Meet Toula!

Over the past year and a half I’ve been grateful that I get to be around horses and at horse shows every day for my job, but I never shared the days that it would hit me how much I missed being the person in the ring riding. Whenever I had one of those days where the idea of getting to ride consistently seemed unattainable for many reasons, I would try to remind myself how lucky I am to get to be around horses on a daily basis, which most people can’t be. I didn’t feel like it was fair to dwell on wanting more when I already have the chance to be around what I love all the time. I had one wonderful horse that I showed when I was in high school, but it’s been nine years since I rode consistently, took lessons or walked into a show ring (I have video competing in the DeNemethy ring in 2006…on a VHS tape). Over the past year I had my first chance to ride every so often on friends’ horses, which would make my day every time. However, one of my favorite things about riding is getting to learn with one horse that becomes a consistent partner, and it’s so much fun to show and work on putting all of the pieces together together. 

Many days I felt incredibly discouraged that that wasn’t something I was ever going to be able to do due to the immense costs involved. Even though I love riding so much that even my job revolves around horses, I had started to give up on being able to be the person in the ring. Then just recently, I was presented with an opportunity that with a lot of very careful planning and budgeting I was able to make work. I’m excited to introduce this amazing mare, Toula, who is owned by an equally amazing friend, Abbey. I’m leasing and spoiling her while we both spend time missing Abbey who is away at college. I couldn’t do it without the support and encouragement of Alex Granato and Mad Season, LLC, Josh, Bonnie, and everyone at Mad Season LLC, who have become incredible friends and who I can count on to make fun of me when I deserve it. Somehow I lucked into being a part of a barn with professionals whose riding I admire as well as a herd of miniature horses, a llama, and a goat. This is the first of many pictures and posts to come featuring Toula.

So excited because my good friend and trainer Alex Granato / Mad Season, LLC won today’s $8,000 Open Jumper 1.45m Classic out of 45 riders on the grass at Tryon!! It was the first day, ever, for show jumping to be held on the grass here. Volume up for highlights from today- way to go Criss Cross and Alex!!! P.S. Wait until the end for a glimpse of the Mad Season, LLC good luck charm.

Click to enlarge!

Just one picture couldn’t capture Kent Farrington flying over the final jump of the jump off before blazing through the timers to win the Tryon Spring 3 Grand Prix a few weeks ago!

Had a little fun with some friends at their barn up here in NC and the drone last weekend. Volume up for full effect!

First Days of Tryon 2016

Hello, North Carolina! I’m now officially up in Tryon, NC for the next six months and I couldn’t be more excited. To give a brief re-cap of the past month, the day after WEF ended, I flew to Denver, CO for my first ever visit to the Colorado Horse Park for a few days. After that quick trip, I had a few quieter weeks working and getting organized in Florida before beginning to pack and get ready for an amazing season ahead up here in NC. Now that I spend half of my year in FL and half in NC, I have to say that returning to NC feels a little like it did when I would go back to college after a summer break. Florida will always be my actual home, but ironically I went to college only about an hour and a half from where TIEC is in NC, so when I load up my car with all of my belongings (including a pop-up laundry basket circa Target college collection 2007) and take the exact same route from FL to NC that I used to, it’s deja vu. My 5-year college reunion will even be taking place less than 100 miles from me in June (but it falls on the night of our first ever 5* at TIEC, which I would never miss.) There’s also something so amazing about the atmosphere at TIEC that I’m still trying to put into words – it’s friendly and welcoming and even though the show grounds are large, there’s a real sense of community here. I also enjoy the change of scenery and I’m happy for the variety in competition I’ll get to experience over the next few months with Pony Club Championships East, the American Eventing Championships, and more. Anyway, I don’t even know where to begin describing everything coming up most immediately that is so exciting to me – the 5* in June, an incredible Hunter Derby event planned with Breyer and the one-and-only Brunello, and I’m also just so ready to share all the latest updates to the facility here, and so much more. So, in an effort to keep up with everything coming up, I wanted to share my first week here so far via a few of the photos I’ve managed to take on my camera so far, and others that I’ve snapped on my phone.

This picture wasn’t taken at 4:53pm. It was taken at 4:53am. The day I left FL headed to NC! The drive takes about 10 hours and I like to leave really early in the morning so that most of it is over by early afternoon. I listen to podcasts for almost the whole trip and I enjoy driving, so it’s not bad.

Arriving in NC! The driveway to my home for the next six months! First thought: COOL.

Freaking out with excitement because this is the view on the drive in. Gorgeous green fields of happy horses.

I am living in this little guest house on a 50-acre horse farm. I love it.

Another view. It has huge windows on all sides and one side opens up with a little patio area that leads out to the pool.

There is a huge Anatolian Shepherd guard dog who came by to supervise the move-in, after he was initially introduced to me.

View from my bedroom! There is nothing more peaceful than waking up in the morning and seeing horses turned out outside your window. One morning I could hear the clip-clop of horses crossing the paved path on the way to the field and it was the best sound to hear upon waking up.

