I interviewed Callie Seaman last year, and due to my hiatus, the interview never got published. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Callie and do an updated interview. I think Callie is one of the top amateurs in the country, and she is also relatable to me as she has experienced similar things to me such as chronic pain, which she has been vocal about on her Facebook, and negativity in the equestrian community.
Callie earned a Winter Equestrian Festival Circuit Championship with her horse Chicago and won the 3’6” Amateur Owner Championship during hunter week for the second year in a row. Due to her championships, she got to compete at WEF’s World Champion Hunter Rider Hunter Spectacular class, earning an impressive fourth place in the first round and a very impressive 10th overall.
Callie describes the Hunter Spectacular as a “thrilling accomplishment” especially because she was competing against not just junior and other amateur riders but also some of the top hunter professionals.
Callie has big goals for this year despite having some setbacks including spine surgery which took 7 months to recover from and having to retire and/or move some of her horses down.
Callie describes this last year as a “rebuilding” year for her.
“After the 7 months it took to recover from my last spine surgery it became clear that some of my older horses needed to retire or step-down a bit. Carrico was forced into retirement due to an injury, which was particularly heartbreaking for me. He had such a bright future ahead of him and had hoped to win [D]erby [F]inals with him one day. Having Carrico’s career cut short was such a tough pill to swallow. During WEF it also became clear that my two [H]igh [A]mateur horses Dakota and Vinny also needed to move down. After the 2* Grand Prix at the Longines Masters NY we realized Dakota was ready to retire. She had done so much for me for years so it was important to me to do right by her. Luckily, I had two jumpers I was getting to know in Florida, so they stepped up and took Vinny and Dakota’s places.”
Callie’s one jumper, Jet Set DB, has been a “great addition” to her jumper string.
“She’s a game and careful horse I got along well with almost instantly. She is a spectacular high amateur horse and will continue to do that division and the national Grand Prix level.”
Callie also has her mare, Paparazzi, with which she has started competing in national Grand Prix classes this past summer. Callie said this mare has “more scope” than she has seen or ridden in her career, and the mare has “quickly become her most dependable horse.” Additionally, Callie purchased an 8 year old mare, Fasuparide, this past spring that she has high hopes for. She described the mare as “small” and “feisty” which is exactly her type.
On to the hunters! Callie has also added Endeavor and Prolific. Endeavor, Callie says, has been particularly impressive, earning a tricolor at the one show Callie has done with him. He earned 3’3” Amateur Owner Championship at the National Horse Show, and he also won the Pre-Green Incentive Championship with Callie’s trainer, Patricia Griffith, this past summer in Kentucky.
Callie also had a baby on the way – but not that kind! Her mare, Dakota, is expecting a baby by Cornet Obolensky. Callie said she has always talked about breeding Dakota, so she is thrilled for Dakota to be pregnant and is hoping for a jumper even just half as great as Dakota is/was.
Callie also has two three year old horses who are by her stallions Carrico and Heartliner. Both of the horses are being ridden now and are coming along nicely.
Aside from her impressive placings in the hunters, Callie is also proud of winning the Amateur Owner Jumper Classic with Jet Set DB at Capital Challenge and also being awarded leading Amateur Owner Jumper Rider. Additionally, in the jumpers, Callie earned her first top ten placing at the Grand Prix level with her horse Paparazzi in Kentucky this past summer.
“I think consistency is a testament to growth as a rider, so for me to have won a tricolor every week I competed in Florida and at almost every show I competed in this year was a dream come true,” Callie said. “My wonder horse Chicago was WCHR North East Region champion, which was really special. While I’m heartbroken that an injury prevented him from showing at indoors this season, his incredible success this year was such a testament to how much he has grown in the last year and how special and talented he is.”
Despite her long list of accolades and her top string of horses, Callie is not immune or exempt from the negativity that exists in the horse world.
“The equestrian industry can be exceedingly tough both physically and mentally. As a rider, you can experience the highest highs and the lowest lows on a regular basis. There are so few sports where your own performance isn’t the only one that matters. We rely so much on these animals to perform their best for us and we can forget that they have hard times just like we do. This industry can be so tough on a personal level as well because people get wrapped up in their own ambitions,” she said. “Unfortunately, our industry sometimes lacks a communal and supportive spirit.”
