Monday, March 3, 2014

Ammy Hour: Meet Lindsey!!

XC schooling
I'm slowly trying to get myself organized again, which means we're back to meeting the most interesting people in horses: the hardworking adult amateurs who pay all the bills, hold day a day job, and still kick ass and take names on the weekends. Meet Lindsey of Alchemy Eventing, who agreed to be our featured ammy today, 

When I first sat on him (before he was mine):

1) You’re at dinner with work colleagues. How do you introduce yourself?

Probably very shyly, something like: "Hi, my name is Lindsey." Yup, that's probably it. If they are prodding for more I'll tell them I'm 25, a third year law student and am working at a local firm that specializes in defending lawyers. (Yes, that's a thing...)

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

I'm sorry I'm so socially awkward- I'm working on it. Once you get me going, though, I can be a rather loud and fun kind of girl. I love my job and I'm happy to find a career I can enjoy, but at the end of the day I really just do it to finance the horse addiction.

I have a horse, and he's pretty much the only thing I talk about on facebook and instagram so don't follow me on either of those things if you don't want a million horse posts daily. I use to kind of hide my horse life, but then I grew up and realized I didn't care about being cool and it was the one thing that really mattered to me. My horse friends are my best friends and I'm happy with that!

I am also a terrible procrastinator, I sleep too much, I'm a coffee addict, and I'm a terrible over-thinker (which tends to make me my own worst enemy.) I'm a Virgo to a T (although I don't truly believe in astrology) - I dream of the day when I own my own barn and can have everything in it's perfect little place. (Yes, I'm OCD). I'm also a bit of a closet nerd. And while I do enjoy dressing and looking feminine, at heart I am really a tom-boy and would rather get dirty and be out in the wilderness any day!

His first Combined Test:
3) What discipline do you ride/compete?

I have done just about everything... My Grandfather bought me a pony when I was six and I was hooked. I rode that little mean paint thing all around his land, pretending to be an Indian or a Cowgirl or whatever I wanted to be that day.

I was also in the 4-H pony-club and eventually started taking lessons and showing. My first horse shows were on an old appaloosa named Apache. We did the whole gamut of classes together. When I was 11, I got my first real horse. He was a quarter horse that was abandoned at someone's farm. He had been a heeler before I purchased him, and every time I was at an AQHA show a cowboy would recognize him as "Dino, Alpo's old heeler" and try to buy him off of me! (Apparently he was a fantastic heeler). He and I did 4-H and AQHA together, doing all of the classes- halter, showmanship, trail, western pleasure, western horsemanship, hunter under saddle, hunter equitation, barrels, poles- oh my goodness, it was exhausting! But barrels and poles were my favorite and we were the 2000 Regional champions in both!

One day I started setting up odd jumps at home (a PVC pipe on the top of two construction cones, anyone?) and learned my quarter horse loved to jump- and so did I! I started to get lessons and show in the hunters and jumpers. He was fantastic and won pretty much everything. Unfortunately we had to put him down in my Junior year of college, but I was riding in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) on the college team, which kept me involved with horses.

When I graduated college, I worked for a year a privately owned thoroughbred farm. That's where I met my current trainer who gave me the opportunity to event. I'd always wanted to, but never had the means or money. One show and I was ADDICTED. The little mustang I half-leased took me all the way to the AECs in my first season! I couldn't have been more thrilled.

4) Tell us about your horse and how did you meet him?

My current horse is a 5 year-old thoroughbred by Devil's Triangle and Ray's Best Gear. Devil's Triangle is out of Devil's Bag who has sired some really nice race and event horses. He's a dark brown bay (er, as I like to call him to make him sound fancier- a mocha chocolate latte bay) with two white small socks and a white snip on his coronet band. He's also an over-thinker, like his mom, and this can cause him some trouble as well. But this also means he's very intelligent, loves to jump, will tolerate dressage as long as it's not the same boring stuff over-and-over, and will eat ANYTHING. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about him when I got him, but he quickly won my heart over and I plan on him being a forever horse.

I met Wiz during 2010-2012, when I worked as a farm manager for a lady who, coincidentally, is a lawyer but also owned about 25 horses. One day she brought this scrawny little pony-looking thing up from the lower field. Wiz was a 2-year old then, absolutely tiny, with bite marks all over him. She brought him in because he was getting beat up so bad in the herd. I didn't think much of him at first- he was tiny, an ugly color because of his sun-bleached coat, and when you tried to walk him through a gate he would stop right in the middle of it and would NOT move, no matter how much you pled/begged/beat/coaxed. It was really quite frustrating. He also tried to lay down on you every time you picked his feet- I really had to work a long time with him on that.

