January 18, 2008 -- I'm sure many of you saw a contest posted on EquiSearch.com last spring, with the prize being a week with one of the Madden barns and a new Bates saddle. Late in the summer, I was thrilled and not a little bit shocked to find out that I had won!
I have always been more of a jumper rider than anything else, so I'm very excited to be spending a week with John and Beezie Madden's team. A surprise bonus of winning was a trip to the Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament last November. I got to meet John, and he is just so nice--that calmed any nerves I had about going off with a new barn for a week. I also got my new saddle there, which I really needed and absolutely love.
I'm headed off to Wellington, Fla., tomorrow and will be there for the week. This is the same week as the George Morris Horsemanship Training Session, so that is a definite added bonus. I can't tell you the last time I spent a full week with horses, much less in a show barn, so it is pretty much the best trip I could think of! I've always loved watching professionals ride and seeing how they're able to work with so many different horses. I can't even think of how much I'll learn just being in this atmosphere for a week. For those who are interested in what's going on this week, I'll be posting daily updates and some pictures (depending on my photography skills).
A brief horse history on me: I've ridden since I was in the 4th grade and got a good report card. I got 10 lessons and a lead rope as a reward. I think my parents thought that would be that, but clearly they were mistaken. I am the only "horse person" in my family, so I'll forgive them. When I was 13, I got my first horse. At the time, I wanted to event, and she definitely did not. This ended up causing me to transition to the hunter-jumper ring. Although she never ended up being the perfect match for me, I credit her with introducing me to jumpers.
My second horse was pretty much the love of my life. In just over a year, Oliver took me from the 3' jumpers to the amateur owner division. Even though he didn't have much show experience when I got him, he was an absolute saint. He taught me how much fun it is to jump the big jumps, and that's basically all I've wanted to do ever since. Although I took a year off between high school and college to sneak in some more riding time, I had to part ways with him when I did go to college to help pay for school.
When I started college, my parents stopped funding my riding--they paid for my education, so I more than understand! I rode at a great barn during college and got to ride lots of different horses. Once I came to Boston, I found my current barn by riding there as a sales rider. I was working my "real job" 45-50 hours a week and then commuting 35 miles to my barn 6-7 days a week. I was riding some great horses, but eventually the 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. schedule started to wear on me. I'm still trying to figure out how to make enough time for horses and a career.
That said, I can't wait to spend next week thinking about horses and nothing else! I'm looking forward to sharing my experience with everyone, and I'm sure I'll have some great stories starting this weekend.
Katie Faraone, 27, spent a week with John and Beezie Madden as a grand-prize winner of the 2007 Week with the Maddens Contest, sponsored by Bates Saddles, Practical Horseman and the Syracuse Invitational Tournament. Katie started riding when she was 11 and showing jumpers at 15. She works in sales for a staffing company in Boston and rides several times a week.