It’s 6AM Saturday morning – the first day of summer break. Instead of staying out late, or sleeping in, Elise and Madison are at the stables getting their horses, Bonjourno and Calypso Z, ready for their lessons. They’re not complaining. It’s like this most every day — after school, weekends, summer break, dead of winter.
They brush, wash, wrap ankles, get tack on and off, clean saddles, pick up manure, ride and train their horses at least three hours almost every day. And they love it.
“I guess a lot of girls go through a horse-obsessed phase. I just never grew out of it,” says Elise as she brushes down Bonjourno. She was introduced to riding by her mother at age five, who wanted her to have an intensive hobby – something to keep her busy and engaged after school. Now sixteen, Elise has an obvious command and comfort around her horse, a large and powerful gelding built for jumping.
“He’s kind of a scardey-cat at first,” she says of Bonjourno, “but when I push him he can be brave.”
Madison has been riding since she was nine, her mother also introducing her. With her small size at fifteen, she admits being more comfortable on top of her horse Calypso Z than on the ground trying to cajole him.
Lexi is the only rider in her family. After some persuasion her parents agreed to let her take a lesson when she was eleven, figuring that would be the end of it. But, sadly for her parents, it only fed her determination. Now fourteen, on days where she doesn’t train she’ll still spend her time around the barn with the horses and her friends.
Her horse, Juliette, doesn’t care for the sheep in the neighboring pasture. She finds them upsetting. But yet shows no cowardice when jumping over high wooden rails, cameras flashing and people cheering. Go figure.
On days without a lesson the girls will sometimes take ‘the kids’ as they call them around the barn for photo shoots, like babysitters with their toddlers out for an afternoon’s adventure.
All of the girls are driven to improve as riders and jumpers. There are local shows to get ready for, regional and out of state shows as well. Yet it’s the day-to-day routine of heading down to the barn to be with their horses and their friends that makes getting up so early on a Saturday worthwhile.
The morning’s lesson now over, Elise and Madi head back into the barn, their horses sweating and frothy from the heat and exertion. After being washed and brushed down from a hot day’s lesson, Bonjourno pushes his head into Elise causing her to stumble back a bit. He wants to go in his stable to eat and relax. She gets him his special hay and some water. Like anybody else, he just needs some down time and a nice snack.