Owner at West Wind Stables (Statesville, NC)
We had some really great horses to work with and train when I was attending William Woods. The horses the equestrian community donated were some of the fanciest horses I had ridden at that point in my life. My graduating class was also a great group of riders that I was privileged to learn with and world-class instructors. We were a competitive group and it was great working with all the girls. All those ladies are still my friends and colleagues today. From William Woods, I have a group of friends and professionals I can turn to. It’s about the friends you make and the contacts you make while you are in college.
The equestrian industry is on the smaller side, so keeping good relationships with your peers is important and luckily, I still get to see and work with my classmates often.
Strive for excellence
The teachers I had at The Woods pushed you hard and worked you hard. They demanded excellence out of the horses and the students, and I think striving for excellence was a great way to be taught. I grew up with strong values, but I think William Woods reinforced that with its teaching style. You cannot slack in the equestrian industry; it just does not work.
College was not originally in my plan, but I am glad I went. I am originally from Connecticut and it was important to my family that I go to college, so I decided to go for horses. The move to Missouri was a big deal because there were not phones where you could text every day and we did not have money to fly home. Once I moved, it really meant not seeing family or childhood friends. After Missouri, I continued to move around for my equestrian career. I worked in a bunch of different states after college, including Ohio, Kentucky, New York, and North Carolina. I ended up settling in North Carolina with my husband. We rented a barn for eight years from 1989 to 1996 and then worked on saving for our own property.
We bought our own land in 1996 and built a home and barn.
When I started working for other people at the beginning of my career, I worked as an apprentice trainer. I had to do a little bit of everything. When you graduate, you have to be ready to get down and dirty. You need to clean stalls and do the physical labor. I did that for a while, but then I was able to get better jobs over time and work my way up.
Owning a stable
Now I get to have people work under me. The day-to-day on a horse farm is the same as when I started, only now I do not have to do the hard physical labor. I do not have to clean stalls or feed, but I try and clean a few stalls anyway because I like the exercise. Then we work horses, usually between 30 and 35 a day. We go to horse shows, buy, and sell horses when we can. The horse industry has not really changed, I am just on the other side of it.
I could still do all the chores if I needed to, but luckily, we have been successful, and have great employees to help keep the barn running smoothly. Our daughter is now 24 and a college graduate, so she is an apprentice trainer for us now.
My husband says that it takes about seven years for someone to learn to handle all different types of horses.
Look to the top
My favorite part of the job is showing a good horse. I hope I can show until the day I die. There’s nothing like riding a good horse. It still thrills me after all of these years. I have won quite a few grand championships and they are my favorite memories from my career.
If you want to be a good horse trainer, go work for the best horse trainers and work for them as long as you can. I went and worked for two of the top trainers when I was out of college and worked my butt off for them. I think it really paid off. You need to always be looking ahead and know your hard work will pay off.