“She knows if certain horses need to have certain medications or supplements—she knows all of that probably just as well as I do,” said Brandow. “We have a beginner program, and she likes teaching, so she helps with teaching the kids how to tack up and groom. Pretty much anything I need her to do she will do and is capable of doing.”
Young started riding with Brandow about four years ago. She had an Appaloosa at the time that wasn’t a great fit, so they started searching for another option and lucked into getting Hailey Kates’ 20-year-old German Riding Pony Maestro (Marco Polo—Suse).
“I have had him for probably four years now, and he is such a blessing,” said Young. “He was an opportunity that I got to go try, and I loved him, so we brought him home. He’s been a challenge but such a blessing and really incredible to work with.”
“They’ve meshed as a team and have been able to go right up through the levels,” said Brandow. “It’s really awesome.”
The pair have had a banner week as Young just earned her last third level score for her USDF bronze medal, and then on Aug. 21, they competed in the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final, 13 and under, at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions and brought home the blue.
“I feel like she really deserves this,” said Brandow. “She’s worked really hard for it and hasn’t taken anything for granted on the whole journey.”
Brandow hopes that Young can continue riding Maestro for a bit longer as the gelding is still in great shape physically and mentally, but they’ll be looking for a horse that can help her take the next step.
“She’s a very easy student to teach,” Brandow added. “She really tries to do what you’re telling her, and now she knows enough and she’s at the age now where she can communicate back to me better as to what she’s feeling, what she doesn’t understand, so it’s really starting to become a communication between us and not just me teaching her.”
Beyond her barn duties, Young, who is homeschooled, keeps busy. She’s an active member of 4-H, volunteers with a number of projects, and has a job as a pasta maker at a local restaurant.
“She does a lot of stuff other than riding too, which is incredible to me,” said Brandow. “I don’t know how she does it. I couldn’t do it.”