With a hunger to learn, unwavering dedication to her horses and her sport, and surrounded by a great village, five-star eventer Sharon White is a powerhouse of positivity. A successful competitor, White is a fan favorite on the international stage best known for her signature orange and white cross-country colors and her welcoming smile.
Earlier this year, White and her own Cooley On Show topped the Red Hills Horse Trials CCI4*-S and were sixth at the Mars Eventing Showcase in Wellington, Florida. Her impressive career milestones include having been named as a reserve rider for the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games and competitive success at the international levels. In addition to producing her own horses from their most green moments through the upper levels of eventing, White is also a USDF Silver Medalist.
STRIDER caught up with White as she traveled back from a clinic in Indiana to her home base at Last Frontier Farm in Summit Point, West Virginia to discuss determination, influence, and how COVID-19 has affected Team Orange.
Despite limited guest-traffic at their beautiful 60-acre facility due to stay-at-home orders in neighboring Northern Virginia, White and her close-knit team have not missed a beat throughout the pandemic.
“I choose to look at things in a positive light. This time at home – you can do all of the things you never have time to do. Use this time to your advantage . . . We’re just family here and luckily West Virginia has had very few [COVID-19] cases, so we have been able to keep working through this.”
White’s passion for the sport extends to producing horses and riders from the early stages through the Advanced Level. A USEA ICP Level IV certified instructor with distinction, White is a much sought-after clinician with a patient, empathetic, and disciplined approach who genuinely loves to share her own knowledge and experience with students.
“Any feeling my students have had, I’ve had. I’ve been young, nervous, intimidated . . . I’ve felt it all. In my teaching I try to be genuine and honest. I’m just there to help. First, to help the horses, and second, to help the people. So, I hope that my students feel comfortable around me no matter what.”
“I approach all clinics knowing everyone wants to learn and cares to learn, and that matters a lot to me.”
“I make an important assumption about everyone who shows up. If you are making the effort and paying the money to ride with me in a clinic, I know you are very interested in your horse and your riding. That outlay of time, money, and effort already demonstrate to me that you care.”
In order to provide the best help for her students, White takes advantage of the beginning of a lesson to get to know different horses and riders through a variety of warm-up exercises.
“My ‘test the waters’ exercise changes depending on what I’ve been doing myself in my own practice. It also hinges upon where I am, the different levels of the groups - there are so many variables.”
Despite the demands of her training program at Last Frontier Farm and a full competition schedule, White enjoys traveling to teach clinics for the various opportunities it presents.
“I enjoy being able to focus on just teaching. Clinics are great for that because it’s a few solid days where teaching is the only thing I do. There are no distractions, and I can really give 100 percent concentrated effort.”
“And, I enjoy going to different farms and places around the country; seeing how people do things and hopefully bringing back some useful new skills and horsemanship with me.”
“Learning is a lifetime thing. I am fascinated by new things and learning. In my life, I seek out those who know more than me because I want to learn, and I seek out those who are honest about sharing their experience.”
“I try to do for people what I seek out myself.”
Finding the balance between her dedication to ride, teach, train, and compete is something that White continues to practice. She credits her team and her village at large with her ability to pursue all that it takes to achieve success in the sport.
“As you do this over time - as with all things - you get better and better at the balancing piece. For me, right now, I have great people - my staff and the people around me - who are so valuable and so important to me. I don’t know if I would have realized that when I was younger . . . You think you have to just work harder and do absolutely everything. As you experience things you realize it is way better if you can rely on others and focus on what you want to focus on. But, that’s hard - to decide what you want to focus on.”
Over the years, White has had the honor of working with top horsemen and women across the industry including Bruce Davidson, Torrance Watkins, and Linda Zang. She is a longtime student of legendary Jim Wofford, whom she regards as a notable career mentor.
“He is my Zen master, though he would disapprove of that. Really, Jimmy is stability to me,” White tells STRIDER with a bit of a laugh.
“I have had wonderful advice over the years from so many wonderful horsemen and people, and it matters so much to me. When you are ready to hear something, you hear it.”
“You cannot force information. You cannot force things. It’s so important to persevere, and never give up. I think that’s the best advice. When you are ready, it will all happen. And for some, it will happen in little bits at a time. For others, it happens all at once- that has not been the case for me, but never giving up is huge.”
“Whoever you are, it’s going to happen the way it’s meant to happen.”
For more on Sharon and her program, visit www.lastfrontierfarm.com. While a number of scheduled clinics have been postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions, you can find and easily register for upcoming opportunities to #LearnFromTheBest with Sharon White via STRIDER at www.striderpro.com.
Ninety percent of training a horse is getting the horse to understand exactly what you want them to do. In general, horses are generous and willing creatures who want to please us; very seldom do they behave badly on purpose. Horses don’t come out and say, ‘Let’s make Mom’s (or Dad’s) life miserable today by going as poorly as possible - most prefer to do the right thing, as long as they know what that is.
Regardless of the level at which a horse is competing, its veterinary team is at the forefront of most decisions regarding its career and well-being. Liz Arbittier, VMD, CVA, has been working with equine athletes for over two decades. Graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) in 2001, she worked in private practice with a focus on sports medicine and pre-purchase exams until joining Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center Field Service team in 2013. Situated in the heart of Area II’s eventing scene, the team provides ambulatory services to the surrounding area, which is home to multiple Olympians.
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