Get to Know Top Junior Rider, John Angus

JJ. Photo courtesy of John Angus


John Angus is an eighteen-year-old top junior rider competing successfully in all three rings. That’s impressive on its own, but even more so when you take into account that he’s only been riding for six years! Starting when he was twelve, he has climbed the ranks with top placings in major jumper classes, hunter derbies, and the equitation. 

Before starting to ride, he was your average outdoorsy, running around kid. “It is pretty amazing to think of all that I have accomplished for only being six years into this sport.” John shared.

John trains with his mom, Stephanie of Seacrest Show stables, who has been riding for most of her life. “I think watching my mom ride when I was younger helped me be the rider I am today. Even when my mom was pregnant with me, she was riding until just a few weeks before I was born!” 

Tonix. Photo courtesy of John Angus

Having your mother as your trainer can be very challenging, but John admits that he’s lucky to train with such a talented professional. “She’s amazing, but as her son I think I know better… but obviously she knows best,” John laughed. “We will lesson with someone else and they will say something that is exactly like what she says all time and she’s like, ‘See I told you so.’ and I’ll be like, ‘ok, you’re right.’ It’s pretty funny. Overall, it is really special to share this sport with her.”

Though many of the top junior riders come from extreme levels of wealth, John understands the value of budgeting and hard work. “We try to do the best we can with what we have. We don’t come from a big family or a ton of money, but we work really hard,” John said. He appreciates every horse and opportunity he’s offered. 

JJ. Photo courtesy of John Angus

John and Stephanie own three horses, and combined with their clients’ mounts have around 12 to 15 showing off and on. John shows in hunters, jumpers, and equitation, often having to go from one ring to another. “I find it really easy for me to switch from one ring to another. Recently, I had to go from the Hunter Derby to the Welcome and then back to an equitation class. It can confuse my mind a bit switching, but it’s not too difficult if I prepare correctly,” John shared.

To prepare for a show day, John likes to wake up early and ease his way into a big day. He enjoys a big breakfast and takes time to relax and have an easy start to what can be a stressful, busy day. “If I wake up rushed and wound up, it’s just a downhill mess from there when I’m too scattered. A good start to my day is very helpful for me,” he explained.  

JJ. Photo courtesy of John Angus

While you can find John in all three rings on a given day,, he prefers the jumpers. “I hate to say that I have a preference but jumpers are just so fun!” 

John has two favorite horses to ride but if he has to pick just one, it would be W. Tonix Hero, or Tonix for short. “He’s a bit of a butthead, but we have a really special bond and understand each other. We have been there, done that with just about everything together.” 

Tonix. Photo courtesy of John Angus

Two years ago, a trade of horses with Vivian Marzulo brought Tonix into John’s life. Since then, the two have moved up the ranks with successes in the Low Junior Jumpers, Medium Junior Jumpers, High Junior Jumpers, Welcomes, Grand Prixs, and Prix des States. A special moment for John was on Tonix in the $30,000 Grand Prix at Tryon Fall 2 where he was leading the class until Matt Cyphert beat him by .02 seconds. “It was amazing to have been in the lead and it was really special to place second in such a competitive class,” John shared. 

Another memorable moment for John was on JJ, who is owned by Barnhill and the Cheska family. “Paul V connected us with Ecanto J, otherwise known as JJ, and we showed in the $15,000 Welcome Stake 1.40m at Tryon Fall I. We won the class and it was so much fun! JJ is a great horse and to win was really cool!” 

JJ. Photo courtesy of John Angus

Even with the strange year that has been 2020, John remains positive. “This year has been a little different than normal with COVID affecting everyone in some way, but it makes me think about all the good things and people in my life. It makes me appreciate everyone and everything so much and work really hard for what I have too,” John shared.

For the rest of the year, John will be staying in Tryon to compete in their Fall circuits. In the 2020 Neue Schule/ USEF Junior Jumper Championships, John and Tonix finished 11th in the Individuals and 5th in the speed. “Tryon is only 20-25 minutes from where I live, so it’s very convenient to have such a great show series so close to home.” 

Tonix. Photo courtesy of John Angus

When John’s not riding, you can find him hanging out with family and spending time with friends and loved ones, “it’s extra special to be able to spend time with family in times like now.”

As an eighteen-year-old, this is John’s last year to show as a junior rider. Once 2021 comes around, John will not be turning Pro, but instead will compete as an amateur. He’ll start the year off showing in Wellington all winter.