This week’s Sunday Spotlight feature is Amateur Jumper rider Raquel Scharyj. Raquel is living the true working Amateur life, flawlessly balancing her dream job, her engagement (congratulations!) and her two horses Calvin and Artiflex. She took some time to sit and chat with us this week about everything from riding, to work, to her special horse show companion: her Mom.
How did you get into riding?
When I was little, my Mom put me in a bunch of sports just to see what I wanted to do, and it was riding that stuck. She jokes that she should have put me in something else. I started taking lessons when I was about five years old, and I think I did some small local shows when I was about eight. I didn’t go to my first A show until I was about fifteen or sixteen, so I had a little bit of a late start from that standpoint.
When did you get your first horse?
I got my first horse, Ginger, the day before I turned twelve, which was the best birthday present ever. I never did ponies. So I got this tiny little mare, Friday, who was about 15.2 that would just run around with me water skiing. We did the Short Stirrup and I had her for about a year before I sold her to get a 2’6″ Hunter. I did the 2’6″ and 2’9″ for a little while.
When did you begin showing in rated shows?
When I was in high school I started doing A shows. I eventually moved barns and got a Big Eq horse named Nemo and tried that. It was a little rough at first, I was very nervous when I first started showing in the A shows. When I went to college, I sold my horse, so I really took a break from riding throughout college. I went to Wake Forest University in North Carolina and rode a little on the IHSA team, but it wasn’t my thing. I’m someone that really has to get to know my horse. I can’t just get on one and ride. I only rode about once per week.
What made you get back into riding and what steered you to the Jumper ring?
I got back into it when I moved to Columbus, Ohio for a job. I found Hunters Court Farm and started riding there once a week. I did that for about three years, then thought maybe I could lease something, and it just kind of snowballed after that. I started showing at WEC in the 2’6″ Hunters, then quickly got into the Jumper ring and it just kind of progressed rapidly and kind of accidentally from there. I did the Jumpers in high school a little bit as a warm up for the Eq and knew I liked it. I had just started leasing this 2’6″ Hunter after my six year hiatus from riding, so I had no plans to buy anything. I saw this Jumper named Bella at the barn and I really liked her. So I said, “Let me try her, and I won’t tell my Mom, and if I don’t like her then she won’t have to know.” So I tried her and, of course, loved her. So I called my Mom and told her about Bella and told her what I could pay and what I would need help with. Now, you can’t make this part up. Every year, my Mom writes down New Year’s resolutions, and one of the resolutions she wrote down was, “Buy Raquel a horse.” She had written down the exact numbers I said. I had no idea that she was even considering that. It was so crazy. It was totally meant to be. Bella was really the horse that got me back into showing. She was a Young Jumper when I bought her, about five or six at the time, and she took me from the 1.00 m to the 1.20 m in one year. She was really the one that got me back into it.
Tell us about your horses you have now.
Well, growing up, I always just had one horse at a time, and somehow now I have two…technically three because I still have Bella but she’s being leased out. I got my horse Artiflex R (Artiflex) in the Fall of 2017. I found him from Wilhelm Genn. We had Bella for a bit and said, “Two horses seems like more fun!” I had progressed in my career and I was able to support it more financially. I was very lucky to find Artiflex. I tried him and it just clicked. He is the quirkiest, weirdest horse I have ever met. At first, it was very frustrating for me and it took a little time. I really took my time and got to know him and now I feel like I know him like the back of my hand. He would jump through fire for me. He’s still very weird. He doesn’t like to trot, so we warm up by cantering in place. If I ask him to trot, he literally grunts at me. It used to frustrate me to no end, but now I just find it hysterical. He’s great. He’s scopey, very careful and very fast. I just love him. He’s such a character. He’s the one that got me into the 1.30 m, and we just moved up to the 1.35 m about a month ago. I never thought I rode well enough to jump that, but he’s the one that gave me the confidence.
My other one is Triskell Ar Park (Calvin), who I got last Summer. He’s a true 1.45 m horse, so I got him to teach me to do the big stuff. I took him to a show shortly after I got him, and unfortunately he got a bone bruise. He was totally able to come back from it, but we brought him back really slowly. This week was actually my first show with him since July. I’m still getting to know him. He’s really cool. He’s the exact opposite of Artiflex, so two completely different rides. He’s the scopiest horse I’ve ever sat on. I literally just smile when I jump him. The amount of power that he has is so cool. I’m hoping that he’ll get me to my first Grand Prix.
Tell us about a memorable show experience you’ve had.
My most memorable experience was definitely winning the $7,500 Futures Prix at WEC a few weeks ago on Artiflex. I’m an Amateur, and it can be hard sometimes to balance life, work and riding. Because of that, I’m not always the most confident. So, to have this class where there’s a bit more pressure and I’m riding against professionals, where I thought I could never even hold my own, let alone win it…I definitely cried. That was a big one for me. That was really special.
What are your future riding goals?
Definitely my biggest one right now is to do a Grand Prix. I’m a little ways away, but I really think that Calvin can get me there. I really hope I can get there in time to do it at WEC, maybe over the Summer, because they’re so inviting here.
Tell us a little about your work/life/riding balance.
I’m very busy. I’m always on the go, but that’s just kind of my personality. I don’t really like not having anything to do. In November, I moved to Cleveland, Ohio for a new job. I work for Schneiders Saddlery as the Category Manager, so I oversee the merchandising side of the business. It is honestly my dream job. It’s the perfect way for me to marry business with horses. It’s such a great company, too. I’m also getting married in May, so that’s another huge piece of my life. He’s not into horses at all, but he’s so supportive. He’ll text me every day and ask how the horses were at the show. I don’t think he understands my responses, but he’s still super supportive. I feel very lucky in my life right now. I feel like I have to pinch myself. Everything just seems to be working out very well.
Another really cool thing is that my Mom comes to every single horse show with me. I’m twenty eight years old, my Mom lives in Atlanta and she flies in for every single horse show. She is the best horse show Mom. She loves the horses, even though she doesn’t ride. She posts up by the Dark Horse Coffee Co., watches TV on her phone and then she watches me and we go have wine afterward. It’s something that we do together. It’s really special to have that time with her. Truly none of this would be possible without her help.
A personal note from Raquel:
I wanted to say a shout out to Hunters Court Farm because they’re really what took me from doing 2′ once per week to jumping 1.30 m. I also want to thank the team at Stepping Stone Farm and Chagrin Valley Farm (where I ride now). They have done a great job helping me rehab Calvin and getting me back. I feel so lucky that I have such a great team behind me. None of it would be possible without any of them.
All photos courtesy of Raquel Scharyj.