BY JESS CLAWSON
Chrissy Serio is everything today’s riders want to be. Raised by a legendary horsewoman, she grew up at Derbydown, and has had the life horse-crazy kids dream of while playing with their Breyer models.
But Chrissy has worked for every inch of her accomplishments, which encompass the hunter and jumper rings in equal measure. She has a natural gift–an eye that can’t be taught, and a kind way with the horses that comes to those with empathy for their equestrian partners. These attributes can’t be underestimated, regardless of upbringing.
Her training philosophy reflects her attitude. “My philosophy for training horses and riders is to always be positive, supportive, and understanding of both horse and rider,” she says. This approach develops trust between her as a trainer and her human and equine students.
Growing up at Derbydown was as wonderful as her admirers imagine. Surrounded by three generations of family, Chrissy learned from her grandparents, Mary Warner Brown and Herman Brown; her mother, Louise Serio, and her brother, TR.
“Derbydown has been in our family for so many years,” she explains. The farm’s origin story begins with a poker game and a man who had no money, but a lot of luck. He went all in with his derby hat, won the hand, and got the farm–hence, Derbydown.
Chrissy believes that different skills required of the hunter and jumper rings combine to make her better across the two disciplines. She considers herself lucky to be able to coach and compete in both. That said, she has a special affinity for the jumpers.
She bought her jumper, Discovery-O, when he was a four-year-old at the VDL Sport Horse auction at the 2008 Winter Equestrian Festival. The now 11-year-old gelding is her Grand Prix mount, but he also trail rides in a halter and lead rope. “That is a requirement for me in a horse,” she says.
Chrissy has the unique advantage of having been raised by one of the riders who has been most influential in her career, her mother and legendary hunter rider, Louise Serio. “She is my number one influence, and everything I want to be as a person and a rider.”
Others she credits as influential in her personal journey include Jimmy Torano, Emil Spadone, and Andre Dignelli. “Jimmy and Emil have been there for me since I was junior rider or younger. They picked out my top junior hunter, Kilona.” Her mother called them before they left for Europe and asked them to keep an eye out for a special junior hunter. They certainly found one in Kilona.
“I won the junior challenge on her at the Capital Challenge Horse Show with scores of 90s,” she recalls. They also won the stake class at Harrisburg in the small juniors hunters. “I was champion at Washington on her in the small junior hunters. We won the $25,000.00 classic at Blowing Rock.”
Another great influence, Tom Wright, coached Chrissy and Kilona. “He was the perfect match for helping me back then. Tom always stayed calm and made me feel calm too, even when the stakes were high.” His guidance taught Chrissy more than just how to succeed in the junior hunters–he taught her what good coaching is like.
Chrissy has recently taken on more students who like to compete in the jumper ring. “It is super fun for me to have jumper kids now,” she says. She loves helping them make their dream come true. This client-centered focus is critical to her ability to maintain a positive trainer relationship regardless of which ring her students are competing in.
She has accomplished quite a lot as a competitor. Beyond her junior hunter career on Kilona, she won the $25,000 Hunter Classic at Middleburg Horse show on Namegame in 2012; was 2017 reserve champion at Harrisburg in the three foot pre-green on Clairvoyant, who also won the incentive class with a score of 90 at the same show; and has developed other top notch hunters, including Intuition and Amadeus.
Chrissy has big plans for the future, including riding Discovery-O in more FEI and Grand Prix classes. She looks forward to qualifying for Devon, Harrisburg, and Washington in the open jumpers.
She also wants to continue bringing her clients’ young hunters along, and hopes to ride in the Incentive finals in Kentucky, the Capital Challenge, and Harrisburg. “I have a great string of young hunters that I love showing and that will be successful in the hunter ring,” she says with well earned confidence. Chrissy is particularly excited about her two new, young hunters, Fettuccine and Alfredo, which she’ll be showing soon.
Chrissy Serio is in a position to make a difference in the horse world. Through her kind approach to horses and riders, she makes their dreams come true alongside her own.
About the Author: Jess is a professional historian and educator who lives in northwestern Virginia. They completed their undergraduate degree in English at William & Mary, and did their masters and doctoral work at the University of Florida. Jess is an event rider with a passion for thoroughbreds, and has extensive experience in community organizing around queer identities, racial marginalization, and labor.
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