This week’s Sunday Spotlight features 14 year old Madison Durchslag. Madison had a gradual start to her riding career, but is progressing quickly on her adorable grey gelding named Classic (Clearway x Ferraraii) and a sweet chestnut gelding named Rio’s Robinson, or “Robbie”. Madison’s enthusiasm caught our eye, and we love how passionate she is about her horses!
How did you get into riding?
My dad went to a riding camp when he was younger and it had a really big impact on his life. I had a good friend in school that was riding at a Dressage barn. It wasn’t anything fancy, it was a bit rustic, but they told me all about it and I convinced my Dad to let me go. I began riding there when I was young and that barn taught a good bit about horsemanship and how to take care of a horse. They focused mainly on that over riding technique. I remember being a bit nervous to ride, but I was progressing at the trot and canter. When it finally came time for me to canter, I remember being really scared. I was so scared that I actually ran and hid from my trainer and my dad. I finally did canter, but I never did feel super comfortable. It really shook my confidence, so I took a break from riding for a while to focus on dance and school.
What made you start riding again?
I had friends in middle school that rode and really loved it. I had been thinking about riding again for a while, but I hadn’t done any research on barns or anything. My Dad and I were driving to an appointment one day and we passed a barn on the way there. I thought about it during the appointment and convinced him to stop in on our way back. The lady at the barn was very honest, saying that she didn’t really have lesson horses, but then someone steered us in the right direction, and that’s how we met Kimber DiTallo, the owner and trainer at High Finance Farm. We gave her a call and she offered for us to come to a show they were going to the following week to check everything out, so we did and I began riding with her shortly after. I was still very nervous to canter. I was even a little nervous to trot. But Kimber was very encouraging and helped me through my worries and soon I was cantering confidently. I started to jump a few crossrails and started really enjoying it.
When did you get your first horse?
I started jumping and my Dad was riding a bit too, so we decided it was time for us to start looking for a horse that we could both ride. It’s funny, my Dad really didn’t want to buy a grey horse, because he knew how much work it was to keep them clean. But almost every horse we tried was grey! We went to North Carolina in mid-2018 to try a twelve year old grey Hanoverian gelding named Classic who had just started his Hunter career. He had a great career as a Jumper, but he was a good mover so his owners decided to switch him over to the Hunter ring. We tried him in North Carolina and I really loved him. I wasn’t jumping high at the time, but he had a lot of potential for me to grow with him. He needed a bit of work, but I was confident that Kimber and her daughter Lauren could help. So we ended up purchasing him!
When did you first show Classic?
I first showed classic shortly after we bought him. I wasn’t jumping very high at the time, but I was jumping a full course and I had a lot of fun! It was just a small local show and it was a great experience. After that I started showing him a little more and moved up to the 2’ division. It was going well, but I had to focus so much on riding Classic that I wasn’t really learning and foundational riding techniques. I really wanted to learn how to be more correct. Kimber and Lauren have this sweet older horse in the barn named Rio’s Robinson, or “Robbie”, so we decided to do a share-board (like a partial lease) on him so that I could focus on my own riding a little more.
Have you shown since then?
I’ve been showing both Classic and Robbie regularly! I’ve gotten to move up on Robbie and do the 2’6” divisions and it has been really fun. It’s been nice to get to focus a little bit more on my riding on him, and I think that helps me on Classic. In January of this year, I rode both of them here and took home a lot of great ribbons! I remember showing Robbie in the Intermediate Children’s Equitation a few weeks ago and there were a ton of people in the class. I was just going to be happy if I places, but I ended up winning the flat, taking third and sixth over fences, and was Reserve Champion! It was so exciting!
What are your future goals for your riding?
I really want to start moving up with Classic and hopefully do the 2’6” or 2’9” this year and hopefully the 3’ next year. I’d love to move up with Robbie, too, if he’s able to. I’d love to start doing some of the bigger equitation classes, and I would love to maybe take Classic to Hunter Finals!
Photos courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.