Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ammy Hour: Meet Shannon!!

It's time for another round of one of my favorite series, Ammy Hour! I interview the coolest people I know, the adult amateurs that make the whole "horse thing" work with real life, real responsiblities, and real horses. I've been reading Shannon's blog at A Work in Progress almost since I started blogging, and it's fun to learn a little bit more about her. Without further ado, here's Shannon!

1) You’re at dinner with your peers. How do you introduce yourself?

      Hi.  I'm Shannon

2) But what you really meant to say was this:

Hi.  I'm Shannon and I suck at introductions. I live on a farm where we raise chickens and ducks and grow all our own fruits and veggies.  I have two kids, a 4 year old daughter and a two year old son.  I studied animal behavior in college and used to work for a university, but I've now retired to be a broodmare. My passion is training dressage horses. No, they're not the ones that race. No, they don't jump, either. *Sigh* Yes, they're the "dancing ones", like Romney's horse.  No, I don't get paid for it or win money. Who wants another glass of wine?

Spider also has killer fashion sense
3) Tell us about your horse:

Now that's something I can talk about all day!  Spider is an 18 year old, unregistered Thoroughbred. He's currently showing 3rd Level in dressage and we're working on moving up.

 I don't know much about his past, as I purchased him through a broker and never spoke to his previous owners. I know he was a jumper, I know he doesn't have a Jockey Club tattoo, and that's about it.  But, his past doesn't matter to me.  He is one of the most willing, kind, and trainable horses I have ever met in my life.  When I sit on him, I can feel that he wants to work just as much as I do.

Now, that isn't to say that he's always well behaved!  If he gets confused or feels like he can't do something, he can throw a temper tantrum with the best of them!  But, once the tantrum is done he comes right back to me and it's over.  He also hates to travel and hates new people.  It makes showing a challenge, but he's never malicious about it. He's just a spaz.  I find it endearing.

4) How did you meet him/her?

I met him when he was 11 and I was still riding sale horses. Spider had been a jumper, but soured and was being sold as a dressage prospect. I was supposed to be riding him to sell, but I fell in love with him within two weeks and knew I had to have him.  Everybody said I was crazy to buy the spazzy, soured jumper, but I'm glad I did.

5) What have you done together?

Well, not much on paper.  I bought him just after I had broken my back in a riding accident.  Three months after I bought him, I was let go from my job riding horses and had to go back to a "real" job.  So, I had to work a 9-5 desk job at a university, while retraining this spastic Thoroughbred jumper I had just bought!  We putzed around at First Level for a couple years, then I got pregnant.  That pretty much derailed my "plan".  And then, just when we were getting back on track after my first child was born, I got pregnant again!  So, our show record is less than stellar, for obvious reasons.

But, when it comes to things outside of show records and paper accomplishments, he and I have done it all.  This horse has seen me through the greatest upheavals in my life.  He came to me at a time when I had just broken my back, and had just been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease.  He saw me through my transition from Pro to Ammy, he saw me through my two pregnancies, and then he saw me through my transition from Academic to Farmwife. He and I go on trail rides, then we hang out in the back yard and have cocktails.  He gives my kids pony rides and he packs me over little jumps (I'm not a jumper, but he's very forgiving). He's just a really great all-around horse.

6) Where are you going together?

Well, the short answer is that my goal for this year is to have him do a Prix St. Georges test.  Score doesn't matter, I just want to do it.

The long answer is that we're going as far as we can go.  I want him to do Grand Prix.  I want him to teach my kids to ride.  But most of all, I want him to always be my partner.

7) How do you finance the addiction?

I have a very understanding husband!  Three years ago I "retired" from my job at a university to become a stay-at-home mom, so he foots most of the bills.  I raise chickens and ducks that I sell to pay for lessons and extras and do a little farm-sitting for friends, too.

I also try to save money where I can.  When I "retired", the horses came home to our farm to live, which saves a ton of money. And I usually only take a lesson once a month or so.  The horses are barefoot and pastured, so that saves money, too.  Although, they are not barefoot and pastured just to save money; I personally believe that living in a pasture is a healthier lifestyle for them and not every horse needs shoes.  The money saved is just an added bonus!

