TPH Lists 30 UNDER 30

Read this article and more HERE, inside The Plaid Horse’s August 2017 Pony Issue

I have had too many conversations and read too many blog posts to count in which people of my generation disparage the youth in our sport. They invoke the greatness of “the good ‘ole days” and lament the lack of leadership and character in those coming up through the ranks.

The Plaid Horse presents 30 people under 30 years old who represent the promise of the next generation of leaders. From writers to riders, philanthropists to photographers, trainers to publishers, our millennials will carry the torch toward a better future for equestrian sport. – Sissy Wickes

Nick Haness, 28. (Temecula, CA) Rider, Trainer, Hunterbrook Farms — Nick Haness has proved himself over and over in the horse business. As a junior, he won the 2006 USEF Talent Search West and was fourth in the ASPCA Maclay Finals. Turning professional right out of the junior ranks, he became a successful young trainer in California.

Fast forward to 2016, and Nick Haness became a household name in riding rings across the U.S. Haness and Lindsay Maxwells Green Hunter, Technicolor, shipped east to the epic Devon Horse Show and knocked the socks off of all competitors. Peter Doubledays voice rang through the loudspeakers at the Dixon Oval with repeated scores of 95 as the pair walked away with Championship honors. With breathtaking rounds in rings throughout the country in 2016 and 2017, Haness established himself from coast to coast as a national contender.

Tori Colvin, 19. (Loxahatchee, FL) Professional Hunter/Jumper Rider, Victoria Colvin, LLC — If you have heard of horse shows, you have heard of Tori Colvin. Few have held an elite level of success for decades – and at the ripe old age of 19. Tori won everything there was to win on ponies like For the Laughter, Newsprint, Cleverist, Vanity Fair, and Ballou. She was Champion in four (FOUR) divisions at Devon in one year, and was named Best Child Rider four separate years, retiring the trophy for the first time in history. She won equitation finals, USHJA International Derbies, Pony Finals, Grand Prix’s. She won it all.

Closing the doors on her junior career, Colvin has walked into the room as a professional. Instead of running from horse to horse as a catch rider, she is settling down to training, teaching, and making up young horses. We watch as she writes the next chapter of her storied career.

Taylor St. Jacques, 18. (Glen Allen, VA) Rider —
Taylor St. Jacques rides like Misty Copeland dances. Strong, fluid, and precise, her riding has earned her countless ribbons and tricolors. From her days on ponies through her junior career, St. Jacques has been at the top of the American hunter and equitation scoreboard.

While her career is far from over, Taylor is currently best known for her herculean sweep of the equitation divisions at the 2017 Devon Horse Show. At Devon, she won the Washington International Horse Show combined high score, the ASPCA Maclay,the USEF Medal, and the ultimate prize, the Ronnie Mutch Equitation Championship.

As we head into indoor season, who knows what Taylor St. Jacques may add to her resumé.

Dr. Lynsey Whitacre, 28. (Columbia, MO) Scientist —
Dr. Lynsey Whitacre has a PhD in Bioinformatics and is an amateur jumper rider.Fortuitous for the horse industry, she has made a career of combining her love for both science and horses. Lynsey works in Equine Business Development and Research at BioZyme, Inc. The company produces Vitalize, a pre-biotic food additive that promotes gut health in horses and dogs. Vitalize helps animals digest food, absorb nutrients, increase immune function, and reach maximum performance.

Scientist and equestrian, Lynsey Whitacre may solve the perennial problems that plague our horse world: colic, laminitis, ulcers. The possibilities are endless when education and passion meet the equine industry.

Cassandra Kahle, 25. (Vancouver, BC and Califon, NJ) Rider — Cassie Kahle has arrived at the top of the sport with quiet determination. Originally from Langley, British Columbia, Kahle was not a superstar junior rider made famous by winning equitation finals or junior hunter championships at indoors. She was and is a quiet, unassuming young woman with an abundance of talent.

Kahle is currently the primary rider for Emil Spadone’s Redfield Farm in Califon, NJ. Redfield is a huge import, sales, and horse show operation. At any time, Emil will have an array of horses of all ages and experience levels competing in every ring. Cassie is able to transition rom the hunter ring to the jumper ring with ease. From baby green hunters to young jumpers, her relaxed demeanor helps them to learn in the ring. One the same day, at the same horse show, Kahle can be seen in the Hunter Derby and the Grand Prix, a contender in both arenas.