Part of my job was helping break the babies, and eventually I started doing ground work with Wiz and a few of the other 2 year-olds. Out of all of them, Wiz picked it up the fastest and in just a few days he was walk/trot/cantering in a circle by voice cues. He also seemed to have the most natural stamina, which was promising for an eventer, and he was not scared of anything and loved to bravely explore. He was actually a little *too* clever, and was known for breaking out of his stall at night or pulling himself under the fence, running amuck, and then dragging himself back under the fence back into his pasture for feeding time. I have pictures of him laying on his side under the fence calmly eating the good grass on the other side!

Anyway, my trainer and I started to really kind of like him, and the owner eventually offered him to me for free, saying I had worked hard for her and she had too many babies and she'd rather him go to a good home. While I tackled my first year of law school, he went back out in her pasture for a year to grow some more. In May of 2012, I finally took him "home" with me (aka, to my trainer's barn) and officially called him mine!

His barn name was "Wizard" (which I hate, but it stuck)- but his name on his coggins was "The Devil's Alchemist." I didn't care much for having the word "devil" in his show name, but I liked the idea of "Alchemy." When I looked in the dictionary, one of the definitions was: "any process of transmuting a common substance, of little value, into a substance of great value." I believe in the power of the name, and I thought the name "Alchemy" was very fitting for a 4 year old unbroken TB who had yet to do something. I had great hopes of turning him into something "of great value." Thus, I registered him with the USEA as "Alchemy."

5) What have you done together?

So far not too much, since he's really not even been under saddle for a whole two years. We also had some set-backs last fall when he was diagnosed with EPM and then after treatment struggled with a month-long bout of cellulitus and scratches, which I think very much was caused by his EPM treatment since cellulitus is an over-reaction of the immune system and he has never had that before or after. I gave him a very slow rehab last fall, doing about a month of just easy walking/trotting and then slowly trying to start putting it back together. I have to say it made a big difference, and our dressage work so far is much improved.

Despite the draw-backs, Wiz tickled me to death with earning a 6th at his first event ever, with only one stop in the stadium and one on xc which were very honest "I don't understand!" stops. BN was so easy for him, though, that we moved right up to Novice next. We did three more novice events and he continued to blow me away with his work-ethic. He LOVES shows and his whole attitude changes when he steps off the trailer.

But all things considering, I couldn't be happier with what we've accomplished so far. He has given me confidence I never thought I'd have. I had a bad fall during my time in IHSA that rocked my jumping confidence, but he's helped me regain that. For a long time, I would be scared to even jump 2'. But I can now jump 3'6" without blinking on him. (I'm not pushing the height with him, though, until he gets a little older). And for that, for helping me regain my confidence, I'll always be grateful.

6) Where are you going together?

I would be thrilled if we could conquer prelim together and he may even have the capacity to do more. He absolutely LOVES to jump (a little too much, maybe) and has a very powerful hind-end. We need to continue to develop his front-end and reach through his neck and back, but he definitely has the raw talent. Once he learned to start connecting, dressage has actually come fairly easy to him as well. He's a great combination of obedience and sass- he tries very hard to understand what you're asking and please you, but he also has enough sass to keep things interesting (and sometimes admittingly frustrating!) My trainer recently got to jump him on xc and remarked that he had the "pissy attitude of an upper-level eventer," and later, while discussing the xc round, that he had a great jump. So, I really think at this point he may top out at prelim or he may decide he wants to go even higher! Although he's so young, at this point I'm just taking it slow and letting him tell me when he's ready to move up and what he wants to do.

For now the plan is a Novice at Southern Pines in March and a Novice at River Glen in April. I thought we would be doing Training in April, but that plan got put away when he came out fresh this spring for our xc schooling. Apparently he's a little too fond of xc and we're working on establishing that he can have fun AND stay relaxed and listening. I'd rather stay at an appropriate level and wait until all of the pieces are together before moving up, so novice it will be for the spring! I will be taking a few months hiatus to study for the BAR exam, but will likely do a few more events in the fall- and he may be ready to move up to Training by then. Like I said, I really will just wait and listen for him to tell me when he's ready :)

7) How do you finance the addiction?

