Rider to Rider: Who Is Your Riding Idol, and Why?

Practical Horseman readers share the famous and not-so-famous people who inspire them.

I love George Morris because he has so much insight and wisdom in the hunter/jumper world. I look forward to seeing his articles in Practical Horseman Magazine!
Jenna Williams, Texas

George Morris. ? Stacey Nedrow-Wigmore

George Morris. For the simple reason that he is the god of the hunter jumper world. I mean, he literally wrote the book on hunt seat equitation! Without question the single most influential man in the history of jumping in the United States.
Melissa Davis Walker, Texas

My riding idol is and always has been Margie Engle. She was one of the first major riders I got to meet as a teenager and she was such a sweet, genuine person and always took time to sign autographs and take pictures with us fans after a Grand Prix, whether she did well in it or not. She has always been my role model.
Free Tack, via Facebook

My riding idol is my trainer. She always has the right piece of advice to master a new skill, a new point of view to perfect the old skills. She has the right exercise to brighten a not-so-good ride. Every time I ride, I pick up something new because of her. She pushes me to my limit, but only gives me what I can handle.
Rachel M, North Carolina

Without a doubt my riding idol is my dad, a true horseman in every sense of the term. I said to him when I was a boy, “Wouldn’t it be great if humans and horses spoke the same language?” Over the years my dad taught me that the time one spends in a nurturing relationship with his horse, similar to that of a loving parent and child, will pay off tenfold in the future, Done with care, that horse will eventually want to show just how fast he can run and how high he can jump.
Kurt “Shepherd” Lidtke, Oregon

Currently I look up to a fellow rider in my barn “Lara” she works full time, trains hard and sets goals for herself and accomplishes them. I told the trainer I am going to follow the LARA PROGRAM of dedication.
Chris Cole, Washington

Bert de N?methy, Bill Steinkraus, Michael Matz and Joe Fargis, because horses come first.
Virginia Gillis, via Facebook

My riding idols are great women I share a barn with! They have taught me to not give up, that I AM a good rider and to just love my horse and live for the moment! We are all at different stages in our “horse” lives and each of us brings special wisdom that everyone can draw upon. HOORAH to the ladies of Broken Down Farm!
Kim Schmittendorf, via Facebook

My riding idol is my trainer because she has taught me everything I know. My headstrong thoroughbred is tough to handle, but my trainer has taught me to sit back, take a breath, and SLOW DOWN. She is an amazing rider and has blown me away with her skills on a day-to-day basis. I find myself looking up to her and not famous riders who don’t teach me to better my riding every day.
Katie Grothen, via Facebook

My riding idol is Beverly Strauss, director Midatlantic Horse Rescue. She buys horses who are off of the racetrack, rescues some from sale barns. She cares for and rides these young horses, to get them to a level of relaxation so they can be adopted for new jobs. This is not easy or with out risk, but Bev loves and believes in the potential of these beautiful young horses. Every one has a busy life, job and family. Bev works her life around saving these horses. She also is involved in Pony Club and fundraising for the rescue.
Ann Lyons, via Facebook

My rider idol would have to be my old trainer Liz. She taught me everything I know about horses and she was like an open book about anything. She went through everything from the correct diagonal to cantering around the ring bareback with no reins and my arms out as if I was flying. I’ll never forget her, and I would be lucky to ever become as great a horsewoman as she is. It was a shame she went off to college because I would miss the connection we shared, but the memories will stay with me for a lifetime.
Juli Thomas, via Facebook

William Steinkraus! He respected our sport, he respected the horses. He never accepted good enough. They say we try to achieve perfection but can’t reach it. We probably can’t, but Steinkraus did! The style he used and his number of accomplishments are an inspiration to anyone wanting to ride.
Lee Johnson, Texas

My riding idol by far has to be George Morris. He is an AMAZING rider and teacher. When I am preparing for a show I always read anything he has written. Many times I have read his articles before shows and have mostly gotten reserve champion. I wouldn’t be half the rider I am today without him. He is an amazing, skillful, graceful rider, and I will always idolize him for that.
Logan Mumford, Virginia

My riding idol is Anne Kursinski. She’s a top-notch professional and a wonderful teacher. She’s aware of all aspects of horse care, not just training. I live in New Jersey and I’m dying to take a few lessons with her!
Courtney Krajcik Freund, New Jersey