Cassie Kahle is all talent – and a rider with a tremendous future.

Holly Charlebois, 30. (Nicasio, CA) Rider, Trainer — 
Representing the third generation of successful female
riders, Holly Charlebois is a rider and trainer at her family’s Kilham Farm just north of San Francisco, CA. Set on 62 bucolic acres, the farm is host to many activities. The equestrian facility boasts three well- appointed barns, two outdoor rings and a covered ring, and large paddocks. Kilham Farm offers a lesson program for all levels, a training and sales program, and develops young hunters and jumpers for the show ring.

In addition to equestrian options, Kilham Farm is used for weddings, movie shoots, and birthday parties. As Holly laughs, “I don’t know how we end up doing it all, but we do.” The breadth of the Kilham program is impressive. School horses carry riders from their first ride up the ranks to the show ring. Stallions, mares and foals- both horses and ponies- are part of the farm’s population of approximately 65 animals. Pony camps teach kids the fundamentals of horsemanship and grooming.

Having graduated with a degree in Business Management from UC Santa Cruz, Charlebois is integral to the success of her family’s farm. With a bottomless work ethic and surrounded by a family of horsemen, Holly
Charlebois will continue to be a positive force in the industry.

Holly Casner, 28. (Tacoma, WA) 
Photographer — Holly Casner has been involved with horses for her entire life. She started riding as a child, competed as a junior, and became the Elvenstar Orange County Riding Program instructor, all the while enjoying the hobby of photographing horses.

After exploring other career options – veterinary technician, a stint in the army, assistant trainer- Casner came back to what she loves: photography. With her business, The Equestrian Photographer, she travels the West Coast taking photographs at horse shows and shooting portraits at private farms. Her current career goal? To refurbish a van into a travel camper, explore the National Parks, and photograph horses from coast to coast.

Casner has successfully made a career combining her two loves: horses and photography, exemplifying the opportunities available within our vast and varied industry.

Kaitlin Campbell, 25. (Simi Valley, CA) Rider, Trainer — 
Only 25 years old, Kaitlin has been a professional rider since she first appeared on the show scene on the iconic small pony, Farnley Dolphin. She was a professional not in the monetary definition, but in the competitive definition. She has always had focus, ambition, and poise. She knew how to win one day and bravely come back, stare down her nerves, and win again the next.

Kaitlin is fearless. She followed an independent program in high school, juggling her riding career with school from an early age. Raised by a family who valued education, she graduated from American University while riding in the Amateur Owner divisions. As soon as the ink was dry on her diploma, she became a professional and began to pay back her student loans. Her jobs took her all over the country, riding for great trainers like Tim Goguen, Rachel Kennedy, and Shane Sweetenham. She developed young horses for the illustrious American breeding program at Spy Coast Farm in Lexington, KY.

In the fall of 2016, after training and riding for Marigot Bay Farm, she packed up her car, her dogs, and her five horses and moved to California to explore more career options. The most consistent factor in her life of late is her 19 year old Grand Prix jumper, Rocky W. Campbell bought Rocky W as an eight year old to be her Junior Jumper. The lovely bay became that and much more as the pair has successfully jumped huge tracks throughout the U.S. Most recently, they won a $25,000 Grand Prix at HITS Coachella in January, 2017.

Campbell currently works at Q of E Farm with trainer Katie Gardner in Santa Rosa Valley, CA. Diminutive in size and indomitable in spirit, Kaitlin is a young professional to root for.

Emily Riden, 27. (Wellington, FL). Jump Media LLC —
Equine marketing expert Emily Riden knew she wanted to find a career in the horse industry. Working for a small marketing firm as her first job, she soon carried her skill set to the equine industry. From taking excellent photographs to website management to social media engagement, Emily is agile in every aspect of marketing.

As an account executive at Jump Media, she can be seen interviewing riders, standing next to a jump with a camera, or madly typing in the Press Room at a major event.

Lindsay Maxwell, 27. (Los Angeles, CA) Amateur Rider, Philanthropist —
As an industry, we have become inured to wealth. Six figure horses are unremarkable, the cost of showing is prohibitive, equestrian sport has become elitist. Enter Lindsay Maxwell, amateur rider and expert philanthropist. Many of the wealthy players in our sport give generously to various, important charities. Lindsay is notable in the clear vision of philanthropy she displays at a young age.