Arriving at the office! AKA Tryon International Equestrian Center. Taken via Horse Show Boyfriend’s drone.

It’s so good to be back.

One of our first nights back, we went out to eat at one of our favorite local places. The Hare & Hound Pub in Landrum, SC. I started a Note on my phone to record how many times I go here between now and November. 1 trip and counting.

Landrum, SC street signs. Horse country!!

Meanwhile, back at TIEC, one of the main events that happened during my first week back was the grand opening of the new General Store. I stopped by on Wednesday, the day before opening, to check it out and was absolutely blown away by how cool it is. They were still putting the finishing touches on it all day on Wednesday.

And by all day, I mean late into the evening. I went by around 11pm to put in an hour of work to help. The grand opening, including a ribbon cutting ceremony with the Chamber of Commerce, was scheduled for the next day at 9am with a news crew coming out at 5am.

11:16pm! Still working on finishing touches to get it done! One of the many reasons I love working at TIEC – many times everyone has come together to get things done, even if it’s not directly related to their actual job. This is a night I will always remember as I return to TIEC for years to come and remember the evening everyone worked so hard to make sure the General Store opened on time looking fabulous.

The next morning! The General Store is an on-site store with anything you could possibly need to grab for your convenience during your time at TIEC, including groceries, toiletries, house supplies, craft beer/wine, and more. One of the best parts of the General Store is that it incorporates a large number of extremely unique NC-based and locally made products – you can pick up all kinds of neat products that even make great souvenirs or gifts. Inside the General Store is also a brand new mail center (Pony Express) for riders/trainers/owners staying at TIEC for several weeks to have their own PO Box, as well as a counter for coffee, ice cream, and gourmet chocolates.

Choose from an assortment of gourmet chocolates next to the ice cream counter!

On Thursdays, there is also now a Farmers Market out back that has products all sourced within 15 miles of TIEC, and the people selling them are so friendly and fun to chat with!

New obsession! Cool Mama’s baked goods. They are sold at the General Store but they also have a small stand only about a mile from where I live, so I will definitely be stopping by both places! You HAVE to try their breads and cinnamon rolls available in the General Store if you come to TIEC. You will not be disappointed.


During my first few days up here, I also visited some friends at their new farm that they rented for the next few months here in NC. We took out the drone to get an even better view of how gorgeous it is!

Peeps (of The Peeps Foundation) enjoying the turnout situation and wondering how the paparazzi found her all the way in NC.

Living the life.




More happy mini faces and mouths full of grass.

Enjoying the amazing backdrop to the ring at the farm.

Back over at TIEC, the first Saturday Night Lights of the 2016 season was on May 7th!

I will do a whole separate post about what’s new at the facility, but a quick preview… new barns, rings, restaurants and more are going up, and the huge, state-of-the-art grass derby field (bottom left) is well on its way to being complete soon. Work on clearing the area for Tryon Resort is also well underway.

A familiar face from Wellington. Kent Farrington made his first trip to TIEC and won Thursday’s Welcome and then Saturday night’s Grand Prix!

At TIEC, Saturday Night Lights begins at 5pm with the Grand Prix following at 7pm. There’s lots of time to enjoy all of the restaurants, live music, carousel rides, pony rides, mechanical horse competition, and more. This new “spectator jump” up near the main walkways is one of my favorite additions this year as it allows spectators to pose for a photo and see up close how big the jumps in the Grand Prix that evening will be (I think this one could’ve gone up a few holes).

The first Saturday Night Lights also fell on Kentucky Derby day, so there was a screening of the derby on the jumbtron as well as a Derby Hat contest.

Watching the derby with a stadium full of horse lovers!

A few photos from the first CSI3* of the season!



Kent on his way to the victory in the $130,000 Asheville Regional Airport CSI3*!

Pausing for a photo with some fans afterward! During the victory gallop, he also threw his ribbon to some young fans in the stands, which was an amazing moment.

That’s it for now! More to come soon as I head into my second week here! If there is anything specific you want to see or for me to write about, please send me an e-mail – I love hearing from you!

It sounds really simple, but one my favorite parts of my job is getting to meet other people who love horses as much as I do and who are able to talk about their stories as to how horses have helped them or been a meaningful part of their lives.

About two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet seven girls who are a part of the Gleneayre Equestrian Program, which is a work-to-ride and equine facilitated learning program based out of Lumberton, New Jersey. They were visiting WEF and Wellington for five days and the trip’s purpose was to help them explore different ways they can be involved in the equestrian industry as well as meet several renowned riders who have established careers for themselves by riding, grooming, training, and more.

