Anna Easton is a rider that believes someone with “enough talent, determination, and hard work” can make it in the horse world, according to her blog Big Eqspectations. Her horse journey is that of trail riding, pony jumpers, and the Big Eq. She had high hopes of qualifying for the Maclay Finals. Although she did not achieve that dream, she has taken it in stride, remained graceful, and had a great sense of positivity regarding her riding journey.
Anna said she knew her dream of qualifying for Medal or Maclay Finals was a “farfetched goal.” This was for a variety of reasons.
“I didn’t (and still don’t) have the finances, I was green in the show ring, and I didn’t have much time left. Nerves were always a big problem for me and when I got nervous, I couldn’t pick a distance to save my life,” she said.
However, despite not reaching her goal, she said she could write a book about everything she learned during her junior career.
Anna, now 18, has been riding she since was 5 years old. However, she also loves listening to music and is a self-described folk, blues, and classic rock fan. She also enjoys writing – from poetry to blog posts and anything in between. She also said her helmet is two sizes bigger than her head to accommodate her “big, curly mess” of hair with a “mind of its own.” She also responds to the nickname ‘Fuzz,’ which her sister dubbed her with when they were kids.
When Anna began riding, it was because her father wanted her to