For those of you that are following my personal journey, you should know that I have landed myself in an awesome, awesome place! I feel so fortunate right now, and I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I am in Tallahassee, Fl, working at Southern Oaks Equestrian center as the assistant trainer to Marsha Hartford Sapp. There are so many opportunities for me here. It is honestly the first time in my life that I feel that I have the option to go many different directions - it is up to me to choose which way to go!
Marsha Hartford Sapp is one of the hardest working trainers I have ever met, and I am trying hard to follow her lead. She is at the barn at 7:30 most mornings - sometimes earlier! She works until dark, which is why she says she needs help in the winter - the days are shorter. She never takes a day off. The only days she does not ride is on Sundays when she teaches 12+ lessons, but if she has a lull she will get on a horse. Sometimes she has to transport horses, or she goes to Valhalla to ride with Iris, so those are usually light riding days. I usually go with her to Valhalla, and the conversations on the ride are some of the most enjoyable and enlightening conversations I have ever had relating to horse training. I typically take one day off per week, which I try to coordinate with the weather - and I get the response, "Why do you need a day off when you work with horses?" What else is there, indeed?
Marsha has a well-rounded background when it comes to horse training. No discipline is off-limits to her, and she has taught me some useful training tools that she has learned from "other" disciplines. She not only works with a lot of young, unstarted horses, but she has also worked with a lot of Mustangs, and has been very successful competing in the Mustang Million. She also has a reputation for taking on a lot of tricky or dangerous horses, and turning them around. I am here to learn her methods. I am also here because I have followed her for several years, and I have seen that in every picture and video she shares of her riding, she is always poised in a classically correct position on the horse. This is admirable because of the fact that riding young horses causes you to develop a lot of bad habits in your position, from constantly being defensive. It takes a lot of awareness and discipline to train yourself to get back to "neutral" every time. I have also been astounded by her show record - she scored 70% at 4th level ON A MUSTANG SHE TRAINED FROM WILD! Nobody does that. NOBODY! I could not have a better mentor at this stage in my career.
I am now over one month in to my position here. I started working with a string of 6 horses, including my horse and Tucci. By now, Marsha has seen enough of my work and has seen my horses make progress that she not only has added more horses to my schedule, but has also entrusted me to work soley with horses of her clients whom she has known for years. This is a huge vote of confidence for me as a horse person and trainer. Confidence in myself and my abilities has been something I have struggled with for years, and I now feel as though I can own it, thanks to Marsha. It is a dream come true to ride horses ALLLLL day! I actually have so many horses to ride that I have enlisted the help of a working student - someone who comes in to groom for me in exchange for lessons. I am able to get through so many more horses when I have a groom that I can almost keep up with Marsha!
I also teach lessons and have a few training horses off-site. I have several new students who come in to ride just with me. I teach a few semi-private lessons, though I prefer teaching one on one. I love teaching lunge line lessons, as it is the best way to make a HUGE change in a rider's seat in a very short amount of time. I have a student that came to me stating that she needed help in the canter. Well....after 2 lunge line lessons she was cantering without reins or stirrups! It is really rewarding when you can help a rider make such a huge change in their riding in such a short amount of time!
Though I have primarily been focusing on my riding and training, I have also been working on my web design business. I began about 6 months ago, and have already grown! I designed Marsha's website, as well as Erin and Iris's at Valhalla. I did a website for Embrace Saddle Fit, and one for Susan Nicodemus Brown in Chicago. I am currently working on one for an artist who primarily does equine and animal art. I have expanded my services to include logo design, Facebook creation and maintenance, as well as business consultation, web review of existing sites, and photo shoot management. It is a very exciting time for my business, and it is taking off despite the limited hours I can put in at this point. But, like I said, there are so many opportunities for me right now that I am just trying to focus on what it is I WANT, and put my energy in there. It is a great place to be!