Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Equestrian Mom of almost 43 years, Lynda Sappington, mother of Jennifer Sappington Truett who is one of the few riders to earn all six United States Dressage Federation rider achievement medals: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Freestyle Bars. Jennifer owns Dancing Horse Farm in Ohio and is a frequent clinician all over the country. Having achieved so much success in the equestrian world herself, Equestrian Moms was curious about the mom who started Jen riding and has been her greatest cheerleader throughout her entire career up through today where she is the Director of Marketing for Jen's Dancing Horse Farm. So I asked Lynda how she get started in the horse world, and what it's like being an Equestrian Mom to a top rider? This is what I found out.
Lynda remembers loving horses her whole life. Her first word was "pretty" and her second word was "horse". She attributes being introduced to horses so young to being a 1950's child sitting on the floor watching her family's console television - that style of television would have been eye level to a toddler. Her grandmother received a horse as a wedding gift from her husband and rode side saddle for most of her life. Not until much later did she ride astride, Lynda remembers. Although neither of her parents rode, Lynda wanted a horse of her own. She begged her father for one constantly, prayed for one daily and of course asked Santa for one each year. At the age of 9, her father finally gave in and bought her a horse because, by that time, her family had moved to a 15 acre farm. The horse was a flea-bitten grey she named Candy. Her father was told the horse was about 10 years old, she turned out to be closer to 20, but Lynda loved her. Candy was a Tennessee Walker (Lynda didn't know what that meant at the time), and she rode on the only saddle she had which was a man-sized western cavalry saddle. Lynda recalls her frustration trying to get Candy to canter and her seemingly refusing. Instead, Candy would only walk faster and faster (doing the running walk Walkers are famous for)! One of her favorite memories with Candy was selling girl scout cookies on horse back. She would put boxes of cookies into her saddle bags and ride from house to house, dismounting and dropping the reins so Candy could graze while she went up to the door with her saddlebags of cookies. At 13, Lynda began to take lessons, after having read every library book at school to learn about horses.
When Lynda was home for the summer from college, her beloved Candy died (in her 30s). During Christmas break that year, she bought a 16 hand Quarter horse. The horse had not been ridden in 6 years, but he was gentle and sweet. Lynda tried him out bareback, in a simple ring snaffle and decided to buy him. Lynda taught her fiancé, John, riding basics, all she had time to do before returning to college 500 miles away. He always was interested in horses but had never had the chance to ride, so he was thrilled with Lynda's new horse. Lynda was delighted to share their love for horses until John told her that he was training her new horse how to jump. Lynda recalls many very tense phone calls over this (as you can imagine). Lynda had planned to train the horse herself, and didn’t want her shiny new fiancé to get hurt! But it all worked out and they have been happily married for 46 years.
Lynda became an Equestrian Mom when she took Jen riding on the front of her saddle when Jen was only 6 months old. When Jen was 5, they moved to a small farm and bought several Quarter Horses, including one for Jen. Lynda was Jen's first trainer, teaching her western and hunt seat riding. Lynda was trained as a forward seat rider in Virginia, and learned that where they now lived (Ohio), hunt seat was the English seat used for Quarter Horses in shows. Since Lynda didn’t know anything about showing western or hunt seat, she became an avid reader of Practical Horseman and Performance Horseman magazines.
Lynda knew that riding can be a solitary sport like golf if a person rides alone on their own farm, so she encouraged Jen to join 4H and later PC to not only learn how to ride but also to experience riding in company and being part of a sports team. As an Equestrian Mom, Lynda always bought Jen "safe not fancy horses" to ride, and Jen paid for everything else through working at her family’s barn, saving her allowance or bartering with her dad. All through Jen’s riding and showing journey, including everything Jen does now, her parents are her cheering section and her support. Lynda is very proud of Jen and says that the best thing about being an Equestrian Mom is "watching your child grow into a responsible, hardworking, mature adult who can set and attain goals". Well said, Lynda, Equestrian Moms salute you!!!!
- Susan B., Equestrian Mom