This week’s Sunday Spotlight falls on Amateur Ashley Murray. Ashley does it all from working, to being a student, to nannying, to being a Mom, and the barn is her sanctuary. This week, Ashley returned to the show ring after a lengthy hiatus and found herself in the Jumpers with her horse Zara. The pair took top placings and even won the .80 – .85 m jumpers!
WEC: How did you get into riding?
Ashley: I was born in Florida and my Mom had a Jumper. She used to take me out to the barn with her and I would take lessons. We backed up to a park and there was a woman there that rode Western, so she would take me out on the back of her saddle and that’s how I learned how to canter. I thought, “I have to ride, I have to have a pony.”
I got my first pony when I was five. Her name’s Amelia Bedelia (Chelsea). She came with us when I moved to Cincinnati when I was seven. I showed locally at WEC and at Windfall. I just got the bug and I couldn’t stop, which is how it goes.
WEC: Tell us about some of the horses that you’ve had.
Ashley: Chelsea was my first pony. My Mom and trainer actually found her in a field. She had a white ring around her neck because she was tied to a tree. My Mom got on her with a halter and two lead ropes and she trotted and cantered around. They were like, “Sold.” She did all the way up through the small ponies. She was really fun.
I had a couple of large ponies. I did kind of a lot of riding what I could get my hands on. My last show was when I was sixteen or seventeen, and it was here. I had to pick between a horse and a car and I chose a car because a horse couldn’t get me to the mall. That was the last that I showed.
I kept riding whatever I could, then in college I worked as a groom. After that, I took a little bit of time off, got married, had a kid. Then I started helping out with a Leila’s family (who also rides at Milestone Equestrian) after I had my son Tate. We moved barns and I started riding some of their horses, then we moved to Kensley Farm / Milestone Equestrian with Aubrey Sears.
WEC: Tell us about how you got back into showing.
Ashley: I used to get so nervous about showing. I loved being at the horse shows, I loved grooming, I loved the whole atmosphere, but I was a nervous Nelly. I lucked into Queen of Hearts, or Zara. I one hundred percent think that Zara is my heart horse. She’s just an opinionated red-headed mare. I started lessoning more and more and Aubrey said, “Let’s take her to a show.”
We came to the show this weekend fully thinking that I would do the 2’6″ Hunters. The first day came and went and it was a nightmare, so we tried Jumpers, which I’ve never done before. We were walking for our first course walk and I was like, “I don’t know any of the rules. I’ve only ever ridden Hunters my whole life.” So Aubrey explained it all and it was seriously the most fun. I’m having so much fun on her.
WEC: Tell us about showing in the Jumpers.
Ashley: Walking into the Jumper ring for the first time, I was certain that I was going to forget my course. Zara had done Jumpers before with her previous owner and she heard the buzzer and she was like, “This is what we do.” She just did it. I walked out and I didn’t know what happened, I felt like I blacked out. I was smiling and Aubrey was laughing. It was just so much fun. She’s just so trustworthy and she wants to do it. I’m so excited about my new Jumper career.
After that first day, it’s pretty much just been fun. It hasn’t been nerve-wracking. It’s also different when it’s your horse. I think I used to get nervous because I would show some horses that weren’t mine. Then there’s so much pressure.
WEC: What do you see in the future for your new-found Jumper career?
Ashley: I think I will take her to as many local shows as I can afford. I’m definitely going to keep her. She’s a little feisty but I think she’ll always be mine. I’m really just enjoying it. I’m in school getting my Master’s Degree in School Counseling. I work a job three days per week, I nanny for Leila, I’m in school and I have Tate. There’s a lot going on, but so it’s therapeutic when I get to go out to the barn.
WEC: Tell us about Zara’s personality.
Ashley: We are going to change her show name to Aléjate De Mí, which means “get away from me” in Spanish, because she is just kind of moody about things. She will do her job, she’s not going to stop, she’s not going to spook, but she doesn’t really like being loved on. She’s fine out on the farm, she loves to be grazed, but she’s not a lovey horse. She’s tricky because she’s the first horse that I’ve had that you have to sit as still as possible. If you move, she’s like, “Lead change? Faster?” She’s just so sensitive, but she’s a doer. If you ask her, she’ll do it. She’s so fun. Even with her mare tendencies, she’s great in the schooling ring, she’s great at the ingate. Other horses can get near her, but when they look at her she’ll make a face. She’s bossy, but she just has a big personality. She’s not spooky and doesn’t have any of the not-fun things. She’s so fun to ride. She even gives walk/trot lessons at home and Tate, who is four!
WEC: What do you love most about riding?
Ashley: I think it’s just in my blood to be around the horses and to be at the horse shows. Even when I wasn’t showing, I just loved the atmosphere. The early mornings, the camaraderie…all of that. It sounds cheezy, but Aubrey has made it so much nicer. She’s such a laid-back trainer but she gets her point across.