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Riding is for Everybody and Every Body 2021

Posted on: September 29, 2021 by SmartPak

The SmartPak Team had the distinct joy of bringing in real riders (and SmartPak customers!) to our studio to rock some of our products (both SmartPak brand and other favorites like Ariat and Kerrits!). These riders live and ride locally to our SmartPak office but came with a wide variety of backgrounds in the horse world. All nine riders did have two very important things in common, though, they all love horses and they all radiated this incredible, positive energy the entire time we had them in front of the camera.

We’re so excited to get the chance to share these riders with you along with our belief that riding is for everyone. No matter your age, race, sexuality or breech size, we hope you get to enjoy a great ride today!

Meet the Riders!

Name: Samantha Fisher
Discipline: Hunter/Jumper
Horse: 9yo Bay TB Gelding and 25yo Gray NSH mare

Why I Ride: “Riding is my therapy, my happy place! The troubles of the day melt away when I am in the saddle”

Name: Marshall Lopes-Pogue
Discipline: All Around
Horse: Im Xtra N Shes Prada (Prada), 7yo OTTB
“She is the first horse that I’ve ever owned. After the death of my mother and grandmother, Prada was blessed into my life at a time of difficult transition to help the healing process of my loss.”

Why I Ride: “I was introduced to riding at a very young age by my grandparents, who were a big part of my life. The love of the animal is something one has to experience to understand. Our native heritage has a long history with the ‘horse’. First birthdays (pony rides for all the kids) and every year after that. Riding to me means peace and understanding, the connection with the animal is something I can’t explain!!”

Name: Ali Lyons
Discipline: Dressage
Horse: Hivory, 9yo Chestnut KWPN
“She is a complete snuggler on the ground, and though sometimes not the easiest horse to ride, she lets me know when my position is incorrect so has been a really good teacher for me.”

Why I Ride: “I was a competitive gymnast growing up and also did a lot of other sports, so when I started riding as an adult, it was completely shocking how difficult this sport was for me. I love the challenge! Also, my two daughters have loved horses since the day they were born, so it’s been so fun to share this hobby with them! There is something calming about being at the barn, cleaning my tack, and just enjoying being in a different environment.”

Name: Shang Ruan
Discipline: Hunter/Jumper
Horse: none (yet!)

Why I Ride: “COVID-19 pandemic has made me realized that I need to step up my survivorship game in the unlikely event of a global zombie apocalypse and unforeseen oil outage. So I decided to learn horseback riding at the age of 27. Having zero saddle hour or barn experience prior, everything about handling a 1000-lbs animal was both mentally and physically challenging.

Riding has given me new perspectives to view myself and life. It has taught me how to manage my emotions and expectations; how to trust, take control over situations while knowing that I cannot and will not be in control 100% of the time; and more importantly, how to fall and rise up stronger. Moreover, the perseverance, patience, and courage I have witnessed and learned from my fellow riders and this community has transformed my life in such a positive way that I am forever grateful.”

Name: Judith Davis
Discipline: Leisure
Horse: a horse and a pony

Why I Ride: “I absolutely love to go trail riding. To me, it’s just so relaxing, the perfect place to escape and be in nature with your best buddy. You get to go places and see things most people never see. Wildlife, native plants, and beautiful ponds.”

Name: Ann Rohrbach
Discipline: Dressage
Horse: Zac, 21yo Bay Draft Cross
“He has a heart of gold and can go from the jumping ring to giving my two-and-a-half-year-old son a pony ride in seconds.”

Why I Ride: “Riding to me means freedom from all else in that time. It’s just me and my horse enjoying the ride and each other’s time and company and nothing else in the world matters at that time.”

Name: Aisra Shervani
Discipline: Dressage
Horse: none (yet!)

Why I Ride: “I use to ride as a kid and then life happened. I recently picked it back up again for many reasons- I enjoyed it as a kid and I also believe it’s a great way to get back into shape. I also wanted to learn dressage and jumping!”

Name: Autumn Cantrell
Discipline: Western Pleasure
Horse: Judah, 22yo Bay Arabian and Guinness, 21yo OTTB
“Judah was rescued from a field where he’d been left as a neglect case. Despite that, Judah beat the odds and served as a therapy horse as part of a year-round program for disadvantaged children. I adopted Judah for my son who has autism and he has been such a blessing to help my son with hippotherapy, balance, posture, meltdowns, and speech. My Thoroughbred, Guinness, had retired just last year from his 2nd career in the hunter-jumper industry. He brings so much love and is such a well-rounded horse that loves to pick up on new things. He even started his 3rd career in barrel racing! He’s got the best ground manners I could ask for, and is a HUGE mamma’s boy!.”

