“When we choose at times to detach from a preconceived goal or expected outcome, allowing our journey to be fueled by heart and spirit, this not only ensures the welfare of our horses, but truly provides the freedom and clarity we need to be on an amazing journey.”
These were the words delivered by then 18-year old Elizabeth “Lizzy” Traband during her acceptance speech for the 2016 Junior Equestrian of the Year award. Born without a left forearm, Lizzy learned to persevere and overcome challenges at an early age. “Horses give us the gift of unconditional acceptance. They don’t see if we have a physical or mental disability. They just see how much we care for them,” Lizzy explains. Lizzy’s career includes a diverse array of achievements in dressage, equitation, hunters, show jumping and even performing as a trick rider. No matter where her equestrian endeavors take her, Lizzy truly lives by these words. She puts the horses first and follows the best path for each and every one of her equine partners.
Lizzy grew up in Centre Hall Pennsylvania on Carousel Farm, a horse farm owned by her mother, Annette. While she was able to work with many great horses over the years, Lizzy credits her childhood pony Toby for changing her life. The $800 cart pony was picked up by Lizzy’s parents at an auction when she was just a child. When her parents walked down the auction aisle, Toby knocked a bucket over and stood on top of it to get his head above the stall. Lizzy shares, “Toby just had a huge personality from the start. He was the pony that definitely impacted my life for the better.” She describes Toby as a naughty pony who frequently caused her to fall off, especially as she started jumping in the short stirrup division. But Lizzy never lost faith. “Toby was my pony and I absolutely loved him.”
Lizzy soon discovered that Toby liked performing tricks much more than packing her around a course of jumps. Due to her having one arm, Lizzy originally began riding horses using a simple rope around their necks. When she decided to try bridleless riding with Toby, the pony responded well. Eventually, Lizzy and Toby were discovered at a local event by Tommie Turvey, a renowned trainer famous for his work with stunt and performance horses, and her trick riding career flourished. Lizzy spent several years traveling as a bridleless performer. “I 100% credit Toby for giving that to me because I love that pony so much and he has taken me places that still to this day I look back and can’t believe I was able to do.”
Not only is Lizzy accomplished in the riding arena, but she has also excelled in entrepreneurial pursuits. Following her success with Toby, at only 11 years old, Lizzy founded Taiji Horsemanship. The online guide provides free education for riders looking to better their horsemanship skills. More recently, Lizzy began Equestrian Pro Network Integrated Systems, or EPN Global, an information technology project developed in order to further Lizzy’s goal to find every horse its ideal job.
Now 20 years old, Lizzy has added another title to her extensive resume: President of the Penn State University Equestrian Team. She hopes that her new role will aid her in growing her leadership skills as she pursues her entrepreneurial projects. “The greatest thing about being in an officer position is that you truly do have to embrace real life experiences. Dealing with miscommunications and dealing with financials … it’s that kind of experience that you really can’t get in the classroom. I definitely think it will help me in my career,” Lizzy shares. Collegiate riding recently saw Lizzy compete at the 2018 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals. She earned a spot in the prestigious Cacchione Cup class, ultimately placing fourth among some of the best equitation riders from around the country.
As for the future, Lizzy has her eyes set on working as a professional in the horse industry and also plans to continue working on EPN Global. “The one thing that scares me about working in the horse industry is being in a financial situation where I have to compromise the care of the horse in order to stay afloat as a professional. That was the inspiration behind EPN--the idea that I could have a business in the horse industry which I already love so much and it could be supplemental to riding,” she says. Lizzy’s accomplishments in the equine industry have been consistently fueled by her love of horses and putting the animals first. This mindset led Lizzy to many opportunities throughout her junior career, and has now inspired her in developing her businesses and continuing to build her riding skills. “I definitely have a lot to learn before I would feel comfortable being a professional,” Lizzy concludes, “but in a perfect world I would love to take EPN and run with it and be able to keep horses in my life.”
(Editor's Note: We also discovered that Lizzy's pony Toby is a Breyer model! How adorable is that?)