By Tyler Bui
At World Equestrian Center in Ocala, a young rider came to watch his barnmates at Shamrock Show Stables compete. He’d previously only competed in a local horse show in a walk-trot division, and he didn’t want to do more than spectate at WEC. But with a little bit of faith, some patience, and a lot of positivity, Caitlin Maloney brought him from feeling too timid to compete, to earning a ribbon in every class—and looking forward to his next show.
That’s what it’s all about at Shamrock Show Stables, where Maloney has grown the boutique training and sales farm she’s always envisioned. For Maloney, it’s all about taking an individualized, caring approach to the sport and to her riders.
“We have struck a harmony together by being a family function,” Maloney tells The Plaid Horse. “I built everything from the ground up, and now that I know the community of Ocala better, what my clients want, and what’s good for me as well, my vision has really come together. Everybody loves to come to the barn and have it be a social place. Being a boutique barn, my customers and I have a great flow of communication.”
Located in the heart of horse country in Ocala, FL, Shamrock Show Stables not only finds a community within itself, but also within the horse community at large.
“The best thing about being in Ocala is that everybody wants to work together,” says Maloney. “Whether it’s the farriers, veterinarians, or the reps for feed and supplements, everyone wants to help.”
Maintaining a blend of training and sales with a diverse barn of clients and riders, Maloney says she’s built her business on patience, confidence-building, and goal setting. She looks to find the lesson in each step of the process, whether that is in or out of the saddle.
“I like my teaching to be organic—based upon what is the goal, both short and long term,” she says. “We have to take into account how the horse is doing, and be intuitive to the horse and how they’re feel-ing in order to get the most out of them.”
A Haven for OTTBs
One unique aspect of Maloney’s business is that she often takes in off-track Thoroughbreds to offer them a second chance. Her love for Thoroughbreds stems from their hardworking, kind personalities, and also due to the lack of opportunities many Thoroughbreds are given after their racing careers.
“Ocala is a great place for Thoroughbreds, but getting them that second career can be tricky,” she says.
There are groups and organizations that have set their mission to provide second chances for these horses. Creating opportunities such as Thoroughbred-only horse shows has allowed for OTTBs to compete and be successful in all different disciplines, from Western, dressage, to hunters and jumpers.
Last year, Maloney was given an off-track Thoroughbred gelding as a project. He had never seen a jump before, but once he got comfortable he became a trustworthy, easy ride. Maloney rode the OTTB to ribbons in both the hunters and jumper classes at WEC Ocala. Another off-track Thoroughbred she took in became the perfect match for one of her clients at the barn.
“You see so many Thoroughbreds out there that don’t have anywhere else to go. They are quite athletic, and they’re versatile. They can compete in any discipline,” says Maloney. “The Thoroughbred brain, they always want to try to do the right thing.”
With all of her students, “Giving confidence to both riders and the young horses is so rewarding to me. The young horses don’t always develop on the same track, some of them are able to peak early, some of them need more time. Either way, it’s about building up their confidence, so by the time we get to the horse show, we’re having fun.”
In addition to being a business owner, rider, and trainer, Maloney has high goals set for herself as a judge. In 2018, she attended a judge’s clinic in San Juan Capistrano, CA, and has been chasing her large R ever since. She got her learner’s card and began learner judging in the fall of 2019, before COVID-19 put a delay on shows. Once she was able to continue, she completed her learner judging requirements, submitted her application and received her small “r” in April 2022.
“I love watching as a judge. It’s great to see the really nice horses go up against each other, and being able to pick the other judge’s brains about how horses get scored is so interesting,” says Maloney. “Watching the Short Stirrup division and the pony kids, you’re just rooting for them. I crave education and stimulation. It’s a challenge, but it’s also fun to travel, see new shows, and meet new people.”
Whether it’s teaching or riding and competing herself, Maloney says the best part about the sport is the process, rather than the result. While she loves the feeling of achievement after putting in a great round and getting a ribbon, it’s the entire process leading up to that moment that makes the sport so enjoyable, and leaves her wanting to achieve more as a rider and teacher.
“My expertise is my job,” says Maloney. “My goal, as a trainer, is to deliver it to my riders in a way that includes creativity and is fun. The delivery of the program is my responsibility. The rider showing up to the challenge and staying open-minded is their responsibility.”
PHOTOS: JW Basham & Andrew Ryback Photography
*This story was originally published in the October/November 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!