By Tyler Bui
Airlie Corder is leading by example. The 12-year-old rider has dedicated herself to every aspect of the sport, in and out of the saddle. Airlie took her first lesson at age six at Champions Corner in Wilmington, NC, and today, her family owns and operates Azalea Coast Farm in Wilmington, NC, where she participates in much of her animals’ care.
“I’ve always been drawn to horses,” Airlie tells The Plaid Horse. “It’s the one thing that gave me confidence and I always see myself riding in the future.”
Currently, she shows her ponies JMR Ovation in the Medium Pony Hunter division and Whisper 2 Me in the Large Pony Hunter division, along with Konan Z,
owned by Chapel Bartee, in the 3’ equitation medals and derbies.
After she began taking lessons, Airlie quickly jumped into her local show circuit. She started out in the leadline division, moved up to the walk/trot and then the crossrails. At age eight, Rob Jacobs helped Airlie and her parents find her first pony, her large, “Whisper,” who took her from the crossrails all the way up to the regular large division. In 2019, Airlie got her medium pony, “Jake,” with whom she competed in the Medium Green Pony Hunters at the 2021 Pony Finals.
Making Horses a Family Affair
Three years ago, the Corder family made the decision to purchase land and establish Azalea Coast Horse Farm.
“Around here, there’s really not a lot of show barns that are competing on the hunter/jumper circuit,” says Wes Corder, Airlie’s dad. “We bought the farm, renovated the property, and most of Airlie’s riding friends came to the farm with her. A lot of them go to the same school, so they go to school and carpool back to the barn together. It’s been a place for families to go and hang out and then a place for Airlie to ride not only by herself with her trainer, but also with her friends.”
Adds Airlie, “Having my own farm has definitely given me a lot of opportunities—being able to ride and show more as well has helped me progress my riding career. It’s nice to be able to have friendships at the barn, and being able to do something with your closest friends and share something that we all love is special.”
Airlie and the other young riders at Azalea Coast Farm are trained by Kendall Mashburn. Mashburn is a North Carolina native with an extensive list of accolades, including ribbons at Pony Finals and Junior Hunter Finals. During her time at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, she was the president of the UNCW Equestrian Team and continued to compete on her own horses outside of collegiate riding as well. She became a professional in 2019, and now works as the head trainer at Azalea Coast Horse Farm.
“I’ve made so much progress with her from where we started. Kendall really believes in me and encourages me,” says Airlie. “As you’re learning, it’s always something different—we’re learning in a fun way and leaves me always wanting to learn more. We also have a wonderful barn manager, Veronica Barringer, who helps take care of the horses. She’s taught me a lot about proper horse care.”
Barringer found her love for developing and training horses after her first position as a working student for Matthias Hollberg. She continued to work as a groom for top riders traveling to competitions over the world until realizing that her true passion was managing horses at home, managing their daily care and programs.
Airlie’s dedication spans her schoolwork, her riding, and caring for her horses and ponies. She heads straight to the barn after classes are finished, and not only rides but also cares for her animals herself. After getting home from the barn, she studies and completes her schoolwork, and is vigilant about catching up on any missed assignments from horse shows.
“I have to be very organized with all my work so I can balance out everything, especially with missing days for horse shows,” says Airlie. “Horses and school are equally as important to me.”
This past year was not only Airlie’s first year competing at Pony Finals, but was also her first year showing on the A Circuit. Looking ahead, she has set big goals for herself and works tirelessly each day to get closer to achieving them. She plans to take her large pony to Pony Finals in 2023, and also hopes to move up to the Junior Hunters and into the jumper ring as well.
The best part of riding for Airlie is that, “I get to learn more about myself every day while doing a sport that gives me more confidence,” she says. Corder’s parents, Wes and Jennifer, are most proud of their daughter’s work ethic and passion for the sport.
“What stands out about Airlie is that she’s extremely motivated and organized. She’s never let anybody deter her from thinking her goals are impossible or that the dream is too big. When we go to horse shows, she does the bulk of the work herself,” says Wes. “She’s put the work in to be successful, which, as her father, is the thing I’m most proud of. For Airlie, it’s not about winning. At all. Number one, she loves horses no matter what. She’s focused on loving them, bonding with them, having a great relationship with them and then being successful together.”
“From a young age, Airlie knew this is what she wanted. She has put in so much work herself in the past years, making sure that she accomplishes her dreams and her goals,” Jennifer adds. “She’s such a dedicated rider and child. It’s just amazing to see someone her age be so driven. She never gives up on herself. She keeps pushing harder.”
Photos © Bailey Beck, Wes Corder, Kirsten Hannah Photography & Shawn McMillen Photography
*This story was originally published in the August 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!
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