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LEGITIMATE FEAR “Good horses make good riders” is an adage that withstands the test of time. Often a veteran campaigner makes the perfect choice when looking for a partner in the show ring. They are knowledgeable, experienced, and safe—the equine version of a top Ivy League professor teaching those in the saddle. They can help a green rider gain an education, a scared rider work through her fear, a nervous rider become confident, and an already competitive equestrian successfully reach the next level. This was all true for Sarah Orberson-Taylor, who in 2009 had hit a road block in her equestrian career. Although she had been in the saddle since she was seven, the pretty blond was ready to sell her hunter and give up the sport completely. Too many dangerous rounds and countless crashes had destroyed her confidence and any enjoyment had been replaced by ongoing and overwhelming fear and insecurity. “If I wasn’t 100 percent perfect at every single fence, my old horse would

crash,” remembers Sarah. “I didn’t know at the time that he had issues with his back and wasn’t up to the job. I thought that it was my fault and that I just couldn’t ride, plain and simple. If I could have shown in the Pre-Children’s Hunters (2’3”), I would have, but I was too old!” It was then that Sarah’s former trainer Kris LePow put her on her own

horse Hukase de Hermet (1995), a fourteen year old Selle Français, who was affectionately known around the barn as Hootie. The idea of hacking, or more importantly jumping, someone else’s horse put the blond into panic mode. “I was at the point where I was going to just quit. It wasn’t worth it,” she confesses. “When she asked me to jump Hootie, I was really nervous that I’d ruin him. But surprisingly he made it easy, and fun!” Famed grand prix veteran Laura Kraut had found the Selle Français on a

scouting trip with her clients in Holland. Imported at the age of seven to the United States, the bay gelding spent seven years competing in City League International Grand Prix with Kris LePow. “In June of 2009, I remember Kris told me to jump this huge brick wall in the middle of the ring,” continues Sarah. “I had never seen anything that size, and I was instructed to jump it? I came out of the corner and saw no distance, nothing. I didn’t want to circle, but I didn’t know what to do. So I just dropped the reins and tapped Hootie on the shoulder, then he took a couple of long strides, rocked backed and jumped. I hung on and we landed safely on the other side! I had no clue how to ride this type of jump, but he sure did.” Sarah’s father was watching the action inside the ring and wrote the check to purchase Hootie that day. “When we bought Hootie he had been showing at the top level for seven

years. We figured he wouldn’t last that much longer,” says Sarah, who had one other show horse and boarded them near her home. “Our goal for Hootie was to keep me riding and help me get over many past bad experiences. He was meant to be my second hunter and a practice horse. We figured if I just jumped him at home, I would build confidence in order to get around the course on my horse at the shows,” explains Sarah, who since then married Andrew Taylor, began college courses, and set up her own home and stable near Charlotte, South Carolina. “I couldn’t go to a show and leave him at home alone! So he started coming with us.”

NEWFOUND CONFIDENCE Overcoming her fears, gaining back her confidence, and finding the right trainer were the first steps for Sarah on the road to riding recovery. Changing Hootie’s official name to True Religion, Sarah’s formal education with her new


Top: Sarah Ward and Onassis jumping an oxer in Amateur Owner Hunter Division Photo by Shawn McMillen

Middle: Reed Kessler and Flight compete for first time. Both are 13 in their debut in Junior Jumpers Photo by photos

Bottom: Reed Kessler and Flight four years later compete in an Open Class at WEF Photo by Jack Mancini/Mancini Photos

Warmbloods Today 27

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