Why I Ride: “I ride because it is my escape, my sanctuary, the best way to connect with God, bring out the best in me, and be able to find myself when I lose sight of it. Riding means a great deal to me because I feel close to my dad who is in heaven. Since I was 5 years old, he took me to ride my first barrel horse. I was instantly hooked. Before I knew it, I was starting to sling dirt around while my dad would sit in the judge’s section grinning ear to ear. It was our thing. Ever since my first time riding, my dad and I always dreamed of having a horse at home someday, and be able to do my first ever rodeo event around the barrels.

Unfortunately, the night that I was actively in labor with my son, my parents were outside of my room receiving the most heartbreaking phone call anyone would could probably get honestly. It was a phone call from my dad’s doctor informing him that my dad was in the final stage of a very rare cancer & needed to come home to start trials in 2 days, so enjoy your grandson in the mean time. It was Christmas Eve that my dad came to visit his newborn grandson, Elijah. As I am holding my newborn in my arms while in my hospital bed waiting to be discharged, my dad stands at the edge of my bed in tears informing of the terrible news. We had made a promise to each other that he would fight this thing in the best way he knew how to, and in return, I am to take the best care of Elijah.

Needless to say, we both have kept our promises to this very day. Even though he has passed, I feel his presence through the eyes of my horses watching over me. I have his favorite picture of us in his favorite frame that is black and says “daddy’s girl” underneath the picture of him kissing me on my cheek while I’m smiling hugging him at the same time. This particular item was always at his bedside, at home, at the hospital, in the hospice hospital until he passed. Now, it’s in my barn sitting on the high shelf for me to see each time I walk in the barn to see my boys. I smile at our picture because I made our dream finally come true by having not one, but two horses at my house

So riding and my boys mean so much more to me than most people could imagine. As I hop on my horse, I feel my dad’s presence and it brings great comfort knowing he is still with me and knowing how proud he is of me knowing I am taking the best care of my son, and making our dream finally come true.”

Name: Sydney North
Discipline: Hunter/Jumper
Horse: Valentine (aka Caroline), 14yo Warmblood mare
“She was my first horse and I’ve had her through all of my competitive junior years. She was incredible in the junior hunters, getting reserve champion at junior hunter finals 2016 and 2017 with me! She also did some of the big eq with me! Now I ride in college, so I lease her put during the year, but I still own her and get to ride her and spend time with her during the summer. I don’t think I’ll ever have a bond with any other horse like I do with her.

One of the most special things about her is that I feel like we trust each other so much. Through the many years I’ve had her and ridden her, we have built a trust like no other and I know I can always count on her to perform incredible when it counts. Not only that, but I can trust her to let me jump on her bareback and ride her around with a halter and lead rope. I think the most special thing about her is that no jump can spook her, as she will literally jump anything, and she is the quietest and chill horse ever. I could take her to a show, give her no prep, and I know she would be perfect!”

Why I Ride: “I ride because at this point in my life it is ultimately a part of who I am as a person. I’m really not sure who I would be if riding wasn’t a part of my life. First off, I absolutely love horses and I always have since I was very little. Not only this, but something about getting on a horse has the ability to relieve all my stress and just make me happy. Another large part of riding to me is the hard work and dedication it teaches you.

Before college when I competed on the circuit, I was a working student and worked every day in order to improve my riding and have the ability to train with the best trainers and be the best rider I could be. Living on my own and needing to get to the barn at incredibly early hours to work and ride for the entire day, and making sure the horses were always cared for and had what they need taught me work ethic like nothing else could.

Now, I ride on the D1 Equestrian Team at Oklahoma State University, which continues to teach me dedication and responsibility. With early morning workouts and having practice almost every day, I have learned the importance of working hard in life toward your goals. This brings me to the last reason I ride; the competitive nature of it and the work it takes to succeed. I am an extremely competitive person and have always loved the competitive side of riding. It gives me something to continue toward, as I am always setting goals for myself in the sport and therefore continuing to work hard at it and improve to the next level.

Overall, I have dedicated a large part of my life and who I am to riding horses and it has shaped me into the hard-working and dedicated person I am today.”