Maxwell was born in Atlanta, Georgia and is a lifelong equestrian, having ridden with storied trainers like Brad Spragg, Scot Evans, and Archie Cox. As her success in the hunter rings grows, so does her commitment to heritage horse shows. The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund was a major contributor to the 70th Pennsylvania National Horse Show and the 113th Keswick Horse Show. Both are integral to the history of horse sport in the U.S., and both needed an infusion of sponsorship. The horse shows funded by Maxwell are charitable shows, supporting causes close to her heart like animal protection and special needs children.

Savanah Stuart, 21. (Rancho Santa Fe, CA). Founder, Scope Creative Services — 
Young entrepreneur, Savanah Stuart, is changing the face of equine sales and marketing. After an illustrious junior career in the hunter ring, she has found uccess in the amateur jumper rings and importing and selling her own horses. Founder of Scope Creative Services, Stuart incorporates her expertise in online and social media platforms to sell horses. With leading edge marketing techniques and strategies, Stuart expands sales efforts beyond word of mouth to the limitless reach of modern media. “Evolve how you sell,” as her website states. Stuart is bringing equine marketing into the 21st century.

Dorothy Douglas, 29. 
(Flower Mound, TX) Rider — Dorrie Douglas is a familiar face in the show ring. From Texas to Florida, New York to North Carolina, Douglas is one of the riders for the prolific MTM Farms. She estimates that the successful show barn is on the road for more than 40 weeks per year, an unbelievable feat for those who understand the grueling demands of horse show travel and competition.

Douglas is a graduate of St. Lawrence University and took some time to teach school in South Korea before becoming a professional rider. “I rode and I got an education and some great experience outside of horses. And then I came back. I tell kids that horses are a lifelong opportunity. Horses and horse shows aren’t going anywhere. Go and make sure that this is what you want to do or figure out how to make enough money to show on the weekends.”

As a professional, Douglas competes successfully in the hunter and jumper rings. Humble and hard working, she is a notable role model for younger equestrians.


Julie Ferris, 27. (Atlanta, GA) 
Equine Artist — A graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Julie Ferris is a rider and an artist. Her work is testimony to her love and understanding of both. Julie embodies the power, beauty, and spirit of the horse in each of her canvasses. Usually employing a white background, the artist is able to capture the anatomical and the ethereal in each of her subjects. The pieces capture the look of the horse and its personality, a perfect combination for commission work.

Kirstie Dobbs, 26. (Chicago, IL) Amateur Rider, Industry Activist — Kirstie Dobbs is an accomplished rider who has translated her passion for equestrian sport into action. Currently working on her PhD at Loyola University Chicago, she has been involved with USHJA programs that promote horsemanship and education. She was the 2009 USHJA Youth Representative to the USEF, and has remained involved with the hunter/jumper affiliate. She is a member of the Horsemanship Quiz Challenge Ad Hoc Committee and facilitates the HQC Finals each year. In addition, she and fellow rider, Hailey Johns, founded the USHJA Foundation Youth Committee as a way to enjoin young equestrians in fundraising and charitable efforts.

“I am passionate about changing the way we value our youth in the show jumping industry by giving them opportunities to explore their agency as a highly ambitious demographic that is committed to horsemanship for the betterment of the sport. My hopes for the horse industry are that we see more integration between the differing levels of showjumping that is founded upon core values such as education, horsemanship, and inclusiveness.”

Dobbs is a shining example of the limitless potential of the upcoming generation of leaders in the horse industry.

Piper Klemm, 28. (Canton, NY) 
Publisher, The Plaid Horse — It is not often that one sees a PhD in Chemistry in the horse business. It is not often that one sees a PhD in Chemistry in the media business. It is not often that one meets the combination of the two in one person, Piper Klemm.

A lifelong rider and pony enthusiast, Piper physically left the ring to pursue the highest educational goals. But, her heart never left the barn. After graduate school, she had her choice of careers. The one she chose brought her back into the horse industry- to its advantage. Piper has owned The Plaid Horse magazine for three years and brought it from a newsprint digest to a formidable print and social media presence. Her vision for the magazine and the industry is ambitious and sweeping, and always inclusive. She remembers the equestrian experiences that brought her to today and endeavors to keep passion for horses at the center of our industry.

Lee Lee Jones, 23. (West Grove, PA) Equestrian, Hero — Young eventing protégée Lee Lee Jones, daughter of Olympian Phillip Dutton and wife Evie, suffered a catastrophic traumatic brain injury from a fall in December, 2016. Lee Lee continues her slow road to recovery with characteristic grit and determination.

