This week’s Ocala Sunday Spotlight shines on accomplished hunter rider, Maria Rasmussen, founder of Sea Change Farm in Wellington, Florida. Rasmussen brought an incredible group of horses to World Equestrian Center – Ocala’s 2022 USEF Summer Series where she scored two back-to-back victories in the $12,500 WEC Ocala 3’6”-3’9” Hunter Derby. We caught up with Rasmussen to learn a bit more about Sea Change Farm and two of her top horses.
WEC: Tell us a bit about yourself.
I started riding when I was 8 years old. My mom rode Saddlebreds until she started having kids, so horses were always in my blood. I was always obsessed. When we moved from California to Illinois, I needed a hobby to help with the transition. Naturally, I chose horses. I started riding and never looked back. I quickly became a working student and by the time I was 12 years old I cleaned the barn, turned the horses out, groomed and had learned so much about their daily care, nutrition and overall horsemanship. From there I worked my way up the ranks and started free-lance riding as a professional when I was about 20.
WEC: When did you start Sea Change?
I began Sea Change about 8 years ago. At the time it was myself and my groom Luis Ruiz. We started in Ocala and settled in Wellington. Sea Change grew fast and before I knew it we had 45 horses on the road. With that many horses, I got to the point where I felt like achieving a high standard of quality was next to impossible. That’s when I decided to downsize into a smaller operation where we could concentrate on quality over quantity.
We focus mainly on hunters and equitation. We have a few sale and lease horses available as well. This enabled us to develop some of the top hunters in the country as well as helping our riders achieve their goals, such as national championships at places like Capital Challenge, Harrisburg, the Washington International Horse Show and The National Horse Show.
I have the privilege of riding and showing Sunset View Farm/Kristen Hamel’s horses including SVF James, SVF On My Own, SVF Haymaker and Worthy, who I will be riding at derby finals this year. Maya Grove of Grove Equestrian is one of my students and a talented junior rider. Amongst several horses that she owns, Goodfella is one of them. Goodfella is the horse that I won the two big derbies on during week II and III. I will be showing him at Derby Finals as well.
I am blessed with such an amazing team. They are all so dedicated to the horse’s health and wellbeing. Luis Ruiz has been with me from the beginning. My assistant, Katie Wood, joined the team about 2 years ago. We have had so much fun together. Sometimes I can barely get her to leave the barn!
WEC: Tell us more about Worthy and Goodfella.
Worthy and I have had a longer partnership. We have been together for about four years now. I started with him in the First Year Greens, while Sydney Hamel showed him in the Small Jrs. He is so much fun to ride and gives us his all every time he steps in the ring. He has a very correct style of jumping and loves to gallop. He’ll love the big ring at Derby Finals.
Although, Goodfella is very different from Worthy, he is also incredibly scopey and correct. I know he will love to gallop in the Rolex Arena at Derby Finals as well!
WEC: Is this your first time at World Equestrian Center – Ocala?
This is our first time here and we love it. We have been here for five weeks and have had such a great experience. We love it, the horses love it, I mean how could we not? The arenas are incredible, the footing is superb, the stalls are huge and the paddocks are great.
We brought 13 horses and a mini with us. The mini comes to babysit the horses in the paddock and keep them company. She has been loving her time here too. We will definitely be back!
Thank you, Maria, for taking the time to chat with us! We wish you the best of luck at Derby Finals with Worthy and Goodfella.
Photos courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.