Castalian Equestrian Center
A Rider's Story Perspective -
My daughter started riding in 2002 (age 6) and started like most kids with once a week lessons. After five years of riding with two different trainers, she really wanted to compete at a higher level. Unfortunately, Karin's trainers did not see her as having the talent to ride at an A show level and probably to some extent, didn't see her parents as having the big money it took to take it to the next level. The problem was, her trainers didn't even try to help her or guide us through the process. If it weren't for a chance meeting with Stephanie, my daughter would not have realized her real potential in the sport.
We met Stephanie in 2008 when she substituted for one of Karin's trainers. During her lesson, Stephanie encouraged Karin to try a number of new things including roll backs. I recall during the lesson that Stephanie challenged Karin and Karin responded. It was the best lesson she ever had in five years of riding. During the next couple of months, we found ways to have Karin work with Stephanie instead of her regular trainers. We started working on finding Karin a horse and although Karin still had her other trainers, I found myself looking to Stephanie to guide us through the horse purchase. Finally in the fall of 2008, we made the decision to make Stephanie our permanent trainer and to have her work with Karin. I recall during one of Karin's lessons with Stephanie, Stephanie ask Karin who taught her to do a lead change. Karin responded, that no one taught her, she read it in a magazine. It was sad after five years of working with two other trainers, they did not take the time to teach Karin a basic element of riding.
Throughout the past four years working with Stephanie, Karin has gone from "just riding" in once a week lessons to learning complete horse care, riding five to six days a week and being competitive in the southeast. Karin has turned into a very good horsewoman and even our vet has commented on Karin's experience in working with her horses when they have been injured (bandaging, poultice, cold hosing, packing feet, etc). Stephanie has instilled a love of the sport and horses that I don't think we would have had if she had not worked with Stephanie. When Stephanie started working with Karin four years ago, Karin could barely canter and still trotted the corners. Karin now has a long list of accomplishments in the Hunter division including placing in two Hunter Derby's at Brownland Farm last year and is starting to compete in Children's Jumpers. Karin completed the USEF High School Equestrian program and the USHJA Young Riders program. She completed the online test this past spring and received a score of 83 on her first attempt. Stephanie gave Karin the opportunity to work with a green horse last summer that had never jumped. Karin showed the horse this past weekend and he had a 2nd and 3rd in the over fences classes.
Karin is now looking at Division I Equestrian schools for college as well as considering vet school. The opportunities and guidance provided by Stephanie over the past four years has fueled what I believe to be a lifelong passion for the sport and for horses.
A Parent's Perspective -
In addition to providing you with my perspective on my daughter's accomplishments with her riding, I also want to share with you my perspective as a parent who was unfamiliar with the sport. During the time Karin rode with other trainers, I was frustrated because I could see, beyond the talent Karin had, she had passion. I did not grow up with horses or horse shows, and I found it frustrating with the other trainers trying to navigate buying a horse and the financial commitment required to be competitive as well as finding a trainer that would look beyond the obvious athletic ability of their good riders to a young girl that didn't have a lot of athletic ability, but had the desire to learn, compete and experience all that equestrian sports had to offer. I immediately liked Stephanie as she is a no-nonsense person that wants kids in her program that have a desire to be good riders as well as take care of their horses. Stephanie does not have a program that you just show up and ride and mom/dad write a check. Riders are expected to take care of their horses and tack, and clean up after themselves. They are expected to show a respect to Stephanie through their attitude and work ethic. Stephanie's program has earned respect from many that know her as her students muck stalls, feed and water their horses and experience all that comes with the responsibility of horse ownership. I have seen Stephanie work with parents during difficult financial times, finding horses for riders at a level parents can afford rather than just focusing on riders with money. I often see other parents of riders selling their horse because the horse is difficult or not competing well anymore. Stephanie works many hours thinking about the problem and many more working to figure out how to fix it. She uses many natural ways of keeping horses at the top of their game without resulting in selling them or drugging them. As a parent of a 16 year old daughter, I am encouraged by Stephanie's example and leadership in the horse world. She doesn't take the easy way and she expects a lot from her riders. She always has the best interest for both the safety of the rider and the safety of their horse.
I would highly recommend Stephanie Tate for the XXXX grant program. If I can provide any further insights about Stephanie or her program, I am happy to do so. Feel free to contact me at 615-429-6552.