As amazing as her spirit is the tremendous groundswell of support springing from the equestrian community. The moniker #leeleestrong has been seen on hats, t -shirts, and bracelets from Florida to California, Canada to Ireland, Rolex to Luhmuhlen. Hunter, jumper, dressage, eventing- lines between disciplines fall away. One spirit, one community united in hope and kindness.

Brandon Gibson, 28. (Knoxville, TN) Rider, Trainer — 
Brandon Gibson and his wife, Jocelyn, operate Select Sport Horses near Knoxville, TN. The Gibsons offer everything from lessons to training and sales to horse showing. Beginners to advanced lessons, showing young horses on the line to International Hunter Derbies, Brandon and Jocelyn run the gamut in the horse industry.

In 2015, Brandon and Jus D’O were the USEF Horse of the Year Grand Green Working Hunter. Known for his pleasant demeanor and beautiful riding style, Gibson can be found in the jumper, hunter, and hunter breeding rings.

Jacob Pope, 22. (Columbia, MD) Rider — 
Jacob Pope is the poster child for the USHJA Emerging Athletes Program (EAP). Growing up as a student and rider at The McDonough School in Owings Mills, MD, Pope decided to take a chance and join the EAP clinic with Olympian Melanie Smith-Taylor. From that point of entry, he won the 2011 Emerging Athletes Championship, earning a spot in the George Morris Excellence in Equitation Class. Jacob’s talent shined at the event and he was recruited by Andre Dignelli as a working student.

Under the tutelage of Dignelli, Pope ascended the equitation ranks. Winner of both the 2012 USEF Talent Search Finals East and the ASPCA Maclay Finals, Pope is quick to thank the trainers and owners who provided him with horses and opportunity. A recent graduate of Rollins College, he has continued to ride and learn from the best, and plans to become a professional rider and trainer.

Humble, hard working, and generous, Jacob Pope is a bright star on the horizon of the equestrian world.

Ransome Rombauer, 19. (St. Helena, CA) Rider and Rescuer — Ransome Rombauer has had an extremely successful junior career. She won the USEF Talent Search Finals- West, she was Reserve Champion in the Emerging Athletes Program Finals, and won numerous top hunter, equitation, and jumper championships all over the country. Rombauer not only has the drive to succeed in the ring, she has the will to improve the world outside of the ring.

Ransome has dedicated much of her young life to rescuing horses, especially mini-horses. She locates horses listed on the internet in kill pens at auctions throughout the U.S., a grim, heartbreaking reality for many of our equine population. Ransome has rescued 10 minis and two regular sized horses herself and acts as an adopter facilitator, helping to put people and animals in need together. She is an ambassador for BrookeUSA, bringing awareness to international equine welfare as well as her efforts toward domestic horse welfare.

With talent, drive, and a social conscience, Ransome Rombauer will be an asset to the freshman class at SMU this fall. We look forward to continued success in her equestrian career as well as her social activism efforts.

Lillie Keenan, 20. (New York, NY) Rider — 
Lillie Keenan is a household name for those who follow the American hunter, jumper and equitation scene. Keenan had a phenomenal pony and junior career. She won numerous championships in the hunter divisions at all of the top ranked shows. In 2011, at the age of 14, she won the hotly contested USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals, beating all of the top professionals. In 2012, she was second in both the USEF Medal Finals and the ASPCA Maclay Finals, quite a feat for a young rider.
In 2013, she sealed her equitation career by returning to win both of the finals that had eluded her the year before. Grit, focus, and determination outweighed pressure as the young rider performed like she had ice in her veins.

Now attending Harvard University, Keenan has dedicated her efforts to international show jumping. With numerous top finishes in the US and abroad, she won the 2016 U25 Longines International Jumping La Baule event and was third in the CSI5* Wellington and the HITS $1 Million Grand Prix.

In 2017, Keenan’s name again splashed the headlines when she purchased Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum’s Olympic Bronze Medal mount, Fibonacci 17. Michaels-Beerbaum and the beautiful grey have reached the pinnacle of show jumping success during their partnership. The United States hopes that the new horse and rider combination will be our next great Olympic expectation.

