Shauna Brown is a top NRHA youth and non-pro trainer and Youth Equestrian Development Association (YEDA) coach in Union City, Pennsylvania. She was awarded Horse&Rider’s Trainer of the Year and we thought our readers would love to learn more about Shauna. Here is a Q&A that tells you a little bit more about Shauna and why she was picked as the Trainer of the Year.
H&R: How did you get started with horses?
Shauna: My dad, Rick Brown, had horses as a kid on his father’s dairy farm. He became interested in showing in his early twenties and built a small barn on the family property. By the time I was born, he was raising quality Quarter horses. We have a small barn in Northwestern, Pennsylvania, and though it’s grown since he built it in the 1970s, it’s where I train out of today.
I don’t remember a life without horses. Like most horse-crazy little girls I wanted to live in the barn. My most vivid memories were of riding milestones. I can see very clearly in my head the day that I had my first solo ride on one of my dad’s horses. I remember, at five years old, the day we went to pick up my fist pony, Lightning.
H&R: Tell us about your first horse.
Shauna: There have been a few horses that have been especially special to me. My first pony was 19 years old when we got him. He was my best friend. He got me through leadline classes, made me a walk-trot superstar, and then as soon as I was old enough to balance better, he challenged me every single ride. We went everywhere together, bareback with a halter on.
My first horse was a sorrel gelding by the name of Squaw Slides Again. He was out of the last foal crop of Squaw Leo. After Squaw I started showing a bay gelding named Vindicator Cajun. It was a struggle but we eventually learned to be partners. I learned to ride hunt seat on him. Locally, we showed every class I could put him in. We tried our very best to be competitive at the NRHA reining. For seven years I showed him and then he became my first school horse. He’s 31 today.
H&R: Do you have a horse that impacted your career the most?
Those horses impacted me in ways I can’t even explain but a big, red mare name MSLILREDRIDER was the horse that absolutely changed my career. We originally bought her as a 4-year-old for one of my very dear clients, Bobbi Mancuso. Ed Trueman sold her to us and I was very upset that he sold a 70-year-old lady a 4-year-old mare. But she did not disappoint. Up until “Red” came into my program I was mostly coaching. I spent so much time schooling clients’ horses in the pen that I had really forgotten how to be a showman. I had won a very small amount of NRHA money. She changed all that.
Red was the kind of mare that I could take in the open division and lay down a screaming 73 run and then she’d slow right back down for her 72-year-old owner to lope through a pattern. She got me a Congress Top 10 medallion, won me tons of money, and helped me to be Top 5 in the Nation in 3 classes in 2 seasons. That doesn’t seem like much to most horse trainers out there but they were lifelong dreams come true for me.
Oh yeah, she also carried a 10-year-old to a Congress Short Stirrup title in 2018. That mare is truly special.
H&R: Do you have a mentor that impacted your career?
Shauna: My dad. There are no words to describe what an impact he’s had on my life. As a little girl, he helped me get through so much fear. He inspired me through actions to keep going when things were the toughest. He taught me that if you wanted something bad enough, you could find a way to have it. I could write an entire book on how special he is.
He is an NRHA non pro and he is the backbone of my entire operation. Part of what makes this barn so special is because it is a small, humble place. As a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money and my dad still figured out a way to show reining horses and be successful at it. He has bred, raised, and trained every single horse he has ever made money on. He always figured out a way to get to the horse shows. My dad also did his own farrier work. Once upon a time he even built his own horse trailer. We went to horse shows and ate ham and swiss sandwiches in the trailer while everyone else went out to dinner. He did what it took to get the job done.
The other person that can’t go without mentioning is my dear friend, Ed Trueman. Ed passed a few years ago but he came into my life when I was very near quitting. He sold my clients some wonderful horses and he spent a remarkable amount of time with me without asking for anything in return. He and his partner, Lorie Shaw, taught me about the business of reining horses. They changed my career completely and I miss him every day.
H&R: Tell us about your program and some important lessons you teach.
Shauna: I try to teach everyone here, no matter your age, financial situation, or ability, that if they work hard enough they can have anything they want. Any dream is attainable. Just like my dad taught me. I’m also big on responsibility and work ethic. This barn and this program are based around horses but I’m trying to teach young people about life in general. Nothing worth having comes easy.
I also have a fantastic Youth Equestrian Development Association (YEDA) program, which is a high school team riding. I have a group of about 45 kids from various states and we compete through the winter “catch riding” horses. It gives young riders the opportunity to show without a horse and also offers amazing scholarship opportunities.
I truly never believed that I would be living this life. But little by little I’ve worked my way towards something more. We are winning at some of the biggest shows in the nation. I have wanted to give up hundreds of times. Maybe I should have. My life would have been much easier doing a normal job. But let me tell you, I’m so glad I didn’t. And we aren’t done yet.
Prizes for the first-ever Horse&Rider Trainer of the Year were provided by Nutramax Laboratories Veterinary Sciences, Inc. makers of Cosequin®️.