As one watches the Grands Prix, Olympics or the World Cup, the riders are skilled, but nonetheless, they are not always the best riding role models. With dirty boots, hair in a ponytail, abusive kicks and smacks to the horse’s side (usually portraying the riders mistake), and the snooty comments to us jumpers in the lower levels, not every parent or trainer wants their student or child to grow up and behave in this manner. Lane Clarke exceeds the criteria for a Grand Prix rider in my book. His riding ability is exceptional: he glides with the horse over 6-foot verticals and barely moves as the horse canters the course. When a ride goes wrong, he does the best thing for the ride, usually a tap behind the leg for pace or a “whoa” to give the horse fair warning before it gets slowed by the bit. Most of Lane’s rounds are videotaped, giving him the ability to learn from the mistakes instead of repeating them into bad habits. Off the horse, he is friendly and kind to everyone, with no hint of malice after a loss towards the successor. Most riders will wave other ogling fans away, when Lane is modest enough to wave away the praise and have a friendly conversation. Even though there is an eleven-year age difference between us, I feel as though I can relate to Lane in his youth. When I ride, I aspire nothing more than to be like Lane Clarke, the best rider in my understanding.
Taylor E.Moore, California

Dr. Sherry Ackerman, author of Dressage in the Fourth Dimension, is my riding idol. She embodies the power of being in the moment and striving for oneness with the horse. Watching her ride allows me to see that riding is truly an art form to be developed through practice and presence.
Marcy Criner, South Carolina

I would have to say Boyd Martin is my idol! He has been through so much lately with his father passing and the barn fire. He’s still riding and going strong after all that happening! It’s the perfect example of when something bad happens you have to just keep doing what you love to do and everything will work out!
Megan Pustarfi, Georgia

My riding idols are everyone I’ve ever trained with. There are only so many times they can yell, “Look up! Lock your arms!” I’ve learned the hard way a few times. They’re usually right!
Breann Nicole, Florida

My mentor, Christine Boehle of Precision Training of Rogue River, Oregon. She allowed me the honor of apprenticing under her for 2? years and her confidence, ease and grace in the saddle, either Western or English, is something to behold. She is my riding idol.
Karen Johnson, Montana

My riding idol is the former head of the jumping department at Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre in West Virginia: Michelle Estep. I rode under her for a year and a half and learned more in that time than I did after riding for 6 to 7 years under a different trainer. She helped my confidence so much and she pushed me when I needed it. I have come such a long way since riding with her; she is the voice in my head when I ride. She is one of those trainers the does what she teaches. If we had a problem with something when she rode she would work it out and then relay to us. I will never forget the time I had riding with her. And hope to be able to ride just like her some day.
Laura Jane Waldron, Georgia

As much as I admire George Morris, I think my idol is going to have to be a trainer whose name, sadly, I’ve forgotten. (We went through a lot of trainers at that barn.) She was easily the meanest trainer I’ve ever ridden under but she did wonders for my position in the saddle. She also had a steel rod in her and had been told not to ride again. So naturally she did exactly what the doctors said not to. She couldn’t ride long and always limped when she walked but she rode anyways.
Jamie Edgerly, Florida

My riding idol is my mom, no matter how dorky it sounds. She has achieved so much with so little. She has inspired me to compete, win and own my riding business. She started her business with absolutely nothing and became the most popular barn in town to where she had a waiting list because all she did was win and strive to be the best even with metal plates and rods in her back. I pray that I will one day be as successful as she was and hopefully strive to be more but a heart of determination like hers is going to be pretty hard to top!
Chandalyn Chrzanowski, Georgia

My trainer, Alison Flury, because she has not only helped me advance into a better rider, she’s given me confidence in the saddle.
Dee Sousa, Illinois

I find Maryland dressage rider Julio Mendoza absolutely inspirational. He clearly loves his horses; it is hard not to enjoy watching him work. I have seen him at the Horse World Expo a couple times, and the whole time he works his Friesians around in FEI-level dressage movements, he obviously lets them know they’re doing a good job, and they love him, too! It’s a great reminder that we need to remind our own horses how much we love and appreciate them, and they’ll try their hardest for us.
Ashley Bonner, Maryland

My riding idol is my instructor, Emily. She may not be famous, but she knows how to ride! She is always supportive to everyone in anything they do. She makes riding something that is easy to understand. Another thing is how she has big dreams that she strives for. Right now Emily is still very young and she still dreams big. Even though it is not always easy for her, she stays happy and keeps her hopes up. Emily is working hard in college to get a business degree and horsemanship degree. She wants to own her own stable one day and I think she has the drive to do it. Knowing her, she will never give up and will become one of the best and most caring barn owner/riding instructor that I will ever know.
Jessie Harris, North Carolina

My riding idol would be anyone I learn from. Anyone I see doing something that could help my horse be as healthy and comfortable as possible or help me become a better rider. Going to shows and seeing the ways people set up their equipment?or what they do to their horses after a rigorous cross-country run.
Julia Mace, Maine

I ride English Hunt Seat and I’d have to say my idol is my former riding instructor Kristine Stephenson. As a Junior, she trained and showed with the legendary George Morris, where she won numerous awards. I hadn’t taken any lessons for about a year after I purchased my first horse, Taxi, so we had developed some really bad habits. Tina always made the lessons fun. I developed great balance, and I started showing and even won a few awards. My greatest achievement was when I won the Adult Equitation trophy at a show. Four years ago I moved out of state and now have my own farm with three horses. I still call Tina for her advice, which she gives without hesitation.
Toni Gagliardi, Kentucky