Before I got Wiz, I was catch-riding everything I could and working off lessons at my trainer's barn. When Wizard's breeder decided to give him to me, I took him and had NO idea how I was going to pay for him. Luckily the stars aligned and a week later I received a phone call from a Graduate Assistantship position I had applied for. It had nothing to do with law, but I was desperate to figure out a way to pay my law school tuition. Luckily, I landed the job and most of the monthly stipend goes towards my horse... I live at home and try to be really careful with my money in order to budget properly. I also still work off part of my board, work off lessons, and started working part time for a firm over the summer. Luckily, that firm offered me a position so that's how I'll afford the addiction starting this fall! (Funny story: When they asked how many hours I'd want to work if given a position, I told them I would work hard but I still wanted to have enough time to ride and compete- and they were willing to work with that schedule and hire me! How cool, right?) I will be relieved when I don't have to juggle school with a million different jobs to pay the bills. But in a way I'm glad I had to- it kept me humble and I'll be looking for ways to pay it forward in the future, as I can't thank all the people that have helped me out enough.

His first Novice:
8) How often do you ride?

Unfortunately I do not have a lit or covered arena right now, so a lot of it depends on the weather and light. I've been struggling to make it out three times a week lately with the sun setting so early! However, as it stays light out longer and the weather gets better, I am trying to make that more like 5-6 in preparation for our show season.

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

I've always been personally driven, ever since I was a kid. I'm a virgo and a perfectionist and I hate feeling like I didn't meet my goals. Sometimes I am like this so much that I have to tune it down. I don't think I've ever outwardly been a bad sport, but I know I've had to reprimand myself for inwardly being a bad sport!

But I am very competitive with myself and am always seeking perfection. I'm realistic enough to know that achieving those goals takes hard work, in and out of the saddle, and imagining the feeling of accomplishment I'll feel whenever I achieve my next goal pushes me through the hard days.

Also, as practical advice, I've always found that visualization really helps me improve. If I want to get better at something, visualizing the goal and achieving it really seems to help me. I will ride my dressage test over and over in my head starting weeks before an event! The night before stadium or xc, I'll imagine myself riding the course flawlessly (even if I don't know the course). I really think these kind of mental exercises can really help center you and prepare you mentally for the task at hand!

His first Beginner Novice event:
10) 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?

Be prepared for all of the time and money it will take from you. Be prepared to make lots and lots of sacrifices.

My social life is 95% at the barn. I don't get to wear many nice new clothes, I don't drive a fancy car, and I still live at home as a 25 year old (although once I graduate law school I will hopefully be moving out). Even the most understanding of significant others may occasionally get frustrated with how much time and money you put into the sport. And I feel like that is the general consensus among Amateurs.

A horse is not a basketball you can put down when you get bored with it and pick it up later. Even when you're financially strapped, or physically exhausted, you have to regularly make time to care for a horse, you have to keep finding ways to pay for the one million random expenses that always seem to crop up.

And if you're not prepared for all of those commitments, it's probably best just to half-lease a horse or just take lessons. And there's nothing wrong with that. Not everyone has to be super competitive to enjoy the sport. Don't bite off more than you can chew. In fact, actually, DO half-lease a horse for six months to a year before you consider purchasing a horse. It will help you get your feet wet and get use to the time and monetary demands of horse ownership, and help you determine whether it's really for you in your new adult life. Even though I had owned a horse when I was younger, I half-leased a horse before wiz, and that helped me realize that even though the time and money demands were tough on me, it was really worth it to me.

(Although some days I do fantasize about quitting it all and instead back-packing around Europe, wearing designer clothes and driving a nice car... but I could never actually do it haha!)

Finally, don't let anyone pressure you for more than you are ready for. While it's your coach's job to push you, you still have to be able to speak up and let them know when you just aren't ready for something in particular. In the same vein, don't let anyone pressure you into doing something you don't want to do. Find your niche, find what you enjoy doing, and do it. Don't let anyone tell you to do otherwise. I've known many people who hated showing but did it because they felt pressured to do it, and eventually burned out and stopped riding completely. That's really sad to me! Horses can add so much to your life, so make sure not to let other people take that enjoyment from you.

11) What are your horse keeping arrangements?

