Welcome! My name is Chesna. Horses and riding are an important part of my life. I’ve created this website to connect with other horse people who want to make the most of the relationships we have with our horses. Please subscribe to my blog to stay in touch!
Horse Person by Nature, People Person by Training
Though I didn’t come from a horse family, I’ve always loved horses. I’ve been riding since age 6, and I feel most myself in the company of horses. Horses have taught me the path to success is through creating relationships based on understanding, effective communication, and fun, no matter the riding discipline.
While my affinity for horses came naturally, I’ve worked hard over the years to develop skills to improve myself and to help other people reach their goals. I have a master’s degree in psychology, preceded by undergraduate studies in communication, English, and business with magna cum laude honors. I use a strengths-based, collaborate approach to teaching. It’s a privilege to share my ideas with you, and to learn from you in return.
Growing up I was your classic “horse girl.” I didn’t live on a farm, no one in my immediate family rode horses, but I always wanted to ride. When other kids ran, I cantered. My favorite game at recess was make-believe ponies. I learned to read just so I could finish all the Marguerite Henry, Black Stallion, and Pony Pals books.
For my 6th birthday, my parents enrolled me in English riding lessons. Little did they know then that I would never let it go! I learned the ins and outs of riding and horsekeeping thanks to a cadre of kind and forgiving lesson horses.
When I was 11, my family bought me Mikey, a 13.2 hand Haflinger pony with a sense of humor. This meant I fell off often, hit a lot of tree branches, and learned to ride by the seat of my pants. During this time, I was also introduced to natural horsemanship training principles and barefoot hoof care. I would take jumping or dressage lessons one night of the week, and learn how to disengage the hindquarters or draw my horse at liberty another.
As a young teenager, my friends the Baker/Maddox family gave me a Haflinger foal, Pippin, to train from scratch. I halterbroke him and taught him all the groundwork basics, learning as I went with guidance from experienced horse people like my mentor Cheryl Smith. When Pip came of age, my friend Kelsy Smith and I started him to ride, and I began showing him.
I’ve worked with hundreds of horses over the years–ponies, Warmbloods, ex-racehorses, rescues, and many more. Any success I’ve had riding is owed to building a good relationship with the horse. The relationship is the foundation of training, and it involves getting to know the horse, setting boundaries, listening and communicating clearly, and being consistent.
Some might describe my approach to training as “natural horsemanship.” I draw from a range of equestrian philosophies including classical principles. I approach horses and training holistically and tailor my approach to the needs of each horse and their rider.
I’m committed to learning and getting better for the horses I work with. I improve my skills by attending clinics (including with internationally-recognized trainers), taking lessons, reading and watching training videos, competing, and consulting with other horse people. I also self-reflect on what worked and what didn’t work with each horse I handle, so I can do even better next time.
In 2013 I competed in and won the 100-Day Trainer Challenge for ex-racehorses and chronicled my experiences with the 7-year-old OTTB, Solar, in a training diary here. Here’s a recap of our progress together during the 100-days:
Some of my riding highlights include:
- Working for Helen Bell Equestrian (HBE) in England and competing HBE sporthorses and ponies in British events in 2007.
- Winning the United States Eventing Association Area VII Training level championship in 2010 on my 14 hand Haflinger pony, Pippin.
- Earning a United States Dressage Federation silver medal with Pip in 2012 for competing through Prix St. Georges.
- Winning the Open Intermediate Working Equitation National Championship with Pippin at Haras Cup in 2015 and later competing at the Advanced level.
- Performing at expos and fairs since childhood, and performing at BreyerFest in 2016.