Two current riders stick out in my mind: The first is Belgian show jumper Phillip Le Jeune. It really touched my heart to see him dismount at the 2010 World Equestrian Games and hug his horse and the horse’s groom and then go over and hug Vigo d’Arsouilles and that groom. Seeing a top rider who just won one of the biggest competitions in the world thank his equine partners and the teams of people who put in hard work really showed that he isn’t in it just for the money and fame. He truly is a humble person. The second person would be McLain Ward for taking the Sapphire disqualification at the 2010 Jumping World Cup Final in stride and being a good sport. That was a much-needed breath of fresh air in a sport that is, at times, filled with bad sportsmanship, drama queens and politics.
Tiffany Stephens, Ohio

My 4-H leader from when I was younger, Dennis Keefer, had polio when he was younger and could no longer ride, yet he drove his Hackney horses to many championships. He also taught me to ride Western pleasure and hunter under saddle, as well as coached me to my first showmanship championship?all while having not ridden in many years. Most importantly though, he taught me horses are not all about the ribbons but about the relationship between horse and rider (or handler) and the person they help you become. Also that the horse comes first! He is an amazing man and still a great friend and mentor to this day!
Sarah Quellmalz, Michigan

My idol is Greg Best; I always looked up to him for riding an incredible horse like Gem Twist.
Joann M. Robertson, New York

There are so many great people and horses to look to for inspiration! I have been watching Heather Blitz in dressage, and she and her horse Paragon are truly inspirational. Edward Gal is someone I admire, and Steffen Peters, too. I also think Mary King in eventing is awesome. And I saw McLain Ward and Sapphire in an amazing performance a few years ago. Mary Wanless for her training wisdom.
Cindy Bean, Florida

My riding idol is my 66-year-old mom. She isn’t a world-famous trainer or rider, but she is the best example of true horsemanship I know. As a teenager, she qualified for the Medal and Maclay Finals but wasn’t able to attend. After a long career in education, she came back to her love of horses and purchased and bred an off-the-track Thoroughbred. She raised, started and trained the filly?and took up eventing in her 60s! Not only is she the fittest “senior” I know, she is the most patient and caring horseperson. She believes in developing a true partnership with a horse. It might take longer to achieve results, but the result is a happy, healthy horse who trusts her rider.
Kitren Nickerson, Colorado

Margie Engle is not only an amazing and talented athlete; she is a role model for female riders. She is strong, competitive and never gives up. I saw her and Indigo win a local Grand Prix and fell in love with them. One day I want to finish my Grand Prix jump-off course with a blue ribbon and be like Margie.
Lena Lopatina, Ohio

I remember the first time I saw Ian Millar and Big Ben. Watching them make such big jumps look so effortless took my breath away. There was just something about that team that made me realize this was what I wanted to do.
Doreen Guthrie, Alberta

My rider idol would definitely have to be Lainey Ashker. I was present at Rolex when she had her awful fall, and I remember how time stood still. I read every post about her recovery, so seeing her back at Rolex and running successfully almost brings tears to my eyes. If that doesn’t show a love and passion for this sport, I don’t know what does.
Carson Loder, Ohio

My riding idol is eventer Caitlin Ziegler. She has accomplished so much at such a young age. She has great form and gives me hope that, even though I’m older, I can be successful also.
Heather Hartland, Pennsylvania

My riding idol is Beezie Madden because she pursued her riding career?and still is pursuing it. I hope to be half as good as she is when I get out of college and start pursuing my own career at the higher levels.
Alison A. Thomas, Arkansas

The day I asked my then-6-year-old daughter if she wanted to learn how to ride horses and she answered with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” I had no idea what it would lead to. She has never let anything get in her way of pursuing her dream of becoming an accomplished rider. She is as gracious a champion as she is when she’s not in the ribbons. When I was 40, she inspired me to fulfill my dream of learning to ride. Now she’s 21 and getting ready to begin her last year as an equine studies major at Virginia Intermont College. I am proud to be able to ride in the same ring with my riding idol?my daughter, Claire.
Paige Mawdsley, Virginia

My idols are everyone who dedicates their time and a good portion of their lives to riding. As riders, we know the highest highs and the lowest lows, yet we continue because we love our sport and the horses who make it worthwhile.
Kyllian Genzmer, Idaho

My riding idol is my trainer, Jessica Masten. After experiencing two near-career-ending accidents, I found myself at Jessica’s barn. She was so kind and patient, and she helped me get back into the saddle. Her support Jessica’s motivation and encouragement helped push me through pain and recovery to help me?reach my goals.
Kimberly Smith, Texas

Read more answers to this question in the October 2011 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.

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