Plaidcast 322: Samantha Schaefer by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services

Plaidcast Episode 322 Samantha Schaefer


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Piper speaks with top hunter and jumper rider and trainer Samantha Schaefer about growing up in this sport and her ethos on training horses today. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!


  • Host: Piper Klemm, Publisher of The Plaid Horse
  • Guest: Samantha Schaefer is a top rider and trainer who had the good fortune of riding with some of the very best trainers in the business during her junior career. Samantha had amazing success in the pony hunter,  junior hunter,  junior jumper, and equitation divisions –winning national titles for many years with countless horses and ponies. Samantha rode for Baylor University and led the country in the Amateur Owner Hunters before becoming a professional in 2017. She now has wins and national titles in the International Derbies, High Performance Hunters, and Open Jumpers. Samantha works alongside her mother and fellow trainer Kate Conover at Shadow Ridge Farm. 
  • Title Sponsor: Taylor, Harris Insurance Services (THIS) was founded in 1987 to provide specialized insurance for all types of equine risk. THIS places their policies with the highest rated and most secure carriers, meticulously selected for reliability and prompt claims settlement. THIS is proud of their worldwide reputation for responsive and courteous service, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss your equine insurance needs and provide you with a quote.
  • Photo Credit: Samantha Schaefer and In The Know. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography
  • Subscribe To: The Plaid Horse Magazine
  • Sponsors: Purina Animal Nutrition, America CryoSaddlery Brands International, BoneKare, Alexis Kletjian Jewelry, Show Strides Book Series, Online Equestrian College CoursesWith Purpose: The Balmoral Standard, and American Equestrian School

This transcript was generated automatically. Its accuracy may vary.

Piper Klemm [00:00:35] This is the Plaidcast. I’m Piper Klemm, publisher, the Plaid Horse Magazine. And coming up today on episode 322, I talk with top hunter jumper, rider and trainer Samantha Schaefer about growing up in this sport and her ethos on training horses today. This episode is brought to you by Taylor Harris Insurance Services. I’m going to have a really quick opening chat today, but I just want to just say that growing up in Pennsylvania, the one to watch always, even though she was younger than me, was was always Samantha Schaefer. We would always go to the ring and watch how she trained ponies and then junior hunters and watching in the equitation finals. She has always been so hardworking. She’s always listened to the horses so much. I remember when I was little, I think one of the first times I saw her, one of her ponies was eating a powdered donut. From the outside, watching her career all these years, I really have always admired her passion and her dedication and the unwavering hard work and calm demeanor she’s brought to the sport. She’s an incredible trainer, and I’m really grateful that that she came on the plaidcast today. . 

Piper Klemm [00:03:55] Samantha Schaefer is a top rider and trainer who had the good fortune of riding with some of the very best trainers in the business during her junior career. Samantha’s had success in the pony hunter, junior Hunter, junior Jumper and equitation divisions, winning national titles for many years with countless horses and ponies. She then rode for Baylor University and led the country in the Amateur Owner Hunters before becoming professional in 2017. She now has wins and national titles in the international derbies, high performance hunters and Open Jumpers. Sam works alongside her mom and fellow trainer, Kate Conover at Shadow Ridge Farm. Welcome to the Plaidcast, Sam. 

Samantha Schaefer [00:04:32] Hi, thanks for having me. 

Piper Klemm [00:04:34] When I interview older generation horse people, one of the comments I get very frequently was like, ”Kids these days aren’t like us except Sam Schaefer’. 

Samantha Schaefer [00:04:45] Oh, my gosh. Well, that’s a compliment, I guess. 

Piper Klemm [00:04:48] It’s a huge compliment. 

Piper Klemm [00:04:51] What is it about you that that you think resonates with with older and younger people? 