8) You balance a combination of kids, work, and school while maintaining an adult relationship. What top three things help you stay focused?

#1 would have to be horses.  Horses have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  They've been there through all the big milestones in my life, all the ups and downs.  They're my constant, my religion and my therapy.

#2 is my kids. I want to share my passion for horses with them, because I think horses have so much to offer kids in terms of learning important life lessons, but I need to be on top of my game to do that.  I want my kids to learn the discipline and work that goes along with having these wonderful animals in your life, so I need to lead by example.

#3 is definitely alcohol!  Nothing helps you reboot like a nice glass of wine or a cocktail in the evening!

9) On top of the above challenges, you are riding through an injury. What keeps you strong and motivated day to day?

I'm just too dumb to quit!  It's never occurred to me to throw in the towel, even on the days when I'm sitting on my horse in tears thinking, "Who am I kidding? I can't do this."  I've sacrificed too much and come too far to quit now. I'm too stubborn for that. Besides, without horses there would be a huge hole in my life.

10) How often do you ride?

As often as I can! Usually around 4 times a week, sometimes 6 times a week, sometimes a week or more passes between rides if I'm sick or my back is bothering me.  One thing I've learned is not to sweat the numbers.  Just bring the same consistency and quality to every ride.  Your horse remembers what you taught him.

11) What’s the single biggest thing that helps you achieve your goals?

Again, I'm just too stubborn and dumb to quit!  I keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter what.  I may not get there quickly, I may take a roundabout path, but I know if I just keep plugging away I will eventually get where I want to be.

12) If there was one thing you could say to people getting ready to join the ranks of riding (or re-riding) adults, what would it be?

Don't let anybody tell you what you can't do.  Many people think you need a fancy horse, expensive equipment and a trust fund to succeed with horses, and they'll try to tell you can't do it without those things.  Don't listen to them.  All you really need is passion and a love of learning.  And don't forget to have fun.

13) Bottom line:
There's a saying, "If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life".  I try to live by that saying.  When things start to get difficult, I just remind myself that I am so lucky to have all these wonderful things in my life: my family, my farm and my horses.   I wouldn't give any of them up, so I might as well slap on a smile and enjoy this crazy life.

Many thanks to Shannon for participating. Do you know someone who should be featured here? Would you like to be? Contact me through the comments or at sprinklerbandits at gmail dot com. 

Stay tuned! I will actually wrap up the Tis the Season contest here shortly (winter funk, I tell you) AND we have a new contest upcoming that I am super excited about! 


  1. Shannon's blog was the very first blog I ever followed, I found her while googling String halt. I love reading about the adventures of her and spider. She is an inspiration to us all!
    Great choice of interviews!

  2. Yay a new blog to follow! Thanks for sharing Shannon!

  3. Another entertaining ammy hour!

    And Shannon is making it happen in the small yet mighty state of New Jersey. What an awesome representative!

  4. Aww, thanks! I was honored to do an interview for Ammy Hour with you, your questions were great!

    Spider does have great fashion sense, doesn't he? Just wait 'till you see his outfits for St. Patrick's Day and Easter!

  5. Yeah! love it. I also love that drinking is a corner stone to maintaining your sanity. 2 kids and horses = lots of wine!

  6. Thanks for that, these are always so fun! It was great to learn more about shannon.

  7. Loved it! Thanks for sharing Shannon's story :)

  8. LOVE this series! It makes me feel...not so alone!

  9. I'm rooting for Shannon to make it to FEI with Spider. I hope to see her ride this summer at the NJ Horse Park!

    Thanks for featuring her.

  10. I love her blog! :D I always feel inspired after reading her posts because she's so strong and persistent.

    I'm feeling really dumb right now, but I have to ask... what is Ammy Hour? I'm assuming ammy stands for amateur... but none of the people participating strike me as amateurs... unless by amateur you mean not a professional who gets paid to ride?? So what are the requirements to participate? I love the series by the way, just curious what it means and what the rules are if there are any. :D


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