Ali Wolff, 27. (Columbus, OH) Grand Prix Rider — 
Grand Prix rider, Ali Wolff, is one of the most promising young equestrians on the American show jumping scene. She may lead the next generation to Olympic podiums. Wolff is the product of a great American training system, having been trained by Pam Graham, Anne Kursinski, George Morris, and Michele Grubb. With Grubb as her coach of 13 years, Wolff has climbed the jumper ranks, culminating in representing the U.S. on Nations Cup teams and top placings in Grand Prix from Wellington, FL to Spruce Meadows, Canada. Humble, hard working, and dedicated, Wolff is one to watch.

“No matter how unlikely or impossible something may seem… no young person should ever be discouraged from pursuing their dream, because it is NOT about reaching the destination, it is about everything they will learn and experience on a journey unlike any other when it is fueled by a dream!”
– Lizzy Traband

Photo courtesy of Lizzy Traband.

Lizzy Traband, 18 (Centre Hall, PA) Clinician, Speaker, Equestrian Performer, Competitor, 2016 USEF Junior Equestrian of the Year —  Born with one hand, Lizzy embodies strength, spirit, and determination. Not only does she compete on a national level in hunter, jumper, and dressage events, Lizzy also does exhibitions
in bridleless jumping and Hippodrome and Roman riding. She has never let her physical differences define her.

Lisa Munro, 25. (Boulder, CO) Rider, Small Business Owner — Lisa Munro is a lifelong equestrian with a love of horses, education, and business. She competes in the Adult Jumper division on her beloved OTTB and participates in entertaining educational horsemanship sessions with kids at her local barn. Most recently, Lisa has helped her young barn mates study for the 2017 Horsemanship Quiz Challenge sponsored by The Plaid Horse.

Lisa Munro began a small business called Horse D’oeuvres, a delightful tongue in cheek name for her homemade horse treats. As a child, Lisa would feed her horse cookies home baked by her mother. Sighting a market for the tasty treats, she perfected the recipe and launched Horse D’oeuvres in 2016. Delicious, easy to stuff in your pockets, and readily ordered online, the treats are a favorite of horses and humans. The motto of
Horse D’oeuvres is “Treat your horse with love,” a tenet that Lisa lives by. Equestrian, horsemanship proponent, small business owner, Lisa Munro is an asset to the horse industry. To follow Lisa on her blog and to order treats, go to

Compton Jr. Posse, Founded 1988. (Los Angeles, CA) Youth Equestrian Program — For 29 years, the Compton Jr. Posse (CJP) program has provided a way for inner city youth to find sanctuary from the strife and challenges of their neighborhoods through year round after school activities. Kids participating in this equestrian
and education program have been less likely to become involved with gangs, less likely to drop out of school, and less likely to become involved with the juvenile court system.

With the involvement of Olympian Will Simpson and a dedicated Board of Trustees, CJP offers a Naturalist Explorer Program, participates in College Preparatory Horse Shows for college scholarships, and is assisting 20 CJP students with college scholarships. In 2014, CJP provided services to over 1500 inner city youth. From their website, “For over 29 years, the Compton Jr. Posse has given inner city kids hope by teaming them with horses. Through these equestrian activities, our youth develop responsibility, discipline and self-esteem. Students learn to set and achieve both academic and career goals. There can be no better investment in their future.” Compton Junior Posse relies on donations. To give your support, go to

Mackenzie Shuman, 18. (Monument, CO) TPH Media Chair, Student — A Plaid Horse intern since 2015, Mackenzie has worked her way up to the position of Media Chair before we lose her to Arizona State University and the Cronkite Media School in the fall. Mackenzie is an IEA rider, a Zone 8 Sportsmanship Award winner, and a member of the National Honor Society.

While navigating the demands of high school and competitive riding, Mackenzie began a successful photography business, Quintessence Photography. A skilled photographic sensibility, a talent for writing, keen organizational skills, and ambition, Mackenzie Shuman represents the young talent in our industry.

On her experience as a Plaid Horse intern:

“Working with The Plaid Horse Magazine has given me more opportunities than I could have ever imagined. I have not only improved and tuned my writing skills, I have also become a more confident person overall. The tasks that have been put in front of me have brought me into the field of journalism full swing. From interviewing people who greatly intimidate me, to working alongside fellow interns who are just as excited about the magazine as I am, The Plaid Horse Magazine is something that I will always cherish. I work hard, harder than I could have ever imagined, and I love every second of it. The intense nature of the job gives me a thrill and inspires me to work harder every day. The experience I have gained here is an experience I will carry with me my entire life.”

