Plaidcast 326: Havens Schatt by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services

Plaidcast Episode 326 Havens Schatt

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Piper speaks with winner hunter rider Havens Schatt about different aspects of her business as well as training and developing young hunters. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!

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Piper Klemm [00:00:31] This is the Plaidcast. I’m Piper Klemm, publisher of the Plaid Horse Magazine. And coming up today on episode 326, I talk to winning Hunter rider Havens Schatt about different aspects of her business Milestone LLC and different aspects to producing young horses. This episode is brought to you by Taylor Harris Insurance Services. 

Piper Klemm [00:02:56] Havens Schatt as a top hunter rider and trainer that owns and operates Milestone Farm LLC. Havens had a very successful junior career, then rode for top trainer Tom Wright for nine years before starting her own business in 2001. She has consistently won championships at all the top horse shows, including the Devon Horse Show, Harrisburg, Washington, the National, and has many Derby wins to her name. Welcome to the plaidcast, Havens. 

Havens Schatt [00:03:23] Thank you. Thank you for having me. It’s an honor. 

Piper Klemm [00:03:28] I love to ask everyone kind of how they got started in the sport and and what it was like for them growing up, because most people don’t have the shiny start of where we see them now. So can you tell us a little bit about what it was like for you growing up and and how you established becoming a professional and your career? 

Havens Schatt [00:03:47] Yeah, I always tell people, like I was pretty lucky. I kind of had a silver spoon always handed to me. My mom was a very successful junior rider when she was young, and when we grew up I lived in Ocala, Florida, on a farm and had the horses in our backyard my whole life. So even as I got older, trying to like miss school for Florida Circuit and stuff like that, we never really had to deal with what some of these junior riders have to deal with now. I was able to stay in the same school and miss half day Friday and go to the show. And I started with Christina Schlusemeyer in my early ten years old stage and then with Don Stewart when he moved to Ocala. So it was always growing up for me, quite easy with the horses in the backyard and trainers close by and the horse shows right there. 

Piper Klemm [00:04:47] Christina’s so well-known for being such a great teacher and has started so many so many people, so many top people now in this sport when they were younger. What what was kind of her teaching style or what are some things that she did that connected really well with you? 

Havens Schatt [00:05:02] Yeah, well, when I very first started, my mom taught me and then when I was about ten years old and I would tell her, I can’t do it or I’m trying. It was like, You’re out of here. So that’s when I went to Christina. And I mean Christina. I don’t really remember those times so well, but she gave me the opportunity to ride so many different ponies and some difficult ones. So I always had to make the best of it. And I never wanted to. I never wanted to make any make any mistakes. So I tried as hard as I could to, you know, always pull through for her. But she was always there for me, as was Bobby. He was just starting there very young. So it was a great time. But I really I moved to Don when I was probably. Late in my 12 year old year 13. And so I don’t really remember too much of being with Christina, except that I just couldn’t wait to get to the barn and ride and see which pony she was going to let me ride that day. 

Piper Klemm [00:06:08] So then at Don’s, I’m sure you rode a ton of different horses?

Havens Schatt [00:06:12] Yes, at Don’s. I mean, I remember more of the lessons at Don’s, like, group lessons and just repetition and so many different horses. Again, I was lucky. I was the the client that was there all the time. Go after school every day and ride five horses even as soon as I got out of school. You know, he had so many horses I could jump at least three horses every day. So it was just so much practice, so much repetition that. And you didn’t ever doubt for one second that you could do it. And he always gave you so much confidence that you could do it that it never really entered my mind that it was difficult or should be difficult. 

Piper Klemm [00:06:56] So you said you wanted to be you know, you wanted to do everything right. I think the hunters are so interesting because it attracts people who have this, like natural perfectionism. But then you’re starting all these young horses. Your horses are horses. Did you have to, like, consciously learn to balance wanting to be a perfectionist, or did that kind of come over? You know, so much repetition or, you know, I think that’s talking to a lot of adults who haven’t ridden as much. It’s kind of a hard balance to try to find. So I’m interested where people kind of develop that. 

