Wynmore Farm’s Sybil Greene and Melanie Wright share their philosophies on teaching, showing, and diversity in our sport
By Rennie Dyball
When Melanie Wright was 14 years old, she began riding with Patty Foster and Mary Lisa Leffler at Rolling Acres Farm in Maryland. It’s also where she met fellow rider Sybil Greene. The two became best friends through riding—and, ultimately, so much more.
“When I needed some help, I called her, and the rest is history,” says Greene of teaming up with Wright for her business, Wynmore Farm, based in Lincoln, NE.
“I have loved to watch what Sybil and I have grown together,” says Wright. “Doing this with your best friend makes it that much more special.”
Wynmore Farm caters to both children and adults, with a focus on showing at the local and national levels. “I love starting kids and watching them grow as equestrians,” says Greene. “The nice thing about our barn is that we have two trainers and our system allows for us to start kids and move them up through the divisions.”
Melanie does the majority of riding and training on the road while Greene splits her time between the home base in Nebraska and going to the horse shows. Wynmore generally competes at one or two rated shows per month, plus some local shows for rider mileage, and they’ve got a list of Pony Finals first timers headed to Kentucky this August.
Horse show milestones or otherwise, “the most rewarding part of the job for me is seeing the kids’ faces when they have worked hard on something and they actually get it done,” says Wright. “Whether it’s something as simple as actually doing the numbers or being champion. The smiles are priceless.”
“My philosophy as a trainer is to treat each person and horse as an individual. No one is born with the same talent, passion, or financial situation,” Wright adds. “So I tell my kids, ‘Let’s be better than the last time.’ We work on what is specific to them. It’s hard to see kids jumping higher sometimes, or showing more, or whatever it may be. But let’s make small steps and we will get there.”
“I think the fact that we are still a family barn that competes on a national level is the best part. I love that our people love to be in the barn, and with their animals, yet we can go to any show and be competitive,” says Wright. “Because we have multiple trainers, we are able to divide and conquer to meet the needs of all of our clients.”
CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES AND TRAINING TENETS
“My first ride was on a pony at West Point when I was two. I’m an Army brat, and every base we were stationed at had a Calvary post, so they had stables.” says Greene. “I gravitated to the stables! It was hard to own and show horses moving every two to three years, but once my father retired I started finding my way to barns and lessoning with people I felt could help me achieve any goals. Horses provide so much peace and joy.”
“The first time I stepped foot in the barn, I was hooked,” Wright says of starting to ride herself at 5 years old.
“I was raised by a single mother who tried her best, [but] financially was not able to buy nice horses or pay for shows. But I worked hard and rode other animals and worked my way up as a junior. I braided to help out. Black Entertainment Television sponsored me when I was a junior because they saw the lack of minorities in our sport. I’m just really thankful to have had the people in my life that I did.”
INCLUSION FOR ALL
“I don’t know that I felt different growing up as a black equestrian. Of course, I knew there were very few of us at the shows and in the sport, but I never let that affect my love for it,” says Greene. “I do think it’s great that people are starting to have the conversation about how few minorities there are, and expressing their thoughts and ideas on how we continue to grow our diversity.”
“Sybil an I used to joke about it being just us two,” adds Wright. “However, it didn’t really affect anything for myself. I was still a very successful junior rider and never felt treated any differently. I took some time away from the sport, and coming back to it, I see a lot more diversity, but clearly not enough.”
So how can we do better?
“I do believe that exposure to the urban communities will have to happen at the local levels. For much of the black community, I don’t think that they [see our sport] an option. But it starts with us reaching out and giving back,” says Wright. “I’m a prime example of people providing opportunities to someone who may not have otherwise had the chance to do what they loved. It can work!”
Adds Greene, “As a community, we need to continue to advocate for the sport we love. We need to talk more about it, post more on social media about its benefits, donate to events, and encourage kids to attend. The Omaha Equestrians Foundation has a wonderful program that brings kids from local schools to the event for an interactive experience in their ‘gallery of breeds.’ And we can do more by taking on a working student that you can help along in the business. It’s all about inclusion of everyone!”
After all, notes Wright, our sport is about more than producing good riders. “Riding teaches you to be competitive, responsible, compassionate, empathetic, hardworking. All of the things that make you a better human being,” she says. “We as trainers have a responsibility to make these kids better people, inside and outside of the ring.”
*This story was originally published in the May 2021 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!