You may know her as @theeceequestrian, The East Coast Equestrian, but today we have an interview with Taylor Bodson, amateur owner and rider extraordinaire! She competes her horses Cam (Campari) and Tater (Casario) in the amateur owner hunters. I first met Taylor via the wide wonderful world of Instagram. She had just posted about sports bras for riders and I had reached out, and we started chatting. It went something like: “I have big boobs- HELP!” and she said “I got you covered try this one!” We became friends and I have learned so much from her about the world of horse showing. Taylor worked her butt off last year, competing at WEF (Winter Equestrian Festival, held in West Palm Beach, FL) and the Devon horse show (held in Pennsylvania). Two very scary and intimidating venues that she handled like a pro! Taylor is a real estate agent and works her hiney off at her day job to give the best possible life for her horses.
Taylor, I am so excited to have you on the blog! You were one of my first inspirations when I wanted to start writing Connie in Colorado, and I greatly admire your approach to riding and horsemanship. Most people know what a wonderful rider and person you are, but I would love to dive a little deeper into your journey thus far.
Tell me what first got you into horses as a wee lassie. I know your mom rides too, did she cultivate that spark?
From as early as I can remember, I’ve been in love with animals – horses and dogs in particular. My gramma grew up with horses, my mom grew up with horses… it’s safe to say I 100% believe in the horsey gene! I begged my parents for lessons until they finally gave in and let me attend pony camp – and it was game over from there! Most recently it’s been pretty amazing being a re-rider with my mom – sharing it with her is truly special.
What is one of your favorite memories from your adventures as a young rider?
This is a tough one! When I was a teenager I went to camp in Wyoming. We learned how to ride western, barrel race, use a lasso and cut/herd cattle. It was an eye opening and amazing experience – I loved seeing a totally different side of the equestrian world and have a lot of respect for working ranchers and their horses. The beautiful scenery didn’t hurt, either. I think if any horseman has the opportunity to experience a different side of the equestrian world they should take it. Knowledge is power!
You have spoken at length to the reason you took a ten year break from horses. Was it difficult coming back into it? What was your biggest challenge?
It was so intimidating! Everything was different. From the apparel to the rules. The only thing that hadn’t changed was the way being around these amazing creatures made me feel. I didn’t really know where to start, so with encouragement from my husband and mom went back to my childhood barn in search of lessons and it slowly snowballed from there. I think the hardest part about coming back to a sport I used to be pretty competitive at was my brain knowing what to do but my body not responding appropriately. I needed to be kinder to myself and give myself the time to remember how to “horse” on both a mental AND physical level. It eventually all came back in due time, I just needed to learn there wasn’t a need to rush and to enjoy the ride.
We all remember Donny, the big gray chunk who is happily living out his dreams in California now. What drew you to him initially?
I mean… his face! But in all actuality I loved his jump. I wanted a hunter but couldn’t afford a fancy made up mover AND jumper so since there are four over fences and only one under saddle class I figured I could sacrifice the movement for a killer jump – which he had! He was such a fun horse and a great re-entry partner for me. He taught me a lot and for that I will be forever grateful – he will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m so happy he’s living the good life out in CA with his new mom. She spoils him like none other and he gets consistent nice weather, trail rides and that chill Cali lifestyle.
Tell me what meeting Cam and Tater was like for the first time. What kind of energy did you feel from them? How did you know they would come home with you?
Cam was the opposite of Donny. Sitting on Donny felt thrilling like riding pure electricity and sitting on Cam felt like being lovingly rocked to sleep. Tater is somewhere in-between – he is so athletic but very reserved. He has a lot of buttons and is a crazy fun partner to have. Cam is like my safety blanket – he has three gears, is pretty straightforward and only occasionally a drama queen. They are both so sweet, but Tater is the most gentle by far. I love Cam’s goofy nature and reliability and Tater’s athleticism and unrelenting trust in me. He always does what he’s asked and almost to his detriment – he can become nervous if he doesn’t think he’s doing something correctly. I knew Cam would be perfect for my mom and I – and Tater would teach me and help me take my riding to the next level. Little did we know they would fall in love, so it really is a match made in horsey heaven!
Describe your favorite moment thus far with Cam and Tater.
Oh boy – this is hard! Every ride has a special moment within it for me. Cam: WEF and Tot: Devon. I rode in two of the biggest rings of my life and had great trips. I was so proud of not only them but also how we performed as a team.
What has been the biggest challenge for you with Tater? Tell me how you worked through it.
When Tot got to the barn he developed pretty bad separation anxiety. He would stop and spin around if you tried to get him to walk away from the barn without a buddy, or occasionally throw a screaming tantrum in the ring if he was alone. We worked through it by being very patient and also consistently rewarding good behavior. He also went through a “desensitizing” program with lots of scary shavings bags, jump fillers and polo wrap flags – keeping his mind busy and showing him his stall wasn’t his cozy/safe space and the outside world wasn’t so bad when solo really helped him and he’s a lot better now! Patience, patience & more patience is key.
What do you look for in a trainer?
Someone who gives me 100% when it’s lesson time and is able to clearly and succinctly communicate constructive feedback to me. Less is more for me – I don’t do well with long-winded lectures. Also the horses and their well being must always be their first priority. Being a good teacher doesn’t necessarily mean you have a laundry list of accolades and honorable mentions – look at their clients, their horses and their barn. Is it orderly? Do the staff, animals and clients look happy? That’s what matters most to me. A solid, positive & healthy program always wins in my book.
What do you think is a huge problem in the industry? What kind of solutions do you think need to be in place to help?
I could go off on a few tangents here. I think horse welfare in the show world is a big one. I was really happy to see quite a few rule change proposals come out of the recent USHJA meeting that advocated for horse welfare – including lowering the height of the age classes 3’ and adjusting point calculations for HOTY awards to help prevent point-chasing/showing a horse to death. I also am an advocate for the Depo ban. It is such a power and money-driven industry that there always will be issues – but it makes me happy to see people are taking steps in the right direction to help advocate for these amazing animals. Anyone can submit a rule-change proposal to USEF – so I think if members continue to be outspoken and fight for what’s right it will help continue to shape our sport into a happier and safer place.
I also am a firm believer in safe-sport and once it is better understood by members I believe it’s implementation won’t “rock the boat” as hard as it has been lately. Minors and victims need to be protected. Plain and simple.
If you could wish a word of wisdom to every equestrian, what would it be?
Remember to enjoy the ride and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Your journey is your own and that within itself is beautiful and so special. Cherish it.Taylor
I am SO ridiculously excited for you this year, as are going to become a mother! How are you feeling?
Thank you! I am out of my mind excited. We are so ready for her to be here! Hard to believe we only have 13 weeks left – and she could come sooner! The first trimester was exhausting and no fun. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Now I’m feeling much more like myself – I have energy, am able to workout and cook without turning green, which is great. I still go and spend time at the barn and love on the boys and am going to visit Tot in FL next week – so I’m able to safely get my horsey fix!
Taylor, thank you so much for your insights and I cannot wait to see what you do in the future!
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