Havens Schatt [00:07:30] I don’t know. I think for me, all the way up until I started my own business and even once I started my own business, when when I was really just showing at the top level so much and so many horses, I don’t really ever think I stopped to think that I was a perfectionist and I had to do it so perfect to win because I was just doing it. And luckily for me, the winning came. With that. But okay I won a lot, but I also had a lot of horses, so I lost a lot too. But people always just saw the ones that won. But I don’t really think the perfectionism and the trying to do it completely right for the high score or the blue ribbon came until I didn’t have that many horses to show. And then it comes down to one horse or two horses or even three horses or one derby or one night class where you really it really sinks in, ‘I am a perfectionist and I have to do this better’. And that’s where the pressure came from. I don’t ever remember feeling pressure to produce top scores or win blue ribbons until I only had one or two top horses. And then all of a sudden I started thinking, This is my only chance. I really have to do it now. So it’s interesting that you ask that question, because I think as a young kid and as a junior, I never really thought of it. And as a professional just with Tom Wright, and the lenders behind me and all the people that I rode for as a as a younger professional, I never really stopped to think that I needed to be a perfectionist or that I was a perfectionist. So that’s that’s kind of interesting that you ask that. 

Piper Klemm [00:09:28] So. Okay, so you start being a young professional, you’re showing a ton. What is your life look like at that point? 

Havens Schatt [00:09:39] So when I when I became a professional, I started working actually for Marley Goodman, and I was probably 19. I was still in college at that point. But it was a summer job that turned into a longer job. And again, there was no I was 19. Those were my first year showing in the professional divisions. I just got on and I rode, and then I ended up winning. That led me to Tom Wright’s job, that I stayed with Tom and the Lenders for nine, nine and a half years, something like that. And again, I think you had we had such a good team around us. Tom and I worked so well together and we had such amazing horses. And it just. Kind of happened. I always say that when you look back on on a a winning streak or a winning season or a winning year, it is always so easy. It was easy. When you look back on it, you’re like, wow, that was so easy. That just happened. But when you have a horse that’s a little difficult or you put that pressure on when you’re trying to get get to that level, it’s so hard. But. Like again, like I said, my my young professional career was quite, quite easy. I worked hard at it, but I worked for great people. I had great horses and I had a great support system behind me, all the way down to my parents who are still supporting me and telling me, You can do this. You don’t really have to finish college, you can do it. So I think that’s part. Of being a young professional. That made my life easier than some young professionals is that I always had a great support team behind me. 

Piper Klemm [00:11:32] So after Tom’s is that when you started your own business? 

Havens Schatt [00:11:37] Yes, I went to work for Paige Johnson at Salamander for a short minute. I thought I was going to. I kind of wanted to do more jumper stuff and all of that and Laura Kraut was training her at the moment, and I’ve had a long relationship with Laura just growing up in the South and her being just a little bit older than me, it’s somebody I always looked up to. But shortly after I went there, I realized that really it wasn’t going to work for me, that working for the Linders and working with Tom Wright was as far as a private job goes, that like I had so much freedom with them because I think we came up together doing that. And then when I went to Salamander and with Laura, I just I just felt like the private job thing wasn’t really for me. And so that’s yes, when I started Milestone, I think around 2001, I started Milestone. 

Piper Klemm [00:12:34] So you had always had this, you know, kind of big system machine behind you. What are some of the things that that really stuck out to you right in the beginning of running your own business or things? Maybe you you didn’t appreciate how much work they were. Or kind of different parts of that. 

Havens Schatt [00:12:50] Well, I think the first of all, the name Milestone came because that I felt that was a huge milestone in my career because I really never wanted to start my own business. But at that point in time, I was like, okay, I guess this is what we’re going to do. And I just met my husband, Fred, and he was here from France and also did horses. And so I was like, okay, I guess this is what we’re doing. So this is what we did. And for the first, he worked for Donald Cheska, the first year in Florida. And I just basically took my saddle to the ring and would ride, catch, ride any horses that I could. I think for me, as far as the horses and the clients dealing with that part of the business is it comes like second nature to me. The hardest part about running a business is the business side of it, and I feel like if I hadn’t had Fred by my side for that part of Milestone, I don’t think Milestone would have made it because I would have been like, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll ride your horse. It’s fine, no you don’t have to pay me for that’. So I think the business part of it is what’s so hard about our our industry. Because I think in for, for anyone who gets into it, it’s because their love of the horse or they’re passionate about horses, not because they went to school with a business degree and have to make the books work. And so I think that part has always been very difficult for me and I’ve always had to keep it very mindful. 