Irene Elise Powlick, 17. (Salt Lake City, UT) Rider, Photographer, Journalist — Irene is currently a senior at the Skyline High School in the International Baccalaureate program. She rides in the 3’3″ Junior Hunters and the 3’6″ Equitation. She is an intern for The Plaid Horse and a summer intern for Andrew Ryback Photography.

Irene is the first one to volunteer for an assignment and the last one to tell you she is too busy to help out. She is a perfectionist, she is smart, she is fearless. Irene has found her way from Utah to equestrian stops all over the U.S. from Devon to Vermont, Thermal to Kentucky. Her love of horses and all things equestrian permeates her life as she approaches riding, photography, and journalism with focus and grit.

Irene has her sights set on Medal Finals and International Derbies in the short term, and medical school in the long term. Our industry is elevated by young women like Irene who lead with their heart and follow up with commitment and hard work.

Betsy Kelley, 29, and Diva, 28. (Olympia, WA) Web Director, Wonder Horse — 
Betsy Kelley has spent her lifetime immersed in the equine industry. Her horse career started when she was 12 as a working student and show groom, and graduated to horse showing and knowing that she needed to find a way to marry a tech career and her love of horses.

When Betsy joined The Plaid Horse team as the Web Director, it was a dream come true, and the perfect blend of her tech skills and equine knowledge. With one glance out of her office window, you can see that she is never far from her childhood best friend and main inspiration, Diva, now 28 years old. Earlier this year, Diva wrapped up her nearly three-decade show career with top ribbons at the Region V Arabian Sport Horse Championships.

Sarah Mechlin Duhon, 29. 
(Wright City, MO) Rider, Trainer, Mother — As Editor of The Plaid Horse, lifelong equestrian professional, and mother of four, I will admit that I have more than a minor soft spot for a working mother in the horse industry. While our profession allows for many accommodations for families – traveling as a pack, flexible hours, a welcoming workplace – it is also a grueling business in which to raise a family. The hours are endless, there is never really a day off, and our clients are, well, as demanding as our children. Husbands and wives often have to compete for our attention over the din of daily distractions.

Sarah Mechlin Duhon is living the working professional rider/trainer dream/nightmare. It is the best of times and the worst of times with a baby on the road. Sarah has the help of her family and her friends to buoy her as she faces the challenges of early motherhood and horse showing.

Sarah has had and continues to have a very successful riding and training career at her family’s Mechlin Farm near St. Louis, MO. From the jumper to the pre-green to the International Hunter Derby rings, she garners top ribbons. As a trainer, she has consistent success, including training the Small Pony Hunter winner at Devon a few years ago. A young mother on an exciting career path, Sarah Mechlin Duhon is an inspiration.

A young mother on an exciting career path, Sarah Mechlin Duhon is an inspiration.

Andy Christiansen, 32. 
(Wellington, FL) Course Designer — Andy Christiansen is an exciting new face on the course design front. With FEI Level 2 and USEF Hunter and Jumper Course Designer licenses, riders may tackle his courses in any ring throughout the U.S.

Hailing originally from Ecuador, Christiansen ran the jump crew for the Winter Equestrian Festival for 10 years. He drew from the experience of building jumps to learn the technical and aesthetic mastery of course design. Exhibitors, judges, and managers alike extoll the beauty and technical challenges of a Christiansen designed course, as evidenced in the 40 weeks of work contracted in 2017.

Christiansen credits his success to the time and generosity of many mentors such as Anthony D’Ambrosio, Brian Brown, Steve Stephens, Werner Deeg, Ken Krome, Skip Bailey, and Bobby Murphy. It is a good bet that Equitation Finals, Derby Finals, or an FEI World Cup Finals are in Andy’s future.

McKayla Langmeier, 17. (East Granby, CT) Equestrian Prodigy — The daughter of two storied professionals, Linda Kossick Langmeier and Kenny Langmeier, McKayla has made the most of her genetic gifts. At 15 years old, she won the 2015 ASPCA Maclay Equitation Finals, making Linda and McKayla the first mother/daughter duo to have ever won a Final. And, she won it after having gone first, a difficult position for any rider in any class.

In 2016, at the age of 16, she won her first FEI class in Spruce Meadows, as well as the Best Junior Rider Award at Devon, the HITS Saugerties Hunter Derby, and the Saratoga Grand Prix.