I keep my horse about 15 minutes away from my house. It's a good little barn with two four-stall barns and three pasture boarders in a front paddock. The barns are really nice, the horses get great care, and there's a nice sand arena. I do miss having an indoor though and more individualized paddocks! The eight horses are turned out in one big paddock and Wiz has gotten a little herd-bound. Altogether, though, he's enjoying the new place and he looks fantastic. He likes his "stall-time" to chill out and relax and has, surprisingly, gotten along with most of the herd. (In the past, he's constantly been on the bottom of the chain and picked on!).

12) What is/are your long term equine goals?

If I'm dreaming big, I'd love to make it to Rolex one day. I'd also love to be able to incorporate horses into my real job one day- whether that means making a career change or just having some kind of side business or working part-time and riding part-time in a competitive sense. I always thought I'd hate doing horses as a job so I never pursued it, but when I graduated college and worked for that farm I found out I actually really, really enjoy it and regretted accumulating the college debt I accumulated, which has kept me from trying to make a career out of it. However, I'll always be looking for my "out" or a way to incorporate a career and horses in some fashion. Even if I never actually get to make it some kind of career, just being able to ride competitively (and by that, I mean in the big leagues!) for a year or two would make my life.

I'd also love to be able to create some kind of team for "Alchemy Eventing"- basically helping individuals with less means work their way into the horse world and competition world. I've had so many people give me opportunities, I'd love to pay it forward. I love the idea of "alchemy" as "transforming something of little value into something of great value." Alternatively, I'd like to get involved with or start one of those programs where you have troubled kids work with rescued horses. I really do believe working with horses is one of the most empowering things a young-adult can do.

Realisticaly: I'll probably continue to ride as an amateur, I may make it to Intermediate some day, maybe even beyond. Who knows if I'll win anything. And if I can continue to ride until my death than I'll consider myself a pretty lucky woman!

13) Bottom Line:

While some days being an amateur rider can be down-right exhausting and frustrating, I would not person I am today without it and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I have met so many wonderful, wonderful people through my equestrian endeavors and now have so many to call friends. It's my passion and it's what gets me out of bed even on the days when I'd really rather not get up and face the world- since, let's face it, some days life can be hard. A horse is the best therapist there is. And if you get too cocky, horses are always great at humbling you as well. Most of all, I am just incredibly blessed to be involved in such an amazing sport with such amazing people and such amazing animals.

And if you feel that same way but come from limited financial means, like I did- DON'T GIVE UP! It does take lots, and lots, and LOTS of hard work, but if you work hard and are grateful and have a good attitude, people will recognize it and give you breaks. They really will. It's so rare to find people who are truly dependent and will go above and beyond in their work, so if you can be dependable and do the job better than expected, people will appreciate it. If you are humble and don't complain and take any opportunity you can, doors will open. It may be hard work, but it's worth it.

Thanks for participating, Lindsey and Wiz! :-) They're one of my favorite pairs to track with. Are you an adult ammy who wants to be featured? Know someone who should be? I'm always looking for stories of people like us having fun in the horse world, whether that's backyard riding for making it on the show circuit. Contact me through the conments or via email with suggestions. 


  1. How have I missed her blog? New follower here, plus she spells her name right;)

    1. haha lindsEy is the only way to spell it... ;) I'll follow back!

  2. Very cool! I love reading about their eventing adventures!

  3. Aw thanks so much! I realize how much I need to learn to be concise in my writing though haha. I write novels!

  4. Aw Lindsey you guys are so adorable!! Always love hearing more about you and Wiz--and congrats on the job this fall! That's awesome!

  5. Great interview Lindsey!! I love your blog!

  6. I've been following her blog lately and have really enjoyed it! It's nice to read about another 20-something's adventures of figuring out work, school and eventing.

  7. Great interview! How did I not know about your blog?!?! Following now...

  8. Man, how did i miss her blog I know I've seen her in the blog-o-shere? I guess since its not followed on Blogger, what a great interview! i will follow now :)

  9. Fun interview and great pairs! And a new blog for me!

  10. Love following their adventures.
    Lindsey is awesome!

  11. Great interview. I find it interesting that you mention being a Virgo twice, but that you also don't believe in Astrology - I think you may believe it in more than you realize :) Only noticed this because I am a big believer in it!

    1. I said I don't "necessarily" believe in it, although I do find it to be accurate most of the time ;) but that's funny I mentioned it twice because I didn't realize it!


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