We are celebrating Plus Size Riders as our July Featured Riders of the Month on YourDressage! Here, a Region 1 rider from western New York shares the story of her first young horse, Mozzie, who she found after posting an In Search Of ad on Facebook on a whim!
By Kassie Reed
When I was in elementary school, I was briefly in Brownies, and one activity we did was a hay wagon ride at a local trail riding barn. My mom started taking me there for trail rides on a regular basis. We moved when I was in third grade, and we happened to move a mile down the road from a hunter/jumper barn. I started taking lessons there.
Three years later in 2006, I got my first horse, a 14hh black pony named Zack. Zack was a journey in and of himself, being a chronic bolter, and we were told he was abused in a past life. He now lives happily retired as a pasture puff in my mom’s backyard – 200 acres with seven other horse buddies, and four longhorn friends. We came to realize he wasn’t suitable as a show horse for a teenager, and a few months later I found my next partner, a chestnut Off-Track Thoroughbred (OTTB) named Sampson. Sampson would travel with me when we moved 1000 miles up the east coast when I went to college, to New England when I was working student, and finally to New York for graduate school.
I made the transition to dressage with him when I found my first dressage trainer Gwen Morris, who taught me the foundations and took us from hunters to schooling Second Level movements. We parted ways when I moved after college, and I decided to become a working student and ended up spending 13 life changing months with Jerilyn Nieder. Under Jeri’s tutelage, I learned how a barn should be managed, as well as expanded my dressage knowledge. She gave me the opportunity to have my first ride on an FEI schoolmaster, and many lessons on her schoolmasters after that. By the time I left her barn, Sampson and I were schooling Second and the beginnings of Third Level. I left to attend chiropractic school and pursue a career, thinking I would work on horses, since many states allow DCs to work on animals. Little did I know that by the time I graduated, I would end up falling in love with a state that only allows DVMs to work on animals (but I love my human patients too).
In early 2018, I moved to New York for school, and that fall Sampson followed me to the Finger Lakes. In late 2019, I unexpectedly lost him; the horse that was my partner for almost 13 years and who had traveled so far with me. I decided not to get another horse until after I graduated. But I was still determined to continue riding, and when one door closes, another opens. For me, it was many doors.
Throughout 2020, I was able to lease a lovely warmblood that I, with the help of my trainer Dan Schubmehl, showed locally up to Second Level. Dan allowed me the opportunity to start taking lessons on his FEI horse, Sport, who is one of the most rewarding horses I have ever ridden. After I graduated in 2021, I decided I was ready for my own horse again. I began the exhausting task of shopping for, well… literally anything in a post-pandemic climate, and horse shopping was no exception.
After a few months of searching, and one failed trip to try a horse where Dan and I drove 10 hours in one day, I was driving back home to NY after taking a vacation with my dad in Florida. With my limited budget, I knew I would only be able to get something young and inexperienced, or a little older that needed retraining to be a dressage horse. I was okay with that. When I stopped for gas on the highway on my way back, I made an ISO post on Facebook on a whim. A short while later, I stopped again for coffee, and someone named Paige Haas had messaged me about a Thoroughbred Andalusian cross she had bred out of her mare. He was a little too young and a little too green for what I was looking for but he was in my budget, and only an hour and a half away from my house in NY. I had extremely limited experience with young horses, but I thought “what the heck” and went to look at him by myself a couple days later.
All of the horses my mom and I have are puppy dog in-your-pocket types, and Paige’s was no different. He had personality for days! She lunged him for a few minutes then got on him as I took a video. This was his second ride off the lunge line. I remember he accidentally hit the wall of the indoor with his foot and startled himself, which I found endearing, but he kept his composure. I dragged my trainer back there the following weekend, and his ride on him was this horse’s third ride off the lunge. In classic “me” fashion, I had forgotten to ask what this horse’s name was when I was there the first time. We learned his name is Mozzie.
I proceeded with a PPE and sent the radiographs to the sports medicine vet my trainers and farrier work closely with. One of my life’s shining achievements is when my farrier, Paul Batz, said he was proud of me for having been so thorough with getting so many rads done during the PPE. Dan (who had already started calling him Mozzarella Stick) had taken a couple horses to a local barn in preparation for a schooling show being hosted there, and I tagged along. At some point Dan got a phone call, handed me his horse, and walked off to answer it. He came back a few minutes later as I was taking a thousand photos of how pretty Sport is, and he said, “Well, that was Dr. Cable. You’re getting a horse.”
Mozzie came home on May 18th, a week before his fourth birthday. I didn’t really know what to do with a young green horse, and it took him a couple weeks to really settle in as we got to know each other. I put him in full training with western trainer Ryan Chiappone for a month. After watching him work with Mozzie for a couple weeks I decided this young horse thing wasn’t so intimidating after all, and that I could figure it out. My first ride on Mozzie was during this time, in a western saddle. Ryan got his third and final gait (the canter) going, and for the next 30 days I had him in partial training, where I rode by myself and took a lesson with Dan once a week. Since then, I have only been taking lessons with Dan, and with Holly at clinics.
I had ridden a plethora of horses that taught me the ropes of dressage and how to truly be a rider, and now it was my turn to teach all of that to my bright young horse.
Two years later, Mozzie is now 6, and he’s learned to be light and sensitive to the aids. He’s starting to understand the more advanced lateral work. Being part Andalusian, collection comes naturally to him and he is building strength, and he’s starting to find and enjoy his higher gears that will develop into medium gaits.
Last year Mozzie got his feet wet taking a couple trips off-property to Holly’s barn for clinics, and while he was nervous and uncertain, both times he remained calm and focused when it was time to work. This summer, we are focusing on taking trips off the property for clinics and jumping lessons at Holly’s so that he can learn to trailer and become comfortable away from home.
I’m also still taking jumping lessons on Leo, the little chestnut Thoroughbred of Holly’s. With the two of them, I have obliterated all of my previous jumping personal bests, including jumping as high as four feet. Leo has such technique and skill that it takes my breath away every time.
Jumping is in Mozzie’s lines as his sire (who I discovered lives very close to me and whom I would love to meet one day) is a field hunter. So one of my goals is to develop his jumping skills to hopefully be as talented as Leo in a few years. I have plans to compete with him in dressage, when he is mentally ready and to bring him up the levels. Right now, I am just enjoying the process with him as he develops.
Teamwork makes the dream work, and 20 years after taking my first riding lesson, I would not be the rider I am today without the knowledge and support of my trainers past and current, Dan, Ryan, and Holly, and farrier Paul, whom I am privileged to also call friends, as well as my barn family and of course my wonderful sweet Mozz.
Our local English and western dressage and eventing communities in western New York consists of riders of all shapes and sizes at all levels. Everyone is so supportive of one another, regardless of their physical appearance. To the riders out there who struggle with not looking like the “conventional” tall, slim, and leggy dressage rider: Your horse doesn’t care about that stuff. Your horse only cares about kisses and treats and feeding time. There’s nothing wrong with looking like a supermodel, but it’s not a requirement in order to do tempis or piaffe and passage. If you’re stuck in your own brain about what you look like and it’s preventing you from progressing your riding, or if you’re even just generally feeling hesitant about taking your riding one step further, then to quote my favorite social media guru Dr. Shante Cofield: just DO THE THING and be MOAR authentically YOU (according to Shante, that is a better, bigger, badder way to spell more).
I have been riding since 2003, starting off as a hunter, switching to dressage in 2007, and later picking up jumping too. I post about my adventures with Mozzie and Leo the Red Kangaroo, and the occasional cat, on my Instagram!