Secrets from the Vault

Photo by Emily Kishbaugh Photography. Note: USDF strongly recommends all riders wear protective headgear when mounted.

By Sarah Feik

When I was about 7 years old, I would always look across the road and see two horses grazing in a pasture. My mom would take me over there to feed them carrots and apples. I asked to ride them, and the owner said his horse wasn’t a horse I’d want to ride. The other horse was there from another barn, and he said that I could possibly ride at that barn. Little did I know how much my life would be impacted after making the call to Cody Moore. I started my journey riding at 6 years old, just taking lessons with my brother. He didn’t end up sticking with it, but it seemed to be the highlight of my week knowing I was going to ride a horse every Friday.

Photo by Emily Kishbaugh Photography.
Note: USDF strongly recommends all riders wear protective headgear when mounted.

My vaulting career started about five lessons into horseback riding as the coach Mackenzie Waro, Cody’s sister, had just returned home. She asked me if I’d like to try vaulting, and I asked if I could stand on a horse. When she said yes, I thought that my life long dream of standing on a horse would come true. The first horse I vaulted on was a horse named Dolly, a 15 hand Quarter Horse who had no idea what vaulting was. Luckily, Dolly took it like a champ and accepted the fact that I was going to be doing gymnastics on her back. We thought that if Dolly could figure out what to do in less than five minutes, then any horse could. We tried many different horses that were at the barn, but none of them were like Dolly, who had the red mare attitude until a vaulter was walking up the lunge line to get on.

As the team grew, we needed a larger horse for the taller and higher level vaulters. Alice Root kindly sent Maggie our way. Maggie was a Clydesdale cross who had recently recovered from an injury that involved some barbed wire and some torn tendons, but she never let it bother her. Maggie has since carried us through many competitions and brought home many blue ribbons. Dolly is still in the vaulting program, but only for the younger kids at the walk and trot levels. She, as well, brings home many blue ribbons.

I started showing in 2016 and have worked my way up to riding First Level this past year. Getting to where I am today took a lot of time and dedication, but I found it to be a fun and exciting process with all the experiences that I gained. I started leasing Maggie from the vaulting program.  Maggie was the perfect horse to learn on since she had the vaulting horse mentality and put her rider first. She even was awarded the school horse award at the 2018 Lendon’s Youth Dressage Festival.

Dressage and vaulting both assist in helping me be a better rider in many ways. In dressage I have learned how to supple the horse and connect with them. By doing this, it allows me to be more harmonious with the horse when I vault since you don’t have much contact with them as you are constantly moving. In vaulting, I learned how my body can change the horse’s thought process. When I ride dressage, it makes it easier for me to understand what movements I need to send the horse forward or perhaps calm it down with my body language. Many vaulting horses are cross-trained in dressage. These two very different equestrian sports also help the horse when cross training. While vaulting teaches the horse balance, dressage teaches them harmony and in the end, you have a happy horse that is always willing to put its best foot forward.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were planning on medal testing, where I would try for my bronze medal, but we may have to postpone to 2021. This could very well be Maggie’s last year of vaulting due to her leg injury in her early years, but nonetheless it will be her most eventful. She and Dolly will be carrying the team to Nationals in Massachusetts, followed by many demos and smaller competitions.

By the end of high school, I hope to have my silver medal and I hope I can achieve this by performing on Maggie, since she has truly brought me to where I am today. As for my showing season, it has been put on hold and I cannot wait to get back to it. I hope that the whole season won’t be cancelled so I can continue to work towards my goals.

This past year I showed two horses since Maggie is not ready to show at First Level yet. I now ride a horse named Woodtimes, also known as Root Beer at the barn after being named by Cody’s son. Root Beer has taught me so much in this past year, that I feel like I’ve been riding him for a long time. I connect very well with him, and we’ve built a strong bond. Our progress will continue as I plan to ride him for my next two years of high school and see how far we can go. I hope to start showing Second Level before I graduate and hope to continue riding in college.

I am grateful for both of these horses and everything they continue to teach me.

Leave a Reply