The Newspaper Pony

I want to introduce you to the little girl in this photo.
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Chelsea Shaffer and her first pony Boogie.

She’s 11, and after years of scraping together every last penny to lease a pony for the summers, her parents finally bought her a 2-year-old Paso Fino/Welsh cross out of the classified section of the Valley News Dispatch, her hometown newspaper in the Kiski River Valley of Western Pennsylvania.

She named that pony Boogie, and after getting bucked off and scraped off on trees for six months, with her horse trainer-friend’s help, she’s finally got Boogie ‘ready’ to go try the walk-trot classes at a local show. Her parents hooked up their old Suburban to their two-horse stock trailer (that they also found in the classifieds for $1,500), and despite the downpour, hauled her to her very first show on her very first pony.

She and Boogie might have won one fourth-place ribbon that day in the dozen-or-so classes she entered. That pony probably bucked, probably took his head from her a few times and might have even wiped her out on a gate post or two.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, that girl was me, and that pony was my life for so much of my childhood. I don’t remember a ton of what happened in the arena that day at that first show we went to, but I do remember how I felt, and how my parents still feel, about that experience. Shoot, I think this picture is still the background on my dad’s computer. That day set in motion a dream, and now a career.

I didn’t keep Boogie forever. Big goals and money got in the way, and Boogie found another kid to love him. He taught me enough to let me move on to bigger, better things.

But those days in the rain, with that pony that might just buck me off and sure didn’t have the fanciest of anything, were so pure. Those were the days of parents sacrificing their small teachers’ salaries to let their little girl live her pony-club dreams, without really knowing what they were in for down the road. And deep down, I’m still that little girl in her rain coat, ball cap pulled down, proud grin on her face—no matter what kind of horse is standing next to me.

About 20 years, a college degree, a cross-country move to Colorado, a family with a daughter of my own and a decade in equine media later, I’m here at Horse&Rider to help share your horse dreams with you. I started my magazine career with this title as an assistant editor in 2010, and after years writing about team roping for our sister publication, The Team Roping Journal, I’m back where it all began.

Chelsea Shaffer riding a barrel pattern.

Whether you’re enjoying your first horse out of the classified section of the newspaper (or, nowadays, Equine.com) or hauling to qualify for the AQHA World Show, we’re here to be that trainer, coach, and friend to make your horse life just a little better. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us.

About Chelsea Shaffer

Tory, Chelsea and Elise Shaffer | Shaffer Family Photo

Tory, Chelsea and Elise Shaffer | Shaffer Family Photo

Chelsea Shaffer is the new editor-in-chief of Horse&Rider, as well as the Western editorial director for Active Interest Media’s Equine Network. She started her career at H&R in 2010, before moving on to Spin To Win Rodeo and American Cowboy magazines. She’s edited The Team Roping Journal for the last two years and will continue that role as she takes on responsibilities with H&R. She lives with her husband Tory and daughter Elise, 2, in Fort Lupton, Colorado, where they raise and train American Quarter Horses.

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