Piper Klemm [00:14:22] That’s something this is something I say to people all the time. I’ve never met a human anyone in this business, no matter how good they are. That’s like, truly exceptional at the horse thing. Truly exceptional at the client thing and also truly exceptional at the business thing. There are plenty of partnerships of two people who are. But like those three traits seem to be mutually exclusive to each other, like to be obsessed with the horses, to be good at it. You almost inherently aren’t spending enough time with people or spending time thinking about business stuff and then not vice versa. 

Havens Schatt [00:14:55] It’s that’s that’s the hardest part. And I’ve seen so many of my peers and my good friends that are great riders who have tried to do it and have been successful at it. But for the long haul, it’s just too hard to do all of that stuff on your own. 

Piper Klemm [00:15:12] And on the flip side, I feel like we have a younger generation that’s coming in that’s more cognizant on the business side of things, but but maybe less prepared or less adequate with the horses. And that’s kind of what I want to talk about next is is starting and preparing young horses. Very few people show at the level you do and are still are still making up their own horses and still riding really green horses. And, you know, to watch you enough is to see you really putting in the miles on training, producing talented horses all the way through. 

Havens Schatt [00:15:48] I think that comes back to the perfectionism standpoint. I, I kind of have let go of that, that perfectionism part when it comes to the individual horses. I’ll still have rounds and get 88 and be like, Oh, but I could have done that better or the horse could do that better, or we need to work on this. But. I feel like you’re right in this business, the younger generation, the horsemanship part of it, has kind of fallen by the wayside, shall we say, a little bit. And I really I mean, the price of the horses is is astronomical because there’s not that many horses to buy because there are no people making them up. But in Europe, they’re super hard to find. I don’t find that many horses here in this country. So I don’t know why that is, but I just don’t. But this is my passion now. I feel like I won. What- I won everything that I really wanted to win. I guess it would be nice to win Derby finals, but I think that point has passed me by. I think I’m not brave enough to gallop like that under the lights. But you never know. But I think my passion has come for the young horses and to try to find that horse in Europe and to have that excitement, there’s so much excitement around a new horse that is an incredible jumper or is very pretty. And I almost get more satisfaction or reward out of just being able to find that horse and produce it to a certain level than I would if I won all the classes on another horse that was already made up. If that makes sense, I feel like I’ve I’ve, I’ve won what I needed to win on great horses that some of them I did not produce. I just got on and catch rode them in my earlier career. But now I like the idea of finding them, producing them and getting them to a certain point, and then I’m happy to sell them or have somebody else shine with them and be proud that I found it. 

Piper Klemm [00:18:15] I couldn’t agree more. I think the process part of it is absolutely fascinating and I think that so many people agree that, you know, the ribbons are nice, but but that process really sits in your bones in a different way than like winning a class does. 

Havens Schatt [00:18:32] Yeah. I mean, I think when you when you have a horse like I had Bacardi at the end or. I don’t know what I’ve had recently that, you know, you you walk in, you see the start list and you’re like, Oh, that one should be the contender. I used to thrive on that. And when it was my turn, I was like, okay, I’m doing it. And nine times out of ten I would make it happen. But now I want I almost like to be the underdog. I like to have the new horse coming. And it’s just it’s refreshing for me and it’s fun. And as I think we’ve proven to be pretty successful at it. So it’s fun to see how many of our horses are out there going. And for the most part, my horses that I find in Europe, they’re not just for me, they’re bought for a client to ride in in mind in the future. And a lot of them have gone on to do that job. And a lot of I mean, some of them have gotten sold before they did that job. But it’s it was kind of special back in the mid 2000, 13, 14 and 15, I think at Harrisburg, I was champion all three years in a row. In the first year, green on a horse owned by a different client each year. And that horse, though each horse went on with their amateur career to also be champion at those horse shows. So that to me is like pretty big deal that you bought those horses, you brought them along, you made them win that. But yet they they went on and won just as many things with amateurs than they did with me. 

