BY ESTHER HAHN
For many, Britt Sabbah requires little introduction. With over 45.7K followers on Instagram, Sabbah and her herd of ponies are a familiar sight in virtual reality.
She’s very much living the California dream in real life. The 33-year-old lives with her husband, Sam, and their daughter, Rory, in a suburb outside of Los Angeles. And in the backyard are her five ponies: Louie, Ricky, Comet, Lily, and Diva.
Sabbah originally hails from St. Louis, Missouri where she started riding at the age of 6, showing in the hunters. “I always wanted to event as a junior, but there weren’t any eventing barns near where I grew up,” Sabbah explains. She had her own horse kept at a training barn, but once Sabbah went to college at the University of Missouri, where she majored in mathematics, she stepped away from riding and horses. It wasn’t until she found herself in Los Angeles—first attending graduate school at the University of Southern California and then teaching middle school and high school math—that she made her way back into the saddle to end the 10-year break.
In 2012, Sabbah married, and soon after, the couple purchased their first equestrian property together. “He’s not a horse person,” Sabbah says of Sam. “He’s totally a city boy, and having horses and living out here in this more rural part of Los Angeles is definitely a new thing for him. But he’s adapted very well.”
“My dream was always to have this type of situation, where the horses could live at home,” Sabbah continues. “It took a while to get to this point.”
It was only four years ago when Sabbah moved her horses into her backyard. When she first bought Louie, an eye-catching dun, she boarded him. Instead, her first step toward her horses-at-home dream was to add the minis.
“That was a good intro to horse keeping at home,” Sabbah remembers. “Minis can be just as much work as the regular horses, but it was at least nice to figure out the logistics with the feeding and the cleaning [with the smaller ponies].”
After about six months of acclimating to keeping horses herself, Sabbah started bringing Louie home on the weekends to trail ride. Finally, once she purchased a trailer, she brought him home full time, opting to trailer to lessons.
“At first, I was super nervous because you’re responsible for everything, and I was so used to having them boarded,” Sabbah says. “I was also very nervous about trailering myself. It took me a long time to get comfortable. I’d practice taking him back and forth to where I boarded him, which was only a 10-minute drive. Then I would take him on short hauls, like to Paramount Ranch to trail ride. Then I began trailering him to shows. He’s a very easy traveler and is good wherever he goes.”
Louie, a 14.2hh dun Welsh/Quarter Horse cross that shows under the name “Saint Louie,” was a green five-year-old when Sabbah bought him. Admittedly not the best choice to get back into riding, but the striking gelding jump-started her now famous Instagram account. “When I bought Louie, everyone thought he was so cute and said that he needed his own Instagram,” Sabbah says. “For a while, I had his own but I couldn’t maintain both his and mine.
Then, I started posting him on my own, and it slowly evolved.
Although tricky when jumping, Louie quickly proved to be an excellent adventure companion, and together, rider and pony have gained each other’s trust to go everywhere: trails, the beach, and shows. These daily outings helped to fill Sabbah’s feed with images that have garnered an avid following.
Sabbah added her roan Connemara, Rickamore Rafferty (“Ricky”), to her string following her return to competing from having her daughter Rory in 2018.
“I knew once Louie and I got to preliminary that he had maxed out,” Sabbah says. “Then he had an injury and literally a month later, I found out I was pregnant. So it was good timing. But even before then, I knew I needed another horse.”
Sabbah thought she would go the young horse route again, but after having Rory, her confidence wasn’t where she needed it to be to tackle another green project.
“The whole time I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait to go cross country and to jump,” Sabbah remembers. “But the reality was the polar opposite. Suddenly, I was terrified. I tried to bring Louie back, but I couldn’t give him the ride he needed to event, so I switched him to dressage. That’s when I really knew that I needed an experienced confidence booster.”
Sabbah purchased Ricky from a video. A friend had gone on a snap-decision trip to Ireland to look at horses, and Sabbah asked, half jokingly, to find her a Connemara. When her friend and her friend’s trainer found Ricky, they assured Sabbah that he was the one. With pony-level two-star experience and a 1.30-meter show record, Ricky surely could help Sabbah.
“I’ve had him just over a year,” she explains. “It took me a really long time to get to know him. I still am getting to know him. Since I started riding again, I haven’t ridden very many different horses. With Louie, I built up a strong connection with him. I didn’t know how to do that with one that was already super experienced, but we’re getting there.”
Ricky and Sabbah have completed three horse trials together at the prelim and training levels, in addition to competing in the 1.10-meter and 1.15-meter jumper division. To help achieve her riding goals, Sabbah trains with Jennifer Wooten for eventing, Erica Petal Mutch for show jumping, and Carly Taylor-Smith for dressage.
In addition to balancing motherhood with her horses and riding, Sabbah works for her family’s non-profit land trust while also posting snapshots of her life.
So how does she juggle it all?
“I get a lot less sleep,” Sabbah says. “I’m very lucky that my husband is okay with Rory going to daycare. Even if I didn’t have the horses, I’d want her to go to socialize. And because she’s there during the week, I have time to ride, drag my arena, muck stalls, and feed the horses.”
On the weekends, Sabbah only rides one horse per day so that she can be with her daughter and her husband around the house. She’s still figuring out how to do horse shows with Rory in tow. So far, it’s helped that her supportive husband accompanies them to shows.
Next up for Sabbah: solidifying her 4th level dressage work with Louie; gaining more experience at the prelim level in eventing with Ricky; and competing the scopey roan pony in the 1.20-meter jumpers. Follow along the journey at @brittsabbah on Instagram, whether to live vicariously through her pony-filled posts or to find the support and inspiration to do it all yourself, as well.
“I’m still very much figuring it out myself,” Sabbah says. “But I hope my story can help others see that you can have a baby and do all of this… That there are definitely ways to get it done.”