As part of my job, I was lucky enough to get to shadow them and document their visit through photos. Their trip included volunteering at the county Special Olympics, visiting with Beezie Madden and her horses at her barn, observing an equitation lesson with Stacia Madden, walking the 5* Grand Prix course with Beezie Madden (and then watching it afterward), hanging out with George Morris, and more. As they did each of these activities, I tried to make sure I hung to the back and stayed out of the way since this was all about them, but inside I was actually freaking out with excitement to get to be there with them too. I would classify it as a dream day for any horse lover. I was so happy and moved to watch them experience each of these events after what has been a lot of hard work and persistence to get to this point in their program.

Besides getting to follow the girls around throughout the weekend, I enjoyed talking with them about careers in the industry, some of which are not typically thought of because they’re out of the typical realm of riding, training, etc. I’m at times a little bit shy, so I don’t always bring up my blog or Instagram right away, but several of them connected the dots when I first introduced myself and I was so humbled to hear that they had been following me, and here I was getting to meet them in person by chance. They were all so articulate, positive and smart, and it was the perfect reminder of one of the reasons that I love my job – getting to meet motivated people like them and encourage them to stay involved with horses if that’s what you love, no matter what, and a career can follow – that career might not even have a name yet. I don’t think what I do now existed a couple of years ago, and it wasn’t what I studied or pursed in college (or the three years afterward) either.

When I had first returned to WEF last year as a spectator still working a “real” job in e-commerce, I watched the riders in the ring and thought to myself that riding and showing and being at horse shows was just a part of my life that was over, a chapter that had been completed. At the time I didn’t see how I would ever have the means to able to be involved with horses in a big way again, definitely not like I had been when I got to ride and show as a junior. It didn’t seem possible now in my mid-twenties and out of college with student loans, an apartment and other responsibilties, and a 26 year old horse who I had made the decision to send to a retirement farm.

So I found a new way to enjoy being at the horse show, because I still loved horses and how they made me feel and how they brought me back to one of the happiest times in my life when I was riding and showing and spending time with family. So during WEF 2015, I started my Instagram account and blog and now here I am during WEF 2016, getting to be around horses every day for my career, and the idea of being able to show and have a horse again in the future doesn’t seem so crazy anymore (except when I’m really tired or hungry, then it still seems impossible). You never know. Enjoy the present for what you have now, work hard, talk to as many people as possible (even if you’re sometimes shy, like I am), and believe that you will find a way.

I was sitting here typing these thoughts tonight, on my bed with my laptop propped up against my knees, when I visited the Gleneayre website and discovered a shout-out that means the world to me:

“Throughout the trip, we were shadowed by Meg Banks from the Social Media and Marketing department of Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC.  Meg made a name for herself in this industry after traveling to the Winter Equestrian Festival and starting her own blog.  A self-starter who launched her career out of a passion for horses, Meg passed her advice to our girls that their goals are within their reach.”

And yet getting to be a part of something as simple as this trip, talking to girls who may have doubts at some point just like I did (and do), is what keeps me going in this industry and makes me feel like my own goals are within reach. My new career has been part of a dream come true, and the crazy thing that happens when you feel like a part of your dream has come true – you start dreaming even bigger, working even harder, and believing in even more things that you used to think were impossible.

A few days after the girls returned to New Jersey from their trip, a co-worker let me know that a stack of envelopes was waiting for me in the office. I received a hand-written thank you note from each of them, so to Nicole, Marielle, Izzy, Kate, Emily, Danielle, and Kirsten… Thank YOU! I saved all of your notes. You inspired me, reminded me yet again what I love about horses and our industry, and it was amazing to meet each one of you.

As the first few riders took to the course tonight, I noticed McLain Ward sitting quietly by the ring and studying their rounds. Having been there for now both of his 5* wins this WEF season, I have a newfound appreciation for the attention to detail and precision that he delivers with each of his rides.

Earlier this week, I watched him and HH Azur compete in the first round of the WEF Challenge, and then I noticed he was riding a horse in a smaller class over in the DeNemethy ring before he had to head back to the International Ring for his jump-off. I stood at the rail of the DeNemethy and watched as he made a jumper course look like an equitation round that he could’ve ridden with his eyes closed. One of my favorite things to do is to watch a rider like McLain up close in a smaller ring like that and focus on one part of their riding – on that particular day, I decided to watch how he carries his hands throughout the course. It was this same quiet accuracy and consistency in each part of his riding that I saw and appreciated that day, and again tonight as he made a 5* jump-off look just as effortless.

So there he was, off to the side watching and studying the course like any other rider would, and it was a moment that I didn’t want to forget tonight, especially as the thrill of his win leaves my fingers hovering over this keyboard at a loss as to how to convey everything I feel that is both so humbling and exciting about this sport.

If you were ever looking for an excuse to keep your collection of Breyer horses even longer, IT’S HERE! Even if you’re like me and have them stored in giant tupperware and you’re living in an apartment with limited storage space, and your mom is downsizing her own house and she’s like, you need to decide what to do with these…

These photos are from the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular Gala, where I got to photograph the AMAZING Breyer centerpieces on all of the tables! How cool are they?!

(One of my favorite blog posts I ever did was my trip to Breyerfest. Click here to read it!)

Office views!