Piper Klemm [00:20:18] That’s really cool. I didn’t realize that. Yeah, I do, too. Yeah, I think I knew two of those. But you have three. 

Havens Schatt [00:20:23] I think I was. I think I was Bacardi first and then Set to Music and then Custom Made. 

Piper Klemm [00:20:30] Yep. That’s incredible. So you mentioned earlier when, you know, realizing when things when it became pressure and then you could just kind of alluded to your your bravery a little bit like when. You realize that, you know, at a certain age, I think, or a certain amount of pressure or something, you realize that that, oh my gosh, I really have to want to win this class or I maybe I’m not as brave as I used to be. How do you kind of confront that stuff? And, you know, I think about how I confront these things because, you know, they hit me early in life because I’m not that brave on a horse. 

Havens Schatt [00:21:10] I think it it it all kind of. Everything that we’ve talked about is like a cycle. And I think when I had had the business probably going for, let’s say, 15 years, it was kind of at the end of Custom Made when I, you know, I felt like even though Fred was there and, and, and doing the business part of it, we had at that point like 40 horses. And I did have a good team around me, but I just felt like the clients always wanted a piece of me. I felt like I needed to perform when I showed to if the clients didn’t do well to make the horse. Still, this is a good horse. We picked a good horse and I just I think I just got burnout and I got tired. And then I just said to myself, like, it’s really too difficult for me to pick the horses. Make the client want to buy the horse. Convince them to buy the horse. Bring it to USA. You know, make it up, show it, make it win something, make them win something on it, sell it, whatever we have to do. I think I just got burnout out and I got tired and then I just I don’t want to say depressed or whatever, but I just wasn’t enjoying the sport of it anymore and I really wasn’t enjoying my job, which I’m sure most people that have any job, whatever it is, go through points of thought where they’re like, Oh, I’m burnt out. And so I think it just really was burnout. And I just took a step back a little bit and I just said to Fred, like, I just can’t push myself like this anymore. And so then the horses kind of we went down in numbers a little bit and Patricia Griffith and I, we laugh all the time because we’ll pass each other and we’ll be like, ‘Is your heart in it?’ Like when we’re showing cause she doesn’t get to show a lot either. And then when she shows, I think she also feels like, okay it’s my time. But I just I think I had so much stuff going on in my head, and I will say it, I was probably right before right before COVID, really, when I was just like, I can’t I can’t physically put all of this stuff on my shoulders anymore. It’s just too much now. And I don’t know why. I felt like all of a sudden that was too much, but that’s kind of how I felt. And, you know, I really did reach out to like a lot of people in the industry that I feel one of them was Brooke Baldwin De Grazia, like she and I are very good friends, but we don’t live in the same area, but we try to catch up. And she seemed like a person to me that had a very good balance. She’s got a very good business in New York, but she comes to Florida. She showed a little bit, but she didn’t show, you know, like she seems, she went fishing, she did some stuff like she seemed to have a very good balance on her life. And so I talk to her a lot about it. I finally just told my clients during WEF Week three, we’re going away on vacation. We would take a trip every year. Week three. I just kind of made it a priority to. To. Selfishly think about me and not running all over the country for everybody else is kind of what it boiled down to. And I think also I’m to the age where a lot of my friends parents are having health issues or are passing away. And since I’ve been 19 years old, I’ve been running around the country telling my parents, Oh, I can’t come for that, because, Devon, I can’t come for that because whatever other horse show. And I think I just felt it was super important. They’re getting older. They’re still, thank goodness, have their health and whatever. But I think I just felt like I needed to spend more time with them and and do things a little bit for me. It was a hard decision and it was very hard couple to three years to try to find the clients that appreciated that, I guess because there’s some clients that appreciate that and there’s some clients that like I want to show now and we’re going to show now. And so I think we find- Milestone now has clientele that is mindful of of my feelings, Fred’s feelings and the horses’ well-being and all of that stuff. So in the last year and a half, I’ve regained some. Wind in my sails and. I feel like we’re in a good spot right now. 

