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The Mistake Pony


Musings, insight, and pro tips

The Mistake Pony

Shawdee Naimy

Growing up (and still today!) I never had the finances to cover the amount of riding I wanted to do. I never had the luxury of showing up to a barn, tacking up my horse (don’t even talk about getting my horse tacked FOR me!), lessoning, then leaving. So I had to get creative. 

Starting when I was 12, I earned my lessons or horse leases working at the barn from 9 AM until the work for that day was done. I mucked stalls, fed the horses, hauled hay, groomed, cleaned tack,... you name it, I did it. The days were long, but all that hard work has paid off.

I now have a paid, professional position doing what I love. I made it here by genuinely wanting it, asking for help from the right people, working for the right people, never complaining (you betcha I had thoughts, though!), and connecting with as many riders and trainers as I could.



making the most of it.

Sophia sent me an article from Practical Horseman called “How to Help a Young Rider Succeed” by Charlie Moorcroft, and it really hit home with me for two reasons.

  1. Moorcroft gives some wonderful advice I wish someone had told me when I was a working student.
  2. He helped me personally when I was 13 years old with an incredible opportunity to free lease a very special pony, Damion.


Me and Damion.

Damion was a mistake pony.

A Welsh stallion escaped and bred with a Thoroughbred boarder, and out popped Baby D (my nickname for him). He came to me because he was a proven dork, but to me he was the best pony I ever had the pleasure of riding.

Thanks to Moorcroft, I had this pony for a year and a half. I learned what a lead change felt like and how to confidently jump around a little course (the horse I leased before this one was an ex-cutter who would cut the jumps!).

I even got my first 2nd place ribbon at a real show aboard Damion (even though I was too big for him..meh). I am forever thankful for the opportunity.

To this day, I’ve never felt a heartbreak worse than the day Baby D left my life, but that's a story for another post.



Hard work beats talent...

In the first paragraph of the Practical Horseman article, Moorcroft says, “Many talented young riders with limited financial resources have made it to the top of the sport, thanks to their great work ethic, positive attitude and sheer determination.” He goes on to say:

Most importantly, encourage your daughter to express sincere gratitude for any help she receives.

If she can make herself invaluable to a trainer and make that trainer feel appreciated, great new opportunities are sure to follow.
— Moorcroft

I couldn't agree more. Anyone working their way through the industry must have great work ethic, a positive attitude, sheer determination, and gratitude. Without those four key ingredients, you will get nowhere. 

I think a lot of people lose hope in this industry because they don’t have the resources. It’s really easy to do, I understand because I have been there. After Damion left, I took a two year hiatus from riding for this very reason.

But let me tell you - don't lose hope, because if you want it badly enough, you can make it happen.

... when talent doesn't work hard

After a decade of being a working student, I would never take back the hours I’ve put in this industry. Not only do you learn more about horses and your trainer in a more intimate environment, but you learn more about yourself. You learn just how tough you are. Just how dedicated. And just how much grit it takes to make it in the horse world. 

Of course, as with any job you have your days. But this is where you learn to just keep going. With the right networking and right attitude, you can do anything. You learn to smile, keep working hard, and things will fall into your hands that you never dreamt possible (like my opportunity with Moorcroft). 

This is why I am so passionate about The Rider’s Closet. This isn’t just an equestrian consignment business for me - this is a business that helps you hard-working riders, students, assistants, grooms, and trainers look your best, without the expensive price tag, while you make your way to the top of this sport.  

I'd love to hear about your experiences as a working student. Message me @theriderscloset or on Facebook or just shoot us an email.



To read more of Charlie Moorcroft’s article click here.

Now get back to work! ;)