Stacy Westfall became the first woman to compete in—and win—the prestigious “Road to the Horse” colt-starting competition in 2006, the same year that she electrified the reining world with a bridleless and bareback championship Freestyle on her black mare “Roxy” (Whizards Baby Doll) at the Tulsa Reining Classic and the All American Quarter Horse Congress. While Stacy continues to compete, she loves to teach and share her knowledge, and tours the country regularly giving clinics and appearing at expos.
In Denny Emerson’s honest, on-target, guaranteed-to-rev-your-engines book HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD, Stacy shared a little about how she came to horses and why she thinks she “got good.” Here’s her advice as to how all of us can one day have the ride of our life (tack optional).
Stacy’s life circumstances:
“I grew up in South China, Maine. My mother had ridden as a girl and as soon as our family could afford an equine (when I was about six), a pony named Misty joined the household. This was the same pony on which my mother had learned to ride sixteen years earlier!”
She got hooked on horses when:
“From the very beginning, I was one of those kids who reads the Walter Farley Black Stallion books over and over. I would have given anything to be shipwrecked on a desert island with a horse.”
Stacy thinks she got good because:
1 “My parents got me a horse when I was about thirteen and from that time on I lived on my horse. I rode her seven miles to work. I took her to local open shows on the weekends and entered every class. That mare and I developed a deep connection.”
2 “My mom was my first teacher, but she didn’t just tell me what to do. She wanted me to figure it out. If my pony did something wrong, like stopping at one of the tiny jumps we had set up, Mom would say, ‘Why do you think Misty did that?’ Her approach got me thinking like a horse, which has really influenced my life. When you can figure out what the horse is thinking and how to communicate with the horse and mold that, you can do almost anything.”
3 “I attended the University of Findlay in Ohio. In its equestrian studies program, I learned traditional training techniques and fundamentals with top instructors, and got into reining with champion trainers. My famous bareback ride is an extension of taking the technical stuff I learned and wrapping it around what my childhood horses taught me about the relationship horses can have with people.”
Stacy’s advice to the rest of us:
“It all comes back to attitude and passion. If you go into this because you dream about getting famous on a horse or having a great marketing plan, you’ll never have that connection with the horse. This is something that, if it’s in you, you would do it even if you didn’t get paid—you do it because it’s you. When it’s really cold, or when it’s really hot, or when it’s really hard, do you still want to do it? A favorite quote of mine is: ‘Verily, the lust for comfort murders the passion in the soul, then walks grinning in the funeral.’ (From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.) If your passion gives way to the appeal of comfort, you will not succeed at a high level because at some point you’ll need to beat someone with passion—and people with passion who’re willing to work for it like that will be unstoppable.”
Find out how 22 more of the best riders in the world “got good” and get their tips for “making it” in the horse industry in HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD by Denny Emerson, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.