Piper Klemm [00:26:12] I think it’s so hard because once you, by the time you like, even recognize that, like burnout is happening to you in this business, I mean, the hours are so long and it’s so grueling and there’s no like immediate out. You know, you have to plan so much. 

Havens Schatt [00:26:29] Well, that’s true. Like, one of the people that I also talked to about it was JoAnn Kovacs. And I told her, I’m like, I feel like I’m a hamster on a wheel. And it’s like, I’m running so fast and I have no idea except to like, jump and, you know, to to jump. I felt like meant just closing the business and stopping and. I thought of that a lot of times. Fred and I talked about it many times, but this is my passion. I started doing this when I was five years old or two years old on a western saddle with my pony, with a halter eating in the front yard so my mom could watch me. Like, this is my passion. I love horses. And I think too, a little bit when I was going through that period three, four years ago, five years ago, I started to not like horses. I started to feel like they were the tool that would make me successful. And that if they couldn’t do it, I didn’t like them. And that that, to me, really sat badly. I, I really didn’t like that. I didn’t like that about myself. I didn’t like that feeling. And so, again, this is all things that. I’ve, I’ve overcome and I feel like I’m on the back side of that. And now I feel like I really take the sport and the showing and the horses and everything kind of a little bit more in stride. And I have to feel almost like I tell my clients it has to be personal goals that you meet or goals for the horses that you meet. Doesn’t necessarily mean blue ribbons or red ribbons or scores in the nineties. It’s just you have to make personal goals and and and be satisfied with that. And that’s what I really try to do now. 

Piper Klemm [00:30:12] So on the flip side, like you had clients that were with you who have supported you for a long time and who who believed in you. What like if you’re riding with someone and you see that they’re going through a moment or some burnout are working through some stuff, like how how can clients better support their trainer? Because I think, you know, if you’re in one of these, I’ll say like long term relationships with you. I mean, it’s inevitable over life that, you know, if you’re there for ten years, I mean, there are going to be ups and downs and you and your trainer is human and doing their best. 

Havens Schatt [00:30:50] Well, I think I think Florida, for sure. The the winter circuits, no matter where they are or thermal, they don’t seem to be as long as ours are. But as I said to one client the other day, I’m like, in the summer, we don’t show for five weeks. You’re not asking me when you’re going to show when am I going to show my horse? Because there’s no show. But here, the show is 4 minutes down the road and you want to show. So, you know, I think it’s it’s it’s it’s important to take a break a little bit from it, in my opinion. And I think we get burnout because there’s so many shows and there’s so much going on. We’ve. Amassed a very nice group of clients that also have kids in school and college and playing basketball and doing all the things. And, you know, we try to accommodate everybody, but we try to also keep it civil, I guess you’d say. But I don’t I don’t really know how I could answer that question, how clients could support professionals, because at the end of the day, we are a service industry and I guess we’re here to serve them. But so that’s a very difficult question to answer. 

Piper Klemm [00:32:17] Um, so let’s turn it back to the horses. When you, when you go to Europe or go shopping for a young horse, what are, what are some things you’re looking at? What are things that you like to see? You know, do you have deal breakers? I’m always very interested because like I get very different answers to this question from lots of people. 

Havens Schatt [00:32:36] Well, for me, I, I always, which sometimes Fred, and I think is a bad way to look at it these days. But I always want to have more horse than I need probably for the client because most of the time we really don’t go to Europe anymore since COVID, I think we’ve been once. But I have two very good contacts in Europe that I will buy them off the video. But I always want to make sure that I have more horse than I need or more quality, I’ll say, than I might need. Because if it comes here and I think it’s not going to work for the client, I will be able to sell it and I will be able to get their money out. I’m always, every time I go to Europe or every time I buy a horse in Europe. I’m very conscious that if I get it here and it doesn’t work out, can I get them out of it? And I mean, we’ve had a few mistakes, but for the most part that has worked because the quality of the horse comes through and what might not work for my client might work for somebody else’s client. And it is a quality horse. For me, my my style of riding is, you know, I like them to be slow and scopey. I don’t like scampery little horses. So for me, most of the horses you’re going to see come through Milestone or that we will pick will be, you know, a little bit uphill balance, a big stride, slow and plenty of scope for whatever job they need to do. 

