BY JESS CLAWSON
Kasey Evans understands that good things take time. The southwestern Virginia resident takes the long view on green horses and riders, which lets her keep an eye on what really matters: a solid education for the horse and rider that will serve them well in the long run.
“I got my start later than kids do now,” she said. “I started riding at 10 or 11 and got my first horse when I was 13.” She rode with legendary Virginia hunter trainers like Chris Wynne and Pam Baker, which meant that she got the foundation in order to build a lifetime in the horse industry.
Her teachers weren’t easy on her. “If I wanted to stay ignorant, they couldn’t help me,” she said, “but if I wanted to be a better rider, they could make me a better rider. I had to want it.”
And want it she did. When Evans went to college at the University of Mary Washington, she worked at a variety of barns to keep riding, and did a couple of semesters on the school’s IHSA team before graduating with a degree in English.
Evans has learned from her horses, too. In fact, she still owns the first horse she rode in the junior hunters, a 15.3 hand thoroughbred she got as a four year old and who is now 23 and enjoying his retirement. “He was a typical thoroughbred, probably too hot for the hunters, really, but there was never any ‘no’ in him,” she said. “He was going to jump no matter what, and jump really well, but he wasn’t easy on the ground. He would bite and kick.”
From him, she learned one of the most important lessons in good horsemanship: “I grew to understand that not everything is going to be perfect, and you have to work with the bad because there’s so much good.” Her horse was perhaps not the intuitive choice for a 3’6” hunter, but he did it anyway because Evans put the time in. “A little bit of patience goes a long way,” Evans said of her success with the horse.
Her ability to take the long view with horses has helped her build her lesson program at Bridlewood Farm in Chesapeake, Virginia, where she gives the horses in her care a job they enjoy. “I’m so grateful for these older horses I can teach on,” she said. “They just come out every day like all right, let’s do it again.”
The time she puts into her horses is one of the reasons she’s able to build long term relationships. “I probably go slower than the average person,” she said. “I tell this to a lot of the people I teach who have green horses. I like to come out with an idea for what I’d like to work on but if something comes up that’s what I do for the day. I don’t always get past the trot if that’s what needs to be worked on.”
This approach works well for keeping horses both physically and mentally sound. Evans stressed that she doesn’t jump every time she rides, or jump very big. “I spend a lot of time walking, trotting. Especially on the ones that came off the track. I’d rather have one that can trot and canter before it can jump. People think it’s your job, you’re a professional, you get to train horses. Sometimes it’s not very glamorous. I spend a lot of time trotting. I’m a really good trotter,” she laughed.
Her knack for thoroughbreds led her to winning the hunter division at the Thoroughbred Makeover in 2015, where she also competed in 2016 and again in 2018. “I love thoroughbreds and still try to bring them in as projects when I can,” she said.
Bridlewood Farm is beautiful full-service training and boarding facility that also hosts horse shows. There, Evans teaches both children and adults. “I like teaching adults,” she said. “They can take the long view and keep it in perspective.”
She teaches every level, from walk/trot lessons up. Bridlewood riders compete in all levels and at a variety of shows. “We’re not just doing rated horse shows,” Evans explained. Her favorite part of teaching is developing the long term relationship with clients, like the kids who started on green ponies and are now in the juniors. “I enjoy the fact that I’ve taught so many kids from the beginning,” she said.
Evans also coaches the Old Dominion University IHSA team, which she enjoys because the riders love it and are competitive without losing sight of the fun and the importance of the process. Evans enjoys taking them to local shows to ride in hunter and equitation classes in addition to competing in IHSA competitions.
For Evans, Virginia is a special place to be in the horse world. “There really is nothing like being in horse shows in Virginia, with the quality of horses and people. Every horse you watch go in the professional divisions, all of the rated children’s and adult horses, are all really nice and taken care of really well,” she said. “And there are so many nice venues, it’s like they’re in a hospitality competition. It’s wonderful to want your customers to be happy and to come back, and that’s why so many horse shows in Virginia are getting so big.”
The Virginia Hunter Championships have played a role in that, Evan thinks. “I’ve had clients want to show in Virginia more with having the hunter championships as a final to go to. The hunter championships have quietly highlighted a lot of horse shows in the state for us.”
Evans’s success with a patient and deliberate approach sets a good example for her students and the right tone for her horses. Her ability to keep an eye on what really matters—the solid foundation of education—may sometimes seem like a lost art, but Evans proves it still works.