Samantha Schaefer [00:04:58] Oh, I would say I’m definitely not afraid to get dirty and work a little for it. So I think that, you know, some of our horseman generation kind of sees that and appreciates that that part of me. So. I think that’s probably one of the things, you know, Bill Ellis was a big mentor of mine and I think. I tried to, you know, kind of follow the things that he taught me. And yeah, one of those things is being in the barn and sometimes getting a little dirty. 

Piper Klemm [00:05:42] You grew up riding a ton, so much riding. I think a lot of people don’t appreciate how much people at the top of the sport ride and do this stuff that’s I have this conversation with my dad a lot about why people don’t, like, run faster than they did 50 years ago with all the technology we have and they do a little bit, but it’s not like people aren’t like twice as fast as they were. Like, now that we have better running shoes and everything and and his take is always that, like, you just don’t understand. Back in the day how much we ran, we ran and ran and ran and ran and ran and ran. And I think like I always think about that when people tell me that they ride a lot. So I’m like, You don’t even know what riding a lot is compared to what what some of these people do. I would estimate that you spent more, more saddle time and more barn time as a youngster than probably almost anyone. What was your childhood like in the ponies? 

Samantha Schaefer [00:06:35] I would say that growing up, like probably one of the biggest opportunities that I had was just time in the saddle and I think it was truly on like a variety of different ponies. They weren’t all perfect. They weren’t all made. Some were green, some were perfect. But yeah, I think just like getting the opportunity to ride and having the barn at the bottom of the hill gave me a lot of opportunity to basically be there from sunup to sundown if I chose, and many days I did. So I think just kind of being there, being around the horses, being around the ponies and also like being around great horsemen growing up was obviously super helpful too, because you’re you’re kind of replicating what you’re watching. So, you know, in the early days, just kind of being surrounded by great people. And I think that, you know, that on top of having a lot of opportunity, I was an only child for eight years. So, you know, for those eight years, my mom thought it was, you know, as many ponies as we could have, the better. So that’s kind of how it went. Yeah, we we just we just kept on coming. 

Piper Klemm [00:07:51] So you moved on and did the equitation and had a lot of success there. You’re kind of one of the more early adopters, I would say, of the NCAA system going to Baylor. What was that like transitioning from your family’s farm to being on an NCAA team and having a different set of responsibilities there? 

Samantha Schaefer [00:08:14] Well, I would say that I am probably one of the biggest advocates for kids these days going to college, because I was that kid that didn’t want to go to college. I was kind of in that, like you said, that time frame where. You know, most of my peers weren’t, you know, running off. It wasn’t the cool thing to do at that point, or at least I didn’t think so. Well, you know, to go and ride on a team, it was the cool thing to do was to go to Europe or, you know, turn professional right away and, you know, kind of keep going off your junior years and keep kind of climbing the ladder. And everybody kind of saw like college as like a break from it and, you know, you’ll fall out of it and you know, you’re on a roll kind of after your junior years. But having been that kid that really didn’t want to go to school and and kind of had my toes in the sand going to my recruiting visit, my one recruiting visit, might I add. But I think it was over Easter, so it was super fun. Just kidding. Anyway, I definitely I try to, like, really convince and like. Get people- the kids of this day and age like excited about school because I really I loved school and I’m so happy that I took the opportunity and yeah, it took me a semester, I think. And then I loved it like I was definitely, you know, a little like slow to really get into it, but I would not have changed those four years for anything. So I’m so glad I went. And yeah, the experience was awesome. I think it was, you know, the whole thing, like riding, being on a team. Just for me, going to Texas was obviously way different. Yeah, I think school is great and I think now there’s just such more of a platform, I think for kids coming especially out of the equitation to to go to school. And you see it’s way more of a trend now. I think, you know, some kids ride do they do the equitation to go to school. You know, that was that’s kind of some of their motive, I guess. But yeah I, I can’t thank everyone around me for pushing me, particularly my mom and my grandfather. I didn’t really have a choice but for going, you know, push me to go to school and and obviously all the people that were there that made it so great, particularly David and Stacy Sanderson got me, you know, into Baylor and, and really like, into it there. And, and then it just kind of took off. But yeah, my experience there was, it was great. It was I learned a ton obviously not just in the classroom and just like on a you know, I met so many different people from different walks of life. And I think it definitely made me made me a better person, I think, all around. 

