Alumna Susan Starr a trail blazer in equine industry


While most William Woods University equestrian alumni find
themselves following traditional equestrian career paths—like owning a barn,
training, teaching and riding professionally—Susan Starr, a 2000 graduate,
utilized her WWU education to do something different, even futuristic.

In 2011, she founded an online business called—a website that blends traditional instruction with technology
through something Starr calls virtual coaching.
As part of virtual coaching, riders send their schooling and
show videos or photos to one of Rate My Riding’s coaches and, based on the
videos or photos, Rate My Riding’s coaches give the riders feedback (aka
homework) on their performance.
“Rate My Riding helps those who are challenged to find
quality instruction locally and affordably,” said Starr. “Never before have so
many people had the opportunity to learn and grow in their riding abilities
without loading up their horses and driving to lessons, clinics and shows.
Riders from anywhere in the world can use and be instantly
connected to coaches that have been vetted for their integrity and ability to
Currently, utilizes 10 coaches—all with
their own teaching perspectives derived from great personal success. Together,
they represent different disciplines, including dressage, hunter/jumper, saddle
seat and western.
WWU Professor Emeritus Gayle Lampe, an internationally
renowned judge, instructor and trainer, is one of those coaches. While
attending WWU, Starr had several classes with Lampe and knew she would be a
great fit for the program.
“It is so exciting to have Ms. Lampe on the team! When we
were setting up the coaches’ bios, she sent me her resume. It’s absolutely
unbelievable – her life on paper. We are extremely lucky to have such caring,
talented and credentialed teachers like her who want to give back to the
industry through this new venture!”
But Lampe and Starr aren’t the only ones from William Woods
participating in the project.
Dani Moritz, a senior from Algonquin, Ill., has also been
involved in the start up—first as an intern and now as Rate My Riding’s
creative director and writer/producer.
“When an equestrian faculty member told me about the
internship with Rate My Riding, it immediately peaked my interest,” she said.
“I knew this would give me an opportunity to combine my love for horses and
writing into one and, while I was at it, do something positive for the equine
industry. Needless to say, I loved my internship and am enjoying working for
Moritz has represented Rate My Riding at two WWU shows—the
Western Fun Show and the Hunter/ Jumper Derby. At the shows, she took videos of
riders who purchased riding sessions, helped them find suitable Rate My Riding
coaches and uploaded their videos for evaluation.
“I loved that I was able to receive constructive criticism
from such an advanced ride,” said Elyse Nickless, a junior from St. Louis, Mo.
“[Rate My Riding Coach] Jamie Price’s input was an incredibly valuable resource
to me, as it not only allowed me to become more aware of my strengths and
weaknesses as a rider, but also provided me with an avenue to improve my
weaknesses through helpful training exercises.”
Starr hopes that more students like Nickless will find Rate
My Riding a helpful tool for learning how to become better riders and trainers.
She looks forward to watching her project take off and to helping others in the
equine industry.
“It feels like yesterday I was participating in the Ivy
Ceremony at WWU and, now, this venture is something that I’m really passionate
about and it has allowed me to meet so many great horse-people while giving
back to an industry I love.”
Susan Starr (right) takes a photo with her classmate Sara McGranahan-Davisson in front
of the equestrian facility in 1999.
Susan Starr and Streetwise in 2000, the year Starr graduated.
Susan Starr in 2012.
Susan Starr rides Sin City at the Music City Arabian Horse
Show in 2011.