Sep 20, 2022

15 Tips from Eventing, Dressage, and Hunter/Jumper Professionals

USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

The following is provided through a partnership between STRIDER and the USEA. As part of our commitment to diversity, enabling access, and building capacity throughout the industry we are pleased to provide this content to benefit the sport of eventing.

Earlier this year, USEA educational partner STRIDER continued their popular Professional Development Webinar series for horse business owners and aspiring professionals with “Hiring in the Horse World: Best Practices to Find and Retain Team Members”. This interactive panel discussion presented by Mythic Landing Enterprises featured insights from 5* Eventer Will Faudree, Olympian and co-founder of Dressage4Kids Lendon Gray, and Sheryl Sutherby, show manager for Rolling Acres Show Stables, one of the top hunter/ jumper on the East Coast.

This conversation, moderated by Margaret McKelvy, covered everything from what propelled the unique careers of the panelists to best practices that can help move the industry forward.

Read on for some key takeaways, and be sure to tune-in to the full webinar on-demand here.

The Horse Comes First

“You do it for the love of the horse, the partnership and the relationship with these animals that give us their lives needs to be the priority. Not how much money you’ll make.” - Will Faudree

“We are lucky we get to make a living off animals that we love, but the horse has to come first. There are some nights that you’re at the barn late with a sick horse, and you don’t get a day off, you don’t even get an hour off. And that has to be okay.” - Sheryl Sutherby

Never Stop Learning

“What is distinct for successful professionals is that willingness to soak up the knowledge that’s out there, in any way that you can, so that you are truly educated in all areas.” - Lendon Gray

“I am always learning. You’re never a master with horses, you’re always learning. You’re growing with the sport because it’s ever-changing… The sport, veterinary medicine, farrier techniques, all of it is evolving. You have to grow, you have to be able to say you don’t know, and you want to learn to do better. There has to be an open dialogue. I see a lot of people being stuck in one way, resistant to change. ” - Will Faudree

“Learn, learn, learn. Watch the people who do a good job. Watch the FEI grooms, watch the riders, pick up everything that you can.” - Sheryl Sutherby

Horsemanship Matters

“When I was at Phillip [Dutton]’s his head groom was Colbie Saddington. She ran a tight ship, nothing got missed. One of the biggest things I took away and that I implement in my program is a true understanding of horsemanship. Know your horse, feel their legs. Riders need to take responsibility, know when to call the vet, and know when it’s the right time to say ‘I don’t know’” - Will Faudree

“If you’re passionate about horses, you’re going to read every book and magazine, you’re going to watch schooling rides and training sessions. That’s something that is hugely overlooked.” - Sheryl Sutherby

“[One trend I’m seeing is] lack in overall education of the riders. One of the first tests that follows a reading assignment during my Winter Intensive Program is one I thought should be quite easy for participants - parts of the horse. I was shocked the first time I gave the test, and continue to be quite shocked that very capable young people up through their early twenties don’t know the basic parts of the horse.” - Lendon Gray

Enable the Team

“My number one rule is the horses come first. We work hard, we try to stick to a schedule, but one thing I try to do for my team is that I give them their space. My job is to come into the barn and ride and train horses and teach lessons. Nat’s job is to manage the barn. I am not going nitpick things in the barn. Christina grooms my horses, and she knows their legs, every bum, nick, and scrape. If something’s up, she will let us know. One thing I get told is that I let everyone do their jobs and be proud of their jobs.” - Will Faudree

“The people who started with me as basic riders - one went to the Olympics and PanAms, many are very successful Grand Prix riders. They were with me for years. They started sweeping floors, and hacking horses, and getting a little help with their riding. They built their way up to riding more, and training, and setting up a little business within my business. It took years before they went out on their own.” - Lendon Gray

“Grooming is sometimes considered a lower-level position but it’s really not. Grooms play a huge role in getting you where you want to go as a rider, grooms know the horses inside and out and do so much.” - Sheryl Sutherby

“Why are we not proud to be grooms or trainers of young horses? In Europe the young horse trainers are so admired. Here we’ve got to be doing the top level of the sport… if we could help people to understand that being a groom is a fabulous job if you love horses. Same with the trainers of young horses. Those can be really positive ways to go.” - Lendon Gray

Other Takeaways

“When you do have to have your vet or your farrier out, don’t be afraid to ask questions. The answers will always add to your toolbox.” - Margaret McKelvy

“Some of our top [U.S. Dressage] riders Katherine Bateson-Chandler and Adrienne Lyle were working students then grooms. It took years for their opportunities to come. Many up and coming riders now want everything to happen so quickly.” - Lendon Gray

“It is hard work, and it is heartache. When it goes right, those 30 seconds of success need to be enough. If it won’t- pick a different career.” - Will Faudree

This webinar took place as part of STRIDER’s Professional Development Webinar Series. You can watch the full video here to pick up even more tips, best practices, and insights from these top riders.

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