I was raised in Oak Grove, Missouri, which is only two hours from The Woods so it was a perfect distance away from home to attend William Woods. I was looking for anyone hiring and Ann Judge (a renowned figure in the equestrian industry) was coming to do a clinic the November before I graduated. We had a phone interview before she even came for the clinic and she hired me the weekend of the clinic. I graduated in December and moved to Colorado and worked as Ann’s assistant trainer. I worked with her for about two years.
I cleaned stalls and fed, but she also gave me some project horses to work with. I started two horses right from the very beginning. I also just rode any horses that needed some extra work or time with them.
I learned a lot about collection and how riding can be like a dance. I showed a little bit while I was with her as well. Ann also worked with Thunder, the mascot horse of the Denver Broncos, and when she was out of town, I got to help work with the horse and prepare him to ride at games.
What I loved the most about William Woods was the free riding time. Every time I got to ride in the arena was so fun. My main seat was Western but I also did Hunter/Jumper and that was really fun and different. I loved all the different project horses – you could learn so much from each individual horse.
I also really enjoyed the teaching classes. When I first learned we were going to be teaching each other to learn how to teach I was nervous. But it helped me find a voice to teach otherswhat I wanted them to know about the horse.
Since there were so many different horses at William Woods, it was there that I learned that you have to approach each horse differently depending on their personality. Since then I have improved at recognizing what each horse needs. I have learned this also applies to people, and that individuals need to be taught differently based on their personality. Then when you teach lessons or a clinic, you need to know how to best teach both the rider and the horse.
Finding the right fit
Through Ann I later had the opportunity to work at a ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It was a guest ranch and I still rode in the winter, but there was much more time off. I actually learned to be a ski tour guide during that time. After that winter, the head trainer left and they promoted me to head trainer. I not only took care of the horses, but did things such as host clinics. My first clinic I was really nervous and it was hard to find my voice.
Having the opportunity to do multiple clinics, I quickly found my voice and learned how to rephrase my ideas for each different rider and horse in attendance. Sometimes it would be all beginners, and sometimes there were different ability levels represented at the clinics. I would always have someone helping me, so I could give people of varied abilities different tasks and had help overseeing them.
I learned a lot about breeding, horse health, and training at this job. During this job I met my partner Matthew and we have travelled a lot together. We first moved to Colorado Springs in 2015 and we stayed with family while Iworked at a small barn there. Then we moved to a small mountain town and I found another ranch job. This time, I was a wrangler and learned more about moving cattle. It was a 10,000 acre property and we moved the cattle every ten to fifteen days.
We decided we wanted to stay in Steamboat Springs. I worked at a vet’s office to see if I wanted to go that route with horses, but learned that I really enjoyed being outside over being in an office. Then I moved to a farm taking care of all sorts of animals like sheep, pigs, horses, and more. I also guided trail rides in my extra time.
We moved to a property we manage and bought our first horses. Then we got the opportunity to be the managers at Big Creek Ranch. There are all sorts of wildlife there and there were horses to take care of as well.
I am working on finding my path with horses in my free time. I bought my first horse that was a project. I am thinking that I want to start buying and training horses myself. Between horses bought from family, my new horse, and a childhood horse, I finally have my own little herd.
I love teaching so I would also find a way to start teaching lessons and clinics again. My main plan is to find cheaper horses and train them to be good ranch horses. Since I have worked at so many ranches in the area, I could sell them to ranches to work with cattle.
Matthew’s mom is also in the mental health profession, and we want to work together to do a therapeutic riding program. I have also worked as a bus driver to receive insurance and benefits, while still having time for my passion, the horses.
The best parts
My favorite thing with horses is accomplishing that final goal. That’s why I like working with cattle. You are putting to use everything that you teach the horse in the arena. I also like seeing the horse and rider team come together when I am teaching. That brings me the most joy.
My advice to current students: Go for it! Don’t be worried if something is outside of your comfort zone. Try new things and get knowledge about every area of horsemanship that you can.