McKayla was second in the USEF Medals Finals twice – in 2015 and 2016. She was Reserve Champion in the USEF Talent Search Finals East in 2015 and fifth in 2016.

My bet? She will come on with a vengeance in 2017, her final junior year, and then continue to be one of the best riders in the United States.

The O’Mara’s: TJ, 18, Meg, 23, Abby, 25, 
Casey, 27. (Rumson, NJ) Riders, Student Athletes, Career Professionals — There has never been a family dynasty in the modern equestrian world like the O’Mara’s. Tom and Liz O’Mara have been to 34 Equitation Finals with their four accomplished equestrian children. 34 Finals would be like climbing Everest in thin air to most families. But, the O’Mara’s credit the riding experience as a seminal factor for growth individually and as a family. As Tom states, “I believe the greatest benefit my children have all gotten from their involvement with horses and riding has nothing to do with the ribbons won, but with learning about discipline, commitment, effort, humility, self-confidence and attitude.”

In 2016, T.J. had a stellar year in winning the USEF Medal Finals, winning the USEF Talent Search- East Finals, and placing third in the ASPCA Maclay Finals. Currently a student at the University of Kentucky, T.J. recently placed within the top 10 in the $50,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix at HITS Saugerties.

Meg matriculated from the University of Georgia in 2017 as the most decorated Bulldog in Georgia Equestrian history. In 2012, she won the USEF Medal Finals, placed second in the USEF Talent Search- East Finals, and fifth in the ASPCA Maclay Finals. At UGA, she was NCEA All Champion, SEC Rider of the Year, and awarded All SEC status. She has recently joined a publishing company in New York City.

Abby also graduated from the University of Georgia as a decorated student athlete. She holds the fourth all time career record wins at UGA, and was an NCEA All American and All SEC. With a Master’s Degree in Education Psychology. Abby has recently joined the equestrian coaching staff at Texas A&M.

Casey attended Auburn University, obtained a graduate degree, and is currently a mental health professional in
Tampa, FL.

From successful junior riders to decorated college student athletes to accomplished professionals, the O’Mara’s cut an impressive swathe through the equestrian world.

Lily Rhodes, 16. (Tulsa, OK) Para-Equestrian — 
Lily Rhodes is a 16 year old Para Dressage rider in Oklahoma. At the age of 14, she lost an arm to a nonequestrian accident. A lifelong lover of horses, Lily was determined to pursue her riding career. With hard work and unparalleled strength of character, she is currently competing in para-equestrian dressage events on her APHA gelding, Charlie.

Lily is proudly partnered with US Equestrian, Annies USA, EquLifestyle Boutique, and Millbrook Leathers. One of her main goals is to provide support for fellow paraequestrians. Leading by example, Lily is an inspiration to para and able bodied riders alike.

Reed Kessler, 22. (Guttecoven, Netherlands) Olympian, Grand Prix Rider, Trainer — 
At the age of 18, Reed qualified for the 2012 London Olympic Games on her Cylana. She is the youngest rider in showjumping history to compete in the Olympic Games. In 2013, she was awarded the FEI Rising Star award and the USET Lionel Guerrard Hermes Award for Rising Talent.

Reed now resides in The Netherlands where she competes a string of Grand Prix and developing horses. The young star continues to shine in the jumper ring.

Work to Ride, Founded 1994. (Fairmount Park, PA) Inner City Youth Program — Work to Ride was founded by horsewoman Lezlie Hiner as a program to offer inner city youth a chance to spend quality time in contact with horses and nature. Housed at a former police horse stables called the Chamonix Equestrian Center, Work to Ride is on the outskirts of one of North Philadelphia’s toughest high crime communities. The kids who enroll in the program are required to commit to at least one year, although they are expected to stay through high school graduation. After- school tutoring and college enrollment assistance are available so kids can keep up grades in school and complete the college admissions process.

Work to Ride teaches students from 7 to19 years old to ride and care for horses, and encourages them to participate in equestrian sports. Some compete in racing at nearby hunt meets and others are able to foxhunt with local groups. Work to Ride has had their greatest successes on the polo field. In 1999, the program fielded its first all black polo team. In 2011 and 2012, the Work to Ride all black squad won the United States Polo Association Interscholastic Championships.