Piper Klemm [00:11:19] So from there, you’re heading back to looking at what your next steps are going to be. How did you kind of go about that decision making process? 

Samantha Schaefer [00:11:28] Well, I think, you know, obviously while I was at school, I was kind of surrounded by people that were kind of finding their way or like finding things that, you know, they were interested in. And like, I never really lost sight of, you know, my main interests, which was to ride and to eventually, you know, have a business and or, you know, take over Shadow Ridge. So I think, like, had there ever been a moment where I was like, oh, a desk job sounds nice, or maybe, you know, Monday to Friday and weekends off. But like, there was never I never really had that moment. Obviously, I enjoyed, you know, going to school and essentially being a little normal for those four years. But there was never a time where I thought, like, you know, this isn’t what I want to. This isn’t what I see myself doing in the end. So I think coming out of school. I mean, I stayed as an amateur for, I want to say, like a year or two. And really, just because the horses that I was riding at the time, they all belonged to me and our business was more of like a sales business. So it, it made sense. I was just showing, you know, some of the young horses, but we didn’t we didn’t have quite the clientele that we do now where it requires me to teach and be a part of that part of the business. So I stayed an amateur and just kind of went about my ways riding. And we had a few young horses sale horses, but again, all the ones that we owned. So it made sense. And then yeah, as the business began to grow a little bit and actually Kate Conover, who at the time was just and my mom, obviously they were the sole professionals of Shadow Ridge. When she had an accident in Europe, she fell off trying a horse and she broke her leg. And I’ll never forget, I told my mom I was like, I think it’s time I need to do it. I need to. I can’t expect, you know, my mom to take over everything. And obviously I didn’t want to ever feel like I was jeopardizing my eligibility as an amateur by doing, you know, doing anything that wasn’t, you know, legal or by the rules. So we had actually just sold my amateur horse to Grace Debney, Classified. So I wasn’t even really competing so much in the amateurs at this point. And that’s when I, I switched over. No turning back. 

Piper Klemm [00:14:04] And then how do how were you able to balance your kind of continuing education with being a professional? It’s been interesting to watch that, that you kept advancing while, you know, while having clients and while balancing everything, which is a feat not many people are able to balance. 

Samantha Schaefer [00:14:22] Well, I think again, I think just trying to take things from every experience or, you know, every opportunity that you are presented. Like I said, kind of refer back to Bill. He was always kind of there when. You know, if I was struggling with a horse or with, you know, just if I was frustrated, he was kind of always like my rock to lean on. And I think he taught me a ton, even just being in and out. I also think Kate Conover and I like, we maybe come from different backgrounds as far as teaching and methods, but I think having. Both of our brains kind of be put together. We’re really good at, you know, bouncing back and forth. Like if if I’m struggling with a horse, you know, I’ll put on her list for a month or and vice versa. She’s like, you know, if one horse is becoming like a headache and or frustrating young horse for her. Sometimes we just, you know, kind of take the emotion out of it and try to do what’s best for the situation or, you know, ask each other for advice. And then obviously, I think one of the biggest opportunities for me with the Jumpers was getting to work with McLain for those two winters and just kind of having. His guidance, you know, over the past few years. You know, I think those things are are you can’t really put a value on those kind of opportunities. And you just try to, you know, be a sponge and absorb, you know, everything that you can and and try to. Put it into your your daily operation as best as you can. 

Piper Klemm [00:17:39] So working with your mother, how are you able to carve it out as your own space and your own business and have a really good working relationship that you know how to? How were you able to kind of come back as an adult and establish, you know, the future going in your direction with respecting everything she’s built? I mean, that’s such a hard dance also. 