Callie said during difficult times she remembers her successes and remains appreciative of them. She also reminds herself that the only person she can control is herself, and that the most important relationships are the ones between her and her horses.
“It can be human nature to look at the athletes beating you and try to compete by emulating them or mentally focusing too much on why they win over you. This is a mistake because those other athletes aren’t competing with you[;] they are focused on themselves. So, while you get stuck wasting time on them, they are busy bettering themselves and being their own competition. I think that directing your energy towards bettering your own riding is ultimately the best way to achieve your goals,” she explained.
Callie also spoke of the importance of finding the right support system saying that while you don’t get to choose your family, you do get to choose your friends, so she suggests surrounding oneself with people “who sincerely care for you and who want to help you reach your goals.”
“Those lessons have served me well during times of difficulty in this sometimes cut-throat industry,” she said.
Callie will be showing at the Winter Equestrian Festival this year, and she is very excited for the circuit to start. She is also still looking for a couple horses to add to her already impressive string such as another High Amateur horse and a derby horse.
This year, Callie hopes to get her feet wet in some bigger classes in the jumper ring and hopefully compete in some night Grand Prix classes. She says her mare, Paparazzi, who was found by Kent Farrington, has made her feel super confident and ready to step up to the bigger classes. As for the hunters, Callie hopes to keep developing her two green hunters and find her next derby horse. She plans on going to Derby Finals with a really competitive horse this upcoming year.
Short-term, Callie hopes to find the remaining missing pieces in her string of horses. Long-term, Callie wants to become truly competitive at and above the 3* level. She also would love to win Derby Finals.
With all the success Callie has had and all the horses she has in her string, Callie has to have some brands she swears by. We asked her what those were.
For show coats, Callie likes custom ones by Alessandro Albanese and Charles Ancona. She usually wears an Equiline show shirt because they are comfortable and come in many different style that have “just enough flash” while remaining appropriate for the hunter ring. Callie loves Parlanti boots because they are “classic, well-made, break in easily, and always fit like a glove.” She also focused on something she says many may think is insignificant, but that is very important with the amount of hours spent in the saddle and tall boots: Riding socks. She never rides without wearing Achilles Gel Socks, and she encourages anyone who hasn’t tried them to go buy them right now.
“They will change your life!” she said.
As for brands of equestrian equipment, she “literally can’t ride comfortably” in any saddle other than CWD. She has found them to be the most comfortable and the most well-made in the industry. She actually still rides in the same saddle she had since she was a junior rider.
“A truly comfortable saddle is enormously important for me specifically because of my spine issues and because I have so many horses. I can’t say enough good things about the saddles made by CWD,” she said.
Finally, we asked Callie to whom she owed her riding success. She said her mom, first and foremost.
“She is always game to buy the best horses for me, and has helped me get back in the saddle after every surgery. Even when I doubted if I would get back on a horse myself my mom was always there to reassure me that I would. I live with a lot of physical limitations now because of my spine issues, so my mom travels to most shows to help me so that I can focus on the riding and doing my best. Her support for this crazy dream of mine has meant absolutely everything to me,” Callie said.
And, of course, Callie mentioned her trainers, Andre Dignelli, Patricia Griffith, and the other trainers at Heritage Farm.
“Their training over the last 7 years has totally transformed me into the kind of rider I spent much of my junior career hoping to be. My trainers are always looking for the best horses and they given me all the tools I need to be successful in this sport,” she said. “It is incredibly advantageous to have a group of trainers like I do at Heritage because I get to learn different things from each of them. That has enabled me to continuously learn and grow from their instruction. I’m a better rider than I was a year ago, two years ago, three years ago and so on.”
Although she is already incredibly successful and a staple photo on Heritage’s Instagram feed, often boasting a tricolor or a blue ribbon, Callie said there is always room to grow and always new things to learn in this sport. She hopes to continue growing as a rider and to keep improving as well.