Three of Work to Ride’s most noted graduates are Shariah Harris and brothers Kareem and Daymar Rosser. Harris earned a full scholarship to Cornell University, where she will vie for a place on their successful polo team. Most recently, she became the first African-American woman to play in the highest polo league in the U.S. Kareem recently graduated from Colorado State University, where he was named the 2015 Collegiate Player of the Year. Daymar attends Roger Williams University and led his team to win the 2017 USPA National Intercollegiate Championships.

Work to Ride provides respite for kids whose lives are marked by violence, failing school systems, and drugs. A dedicated group of volunteers and tutors, a founder whose door is always open, and the love of a good horse combine to provide opportunity and a leg up. To learn more about Work to Ride or to make a donation, visit

Gianna Terranova, 22 (Ocean County, CA) Photographer — Gianna Terranova has been photographing horses since high school as a way to afford to ride. As she researched college choices, she was drawn toward the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) because it offered an Equestrian Studies Degree and a riding team. Gianna had not yet considered that her hobby could become her vocation.

After graduating from SCAD in 2016, she took a job as a groom in Maryland and continued to photograph horses on a part time basis. Soon, interest in her work ballooned and she realized that photography could become her sole profession. “The business ended up growing so much I was shocked. I completely uprooted my life and moved to Maryland, where I had no connections and knew no one in the horse industry, and it still grew exponentially! The idea that I could go anywhere in the U.S. and my business would thrive gave me the confidence to finally take the step into being a full-time photographer.

“Starting her company Gianna Terranova Photography has allowed Gianna to travel the U.S., a lifelong goal. Her understanding of the beauty of a horse and the value of the horse/ rider bond are evident in her breathtaking photographs.

Katherine Steiner, (Centenary College) 2017 Cacchione Cup Winner x Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA) 2017 IHSA Collegiate Cup Champions — The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Equestrian Team garnered the title of Collegiate Cup Champions for the third straight year. The Bees team consisted of Vincent Delisso, Allison Bale, Lillian Hilgers, Tess Mroczka, Madison Albano, Meredith Denny, and Tatum Tatreau.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of IHSA, the show hosted 25 hunt seat and western teams and more than 400 individual qualifying riders to vie for the most coveted titles in collegiate equestrian sport.

“Alone we are a whisper but together we are a cyclone,” said Katherine Steiner after a superior series of rides led to crowning the Centenary University Equine Studies major the USEF Cacchione Cup titlist for 2017. The coveted award is named after the founder of the IHSA, Bob Cacchione, and is awarded to the National Individual Hunter Seat High Point Rider.

Steiner won in her first finals competition and last collegiate show, leading her coach, Michael Dowling, to describe the win as a “Cinderella story. She invested herself all year for this one moment and was the most driven and dedicated of riders.” Hats off to Katie Steiner, proof that hard work and dedication can pay off.

Texas A &M Equestrian (Waco, TX) 2017 NCEA Champions — The Texas A&M Aggies had a stellar 2017 season, winning the coveted National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) National Championships. The win was the 12th in the program’s history and the first since 2012. NCEA’s Coach of the Year, Tana Mckay, praises her team’s clutch performance. “It was a team effort in and out of the arena.”

Three of the Texas A&M riders were named NCEA Most Outstanding Players of the Year. Avery Ellis was named the Horsemanship Most Outstanding Player, while Rebekah Chenelle was awarded the Equitation Most Outstanding Player with a 4-0 record at the Championships. Western rider Sarah McEntire won the Most Outstanding Player for Reining.

Seeded fifth entering the National Championship competition, the Texas A&M Team had all of the stars align to win four meets in three days. We congratulate all of these outstanding collegiate equestrians.

Listen to their big win on an NCEA Special Edition of the #Plaidcast at

Photo credits: Irene Elise Powlick – Tori, Nick, Ali, & the O’Mara children; Adam Hill – Piper, Holly Charlebois, & Jacob; Piper Klemm – Kaitlyn, Brandon, & Dorrie; Peter Pham – Taylor, Lynsey, & Lillie; Vicci Valenti – Emily; Deb Dawson – Lindsay; Erin Gilmore – Ransome; Al Cook – IHSA; Coral Link Photography – Betsy and Diva; Marion Murphy – McKayla

Read this article and more HERE, inside The Plaid Horse’s August 2017 Pony Issue

About the Author: Sissy is a Princeton University graduate, a lifelong rider and trainer, a USEF R rated judge, a freelance journalist and an autism advocate. Her illustrious resume includes extensive show hunter and jumper experience. She lives with her family in Unionville, PA and Wellington, FL.

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