Number 39, September 29, 2015
Ashley Brandies ’16 has loved horses since she was a toddler growing up in Jesup. By the time she was eight years old, she was taking riding lessons, but even before then, she was learning the dirty work of grooming and mucking out a stable at summer horse camp. It didn’t alter her passion.
Seven years ago, she began riding with trainer and owner Christy Parker at Pine Haven Stables in Brunswick. Now she rides three to four days every week and is in training for the World Cup. She hopes to be one of the 24 riders selected for try-outs this December in Missouri in the pre-Olympic saddle seat competition. If she makes it, she will travel to Cape Town, South Africa, as a member of the U.S. team for the 2016 World Cup Saddle Seat competition.
Brandies represented the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Rider Home Team in international competition during the 2015 U.S. Saddle Seat Invitational held at Cascade Stables in New Orleans during June 25-28, where her five-gaited team was awarded the gold medal. One week later, she competed in two national finals at the Lexington Junior League Horse Show, The Red Mile, Lexington, Kentucky. She placed third out of 15 riders in the United States Equestrian Federals adult medal final and third out of 16 in the United Professional Horsemen’s Association national final.
In describing the Saddle Seat Invitational, Lori Nelson, Assistant Executive Director of National Affiliates for the United States Equestrian Federation, noted that Brandies would be competing with limited practice on unfamiliar horses with riders from South Africa and Canada. Nelson wrote: “This is a grueling and competitive four days of competition where the winners are crowned with gold medals much like our Olympic Athletes…it is equal to the importance of the Olympics in the Saddle Seat discipline. Being selected as a member of this team is an incredible accomplishment.”
Pointing out that the time commitment required was as much or more as athletes in collegiate or Olympic level sports, Nelson added: “Horseback riding is a sport which requires not only physical fitness but also other life skills such as: decision making, communicating, problem solving, goal setting and empathy. Equestrian athletes take the concept of teamwork to the highest level, as they form a partnership with a horse; two independent beings working together and communicating with one another to achieve their goal. We hope that Ashley’s classmates and community understand the commitment she has made to get to this level and the role she will play as an ambassador for this country.”
Her own horse, A Riot on 43rd Street, is an American saddlebred that won 3rd in the nation in the 2013 hunt seat competitions. “I didn’t name him,” she laughed. “He’s Riot for short.” The bay also competes in western seat and saddle seat divisions.
For Brandies, it was a busy summer. In addition to traveling to the national and international United States Equestrian Federation competitions, she taught at a summer equestrian camp and took classes at the College. A typical summer weekday for the middle grades education major was teaching from 8 a.m.-noon at the stables, grabbing lunch on her way to campus, spending from 1-4 p.m. in the classroom, then returning to the stables where she also helps to train and show other owners’ horses.
“I’ve been taking summer classes since completing my freshman year to make sure I graduate on time,” she said, “and I keep up with my studies by laptop when I’m on the road.” The Dean’s List student is also a two-year recipient of a Hites-Dinos Family Higher Education Scholarship awarded by the College Foundation, a member of the Association of Coastal Educators (ACE), served as a sophomore senator for the Student Government Association, and has worked as a student assistant in Student Activities.
“I love working with children and seeing that light bulb go off,” she said. “Teaching is a family tradition and my experiences teaching at the barn cinched it for me as my career choice. I love my professors and my cohort – the program is awesome!”