I've loved horses for as long as I can remember, all the way back to a plush toy that was the only way to get me to sit nicely for a professional picture. I loved going on every pony ride at every place we visited. It was fairly obvious that the horse bug had bitten me and bitten me good. For my seventh birthday I got riding lessons as my present. I still have my riding journal that my first instructor had me keep and I can still list off the horses I rode and loved, and maybe even those I didn't love so much then but have found a whole new respect for now. In my first few years of riding I saw many different arenas at many different schools of riding in several disciplines and I learned something valuable at each one.
When I was 11 I began working as a barn girl in exchange for my lessons. Looking back on it now, I'm amazed that I was allowed to start that young, but I'm very happy I that I was. I learned so much more about what goes on in a barn beyond just riding. I cleaned stalls, swept aisles, cleaned tack, groomed horses, learned basic first aid even. While there I started training and schooling some project horses and that opened a whole new world for me. When I left that barn at 17 I had an even larger appreciation for riding and an even bigger drive to improve as much as possible. At my next barn I found my first personal project, a 7 year old thoroughbred gelding who was intended to be a dressage horse but was just a bit too hot for his owner. After schooling him all summer, I bought him. Working with him taught me a lot, from patience to laughing at some setbacks. I didn't get to keep him long, a student budget on a work study job doesn't lend itself well to keeping a horse.
I attended Wilson College, a very small liberal arts college in the heart of Chambersburg and until the Fall semester of 2013, it was a women's college. With a barn on campus and well developed equestrian department, I knew I wanted to attend the very first time I visited. Riding classes were a required part of the curriculum and I found myself in the barn for classes more often than not. I learned about anatomy and physiology, breeding, stable management, running events, teaching students, training young horses, and so much more. In my lessons I found a few gaps in my education, not because I couldn't do the exercise, but because I didn't know why the exercise was important, or how exactly I was completing the exercise. Once I began noticing these things, I progressed quickly through the levels and really refined my riding. In addition to lessons I joined the IHSA hunt seat team and the eventing team. In IHSA horses are drawn out of a hat and riders have no warm up time before they're judged in the ring. It toned up my riding in odd but very effective ways. Our eventing team gave me an opportunity to ride dressage tests, and work on courses I would never see in the hunter ring, I rode cross country. I graduated with a dual track degree in Equestrian Studies. . My goal is to continue my own riding education and continue bringing students and horses through the levels as far as I can take them in their chosen discipline. My mission is to make horses, clients and students number one.
Ashleen attends eventing with the stars clinic. Click on link to find out about her day!