Piper Klemm [00:34:28] What about, like, personality and stuff? Do you think that personality, you know. You know, I think personality gets trained or, you know. 

Havens Schatt [00:34:39] I mean, I think personality, whether you’re there in Europe and you try them for 40 minutes, even if you tried them two days in a row, you’re going to try them for an hour and a half. I find it very hard to believe you’re really going to be able to tell the personality traits in those horses. It is. You know, you you don’t know how much they’ve lunged or whatever. I feel like the the people that I deal with in Europe, I trust them and. I mean, I just tried to buy one in the auction the other day and I said, I like this horse. And they were like, That’s a good horse. But I’m not sure it’s good for Hunter, so. But I think it was too bloody. They knew it wasn’t going to be quite enough. So the personality of the horse, especially when you’re buying in Europe I think is so hard to read and you just have to hope that that works out. 

Piper Klemm [00:35:47] So you’re based in Kentucky the rest of the year, right? 

Havens Schatt [00:35:50] Yes. We have a we had a farm in Kentucky. We sold it a couple of years ago. So we rent there now. 

Piper Klemm [00:35:59] How are you able to, like, let your horses be horses or let them down a little bit? Or how do you balance kind of the craziness of WEF and travel with with that summer? You know, timing. 

Havens Schatt [00:36:12] I mean, I think I think once the horses are on a roll and they’re to the point, they know what they’re doing. My horses really don’t have a lot of downtime unless they’re injured. They they kind of always stay in work. Not every day maybe, But they’re they’re always doing some some kind of something. Last last week, we didn’t show. Fred and I went away to Ocala to see my parents. And, you know, it was a much lighter schedule. Maybe they turned out for four days and got ridden twice. But for the most part, my horses don’t really just go in the field. They’re always doing something Treadmill walker trail ride something. Like I said, I think Florida is very hard to manage the schedule of the horses because even us think, okay, well, that horse hadn’t shown in a while. And then you really look at the schedule and it’s been maybe two weeks. Whereas in the summer you don’t show for five weeks and everybody’s good with that. So I think just because the horse shows are offered so often, it’s it’s really hard to make a schedule where they don’t where you don’t over show them. We try to show when we’re here in Florida, we try to show November and December when we get down here, because that’s much easier for my clients to get here as far as work schedule or schools and over the Christmas and New Year holiday and then January and February, we don’t show that much. And now we’re ramping up again with spring break and all of that stuff. So I think that just depends on what what kind of clientele you have. 

Piper Klemm [00:38:05] We ask all our guests this to tell us a story of a time when things did not go as planned, that no matter how much you win and how good you are at the sport, it happens to everyone. 

Havens Schatt [00:38:18] I told her that I would have to think about that because I really try not to let that happen to me. The horse showing part of it is such a mental game. Like if you’re if you’re not mentally prepared to go and do it, then you know, you’re you’re already behind the eight ball. But the only thing that comes to mind is two years ago we were at Split Rock and it was in Kentucky. The first year they had it. And it was a really long two weeks. And the the National Derby was on the last Sunday morning, I think. And I mean, I think I was tired. I think I could have thought of a million other places I wanted to be than there. And I had I think I had three horses in it and the first round went fine, but not how I really wanted it to go. And then I was the first one to go back in the handy. They took 20 back instead of just 12, which was almost the whole class. And I was already like, Why are they doing that? I missed five lead changes and why do I have to ride this horse again? And I went off course after looking at the course right before I went in and walking the course. And I guess I just decided I wanted to make up my own course. And when they called me off course, I was like, Seriously? I just looked at the course. So I guess that would be in the most in the recent years. That would be what happened. And I mean, that totally happened just because mentally I was not I was not really in the game that day. 

Piper Klemm [00:39:56] Havens, thank you so much for joining us on the plaidcast. 

Havens Schatt [00:39:59] You’re welcome. Thank you. 

Piper Klemm [00:42:32] To learn more about anything we’ve discussed on today’s show, visit theplaidhorse.com. You can find show notes at theplaidhorse.com/listen. Follow The Plaid Horse on all the social medias. You can subscribe to the print edition of the Plaid Horse Magazine at theplaidhorse.com/Subscribe. Please rate 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!