Samantha Schaefer [00:18:01] Yeah. I think overall, like, you know, between Kate and then Hailey, who’s basically was, you know, started as our barn manager and just recently turned professional, is like starting to kind of work in to helping some of the kids as well. I think we all kind of. Take responsibility for certain things. And at this point, my mom, she has one student that she primarily helps. But then for the most part, she does a lot of the logistics and the billing and the paperwork and just kind of make sure everything stays in order in that department. And she kind of leaves the day to day training and riding and those types of things to Kate and Hailey and I. And I do think, like I said, I think we all work pretty well together. I think one common denominator for everyone here is we all we’re all hard workers. It’s not nobody’s too good for, you know, a certain job or a certain ring. Kate always likes to say it’s like, you know, one,A and one B, you know, we all whatever, whatever needs to be done. There’s no one too big for any job. And I think we all try to we all have the same goal in mind. So whatever, whatever best helps us get to that goal. You know, we all just kind of work in the same direction. So I think that that works well. And like I said, my mom, as you know, stepped away a little bit from the. The bar inside of it, and she more spends more time, I would say, in the office. And again, logistics kind of, you know, keeping everything. Organized and. All the paperwork in order. So it works. Everybody, everybody kind of knows their what what their job requirements are. And so, yeah, I think that’s probably why it works. 

Piper Klemm [00:20:09] There are very few riders in today’s world that are excelling and both the hunters and the jumpers. I would say you’re one of the only ones. Um, and do you feel a pressure to go on like one lane or another and, and kind of back to the initial comment? I think that’s what a lot of the older generation sees in you also because back in the day, back and in their time, like everybody did, the hunters and the jumpers and now it’s so rare to see someone who’s truly excelling at both. 

Samantha Schaefer [00:20:39] Well, I think. Probably the biggest reason I’m able to do that is just, you know, strictly I have amazing animals. And I think that, you know, probably don’t give them enough credit. You know, my three main horses right now, obviously, Spider, who’s just Yeah, I mean, I joke, but it’s true. He’s my best friend and he’s just such a good he he’s a competitor. And, you know, I’ve had him for for so long and I know we know each other probably too well. And then obviously the two main Grand Prix horses being Frasier and then the new horse, James Bond. Again, they’re like totally different horses, different personalities, but just fantastic animals. And I think, you know, a lot of, you know, you you’re only, you know, as good really as the horse you’re sitting on when it comes down to it. So obviously, you know, I try to do my job and and and do my best. But I think I’m really lucky to have obviously a great, great group of horses to ride. And our clients horses obviously, as well here and there. And I think for me, the hunters, my mom, she loves the hunters. She’s getting more into the jumpers, but it’s a little bit of an acquired taste for her and for me. The jumpers are challenging. It’s not something that I grew up doing as much, and it’s always been something that. You know, if I wanted, I had to work maybe a little extra hard to get. Whereas the hunter’s kind of always my mom’s always been really interested in that, and that’s just what she’s most familiar with. So I guess. As far as excelling in both, yeah. I mean, I think without the horses that I have, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation. So I think that’s probably the main, the main thing. But also, yeah, I mean it’s, you know, I think I try to keep things as simple as possible and, um, I’m super motivated to, you know, keep learning and try to. Yeah. Really perfect. I guess my jumper riding and the hunter’s for me. Yeah, I’ve been doing it a long time, so I don’t want to say that’s a little bit of an easier route for me, but it definitely it’s that’s kind of what I grew up doing, so it’s pretty familiar. So, um, yeah, but I think again, it all goes back to the horses. So you have to have good horses to be, to be successful, I think. And I think also, while I think having a good team of people, you know, around you preparing the horses and also working with you on the ground telling you when something looks good, not good. So I think that’s also very important to. 

Piper Klemm [00:23:59] One of the conversations I’ve had with a lot of people recently is is so many people are like buying horses at some level and then not expecting to have to almost keep training them. You and and Kate Conover both come from like very strong training backgrounds. You did a lot of young ponies. She did a lot of ponies, green ponies also. How does that kind of make your mindset when you’re when you’re working with a new horse or or maintaining the good horses that you do have that kind of always training mindset, you know, must be a big part of the success, right? 

Samantha Schaefer [00:24:38] Yeah, I think, you know, I try to always I always find with horses. The ones who have the least expectations for typically turn out the best. So I try, especially when we get a young horse in, you know, not to necessarily look at them in what we expect of them or, oh, you know, what we paid for them, or you try it. You can’t you have to kind of put that out of your head, I think. And I think you try to look at everybody as an individual or every horse is an individual and, you know, try to do what’s best. I think, you know, you could take Trademark as a really good example. That horse arrived. We bought him as a five year old. He wasn’t even broken in yet. And he arrived into our stable and as a coming six year old in the winter. And he was I mean, you know, really green like really green and just kind of like not thinking, oh, he’s six, you know, he should be out there doing this, that and the other, you know, the other horses his age are doing this, just kind of letting him develop at his own speed and really grow up, I think made him as special as he is. Um, so yeah, I mean, I think obviously patients as you’re training, you know, you, you have to have days where you, where you ask a lot and then you have to have days where you, you know, kind of kind of go their way a little bit. I think compromise and patience are two really important things with the young horses. Um, and yeah, I think like I like I said in the beginning, I think when you have a young horse, try, try not to set your expectations too high. You try to set your expectations of, you know, I think I bought a nice quality animal. Let’s see, you know, what they turn into, You know, even with my new my newest horse, James Bond, when we bought him, I wasn’t entirely sure what he was going to turn out to be. And I think because of that mindset. He’s every time. Even now, every time I ask something new of him, I feel like I have a really open mind going into it. And I try not to have, you know, this set expectation of how things are going to go. And I think that, you know, it’s probably probably really works in his in his favor. So yeah. And I think it going back to what you were saying, when you when you’re talking about, you know, keeping good horses going or made up horses, we try to keep it simple, you know, like, I mean, I have a full course set at home and I can’t tell you, you know, I probably jumped it, you know, I don’t know a handful of times we really, you know, the horses we just keep them happy and sound and healthy, most importantly and. Yeah, kind of keep it. Keep it simple as possible as is always best. 

Piper Klemm [00:27:51] The not putting pressure on young horses is probably sounds like a really healthy mindset for you to not put pressure on yourself as well. 

Samantha Schaefer [00:27:59] Yeah, and I’m really lucky. A lot of the young horses we own ourself and some we are owned by clients in the barn with very again, realistic expectations. And again, I think that just it really makes a difference. Like we actually have one horse competing that’s six and he’s doing three foot and three foot three green. And I actually have a horse that is also six that I took to the horse show for the very first time today. And I did a ticketed warm up. So I think, again, just kind of the one the one I just took over today, I mean, he’s he’s still growing and we can’t feed him enough to you know, he just he’s you know, we’re just trying to let him go at it again at his own speed. And I think that’s sometimes easier said than done, especially when there’s pressure to to get them to the show ring at a certain time. Or if you have people, owners, you know, that are itching to show or. You know, I get it. You know, there’s but in the long run. A lot of times time is is the best thing for them and just being patient and. And again, I think having most of the horses owned. By either myself, my mom, my stepdad, or clients in the barn who are very understanding of the process really makes a huge difference. 

Piper Klemm [00:29:29] Well, Sam Schaefer, thank you so much for joining us on the plaidcast! 

Samantha Schaefer [00:29:33] You’re welcome. Thank you for having me. 

Piper Klemm [00:31:12] To learn more about anything we’ve discussed on today’s show, visit You can find show notes at Follow The Plaid Horse  on all the social media’s. You can subscribe to the print edition of The Plaid Horse Magazine at Please write and review the plaidcast anywhere you listen to it. And if you enjoy this episode please share it with your friends, I will see you at the ring!