Followed My Passion, Found My Career

Deciding to start showing horses again at 19 changed a lot more than just how I spend my weekends.

When I say I was born into the horse industry, I mean it literally. My grandfather worked as a horse trainer in Minnesota, working with families like reining legends, the  McCutcheons and McQuays on the Quarter Horse circuit. My mom was right there with him and was also able to have a very successful horse show career as a youth.

Fast forward 30 years, and my grandpa was still as enthusiastic about the sport as ever. My mom wasn’t showing anymore, but he wanted his granddaughters in the saddle as soon as possible. Without permission from my parents, sneaky Grandpa Lee showed up with a pony, hoping it would get them just as excited about horses as he was. 

My Grandpa, sister, and I with one of our first ponies.

His plan worked. I wasn’t born at the time, but my two older sisters immediately caught the bug. As their passion grew, they also outgrew their first pony, so naturally, my grandpa had to fix that. One day, he took us out to the local boarding facility down the road from our house with a big surprise, two Paint Horses, Sunny and Stormy. I’m not sure that my dad was as excited as we were, but he played along. He even tried to ride one of our new mounts—that’s the first and last time I’ve seen him on a horse.

A Barn Full of Paints

Fast forward a few years later, and my parents bought their own horse farm, which was filled with pretty Paint Horses. My two older sisters competed in the APHA all-around on a national and world championship level and were ranked as some of the top youth riders in the nation. With the help of Grandpa Lee and our new horse trainers Ed and Laren Dubin, my family purchased their first big-time competitive show horse, Reflected Illusion, aka ‘Toni.’

Toni and I when she was 26. Krista Adden Photography

She carried both of my older sisters to many national and world championship titles. My middle sister, Avery, was the most dedicated to horse showing and had an impressive youth career. While attending college, Avery began working for our longtime trainers at Dubin Farms. While all of this was going on, I wasn’t as involved with horses as my sisters. I went to the barn and shows, but I didn’t really know that I, too, had the “bug” until Avery went out on her own by opening Sinclair Performance Horses at our family farm. I volunteered to help Avery with her website and social media because I was a public relations major, and it meant I could use school assignments as an excuse to be at the barn. I decided to start riding our old mare Toni who was living out her broodmare retirement at the farm. Little did Toni know, there was one more Sinclair sister that she would carry around the show pen.

Toni was the best first show horse a girl could ask for. She taught me everything from horsemanship to lead changes, and everything in between. I showed her for a little less than a year when I realized I wanted to step up from the state level of the APHA competition. Luckily, Ed and Laren Dubin were (and still are) Avery and I’s number-one fans, along with our parents. Laren had one of her client’s gelding at her farm who wasn’t being used since his owner went to college. That’s when the idea came for me to show Fifty, a little younger and more challenging version of Toni. Unlike most show horses who have a different registered name than their barn name, Fifty was just Fifty. His sire is the well-known thoroughbred racehorse, Forty Niner, so his breeders decided to keep the number name going. An interesting fact about Fifty is that he and recent Triple Crown winner, Justify, share the same grandsire, Mr. Prospect. I think we all knew Fifty was a bit too much horse for me at the time, but I was extremely persistent and wasn’t going to stop until I was trotting the 17 hand gelding into the pen. 

Fifty and I in 2018. Jeff Kirkbride Photography

I was determined to learn everything I missed out on as a kid and get my show career rolling. I spent most of my college career at the barn, riding anything and everything I could and going to a horse show every weekend. I joined my college’s Intercollegiate Horse Show Association equestrian team and eventually became the captain of our Western team. I learned a lot about the horse industry very quickly; I studied every magazine, watched videos, and listened to my sister give lessons so I could absorb as much information as possible. At the time, I didn’t really realize that’s what I was doing. I just liked spending time at the barn with my sister.

Slowly but surely, I convinced Avery to take me to bigger shows with Fifty. In 2018 we were ranked the number one APHA novice amateur in Zone 9 and headed to the PtHA World Championships in Tulsa, OK. I’d been to plenty of world shows before, but this was the first time I was going to be the one competing. Fifty took care of me during my first world show, and we managed to win three world championships. By this time, he was getting older, so we decided to let him end his career on top and live the rest of his life at our farm, giving lessons and enjoying life. 

Fifty, Avery, and I at the 2018 Pinto World Championship. Jeff Kirkbride Photography

Stepping It Up 

Obviously, this meant I needed a new show partner ASAP, but because I was still in college, I wasn’t in the position to purchase a horse. Luckily, Blake Carney of Carney Performance Horses had Heza Pepperjack available for lease and his owner Sara Tores decided to let ‘Pepper’ move to Florida. I’m not sure how many weeks we had been home from the world show, but thankfully my sister was willing to get back in the truck with me and drive to Georgia to pick up Pepper. A few weeks later, we started showing, and I realized we would accomplish great things. The next year was filled with even more horse shows, state, national, and world titles, but most importantly, amazing memories and life lessons. It was my last year of college, and I wanted to as much as I could since I knew I would have to take a break until I became a “real adult.” My goal was to make the APHA novice amateur top 20 list, and we ended up ranked 6th in the nation along with a lot of other great accomplishments at the APHA and PtHA world shows. I learned so much from Avery, Blake, and Pepper that year, and it made me realize that even if I’m not able to show, I still want to be involved in the horse industry as much as possible.

Pepper and I at the 2019 APHA World Show.

How Horses Became My Career

After college, I began earning my master’s in digital marketing, and I applied for an internship with APHA. I thought it was a long shot, but I was one of three people selected for the internship. So, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I packed up my truck and moved to Fort Worth, Texas. My time at APHA taught me that a career in the horse industry doesn’t have to mean training horses. It opened my eyes to a whole different side of the industry, and it helped me realize what career I wanted to pursue.

My first day at APHA in front of the headquarters in Fort Worth.

 After my internship at APHA ended, I was offered a second internship at Phelps Media Group in Wellington, Florida. They primarily work with hunters, jumpers, and dressage horses, which were all foreign to me. Still, it was an opportunity to learn more about the equine media industry, and it meant moving back to Florida and being closer to my family—and barn. While I am not showing as consistently this year, I’ve been able to travel across the country with my sister, hug the novice youth rider right after she won her first belt buckle with Pepper, watch Fifty teach little girls their diagonal or how to swap leads, and even start working with and showing one of Toni’s last foals. 

I don’t know how to describe it other than this career path really just fell into my lap. It was exactly what I was looking for, and I didn’t even know it. Deciding to get back into horse showing when I was 19 changed my life more than I ever thought possible. If you had told me five years ago that I would be the assistant editor of Horse&Rider, I definitely would not have believed you.

It just goes to show that if you think you might have a passion for something, follow it. You never know what it might turn into. Oh, and you know that saying, “If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life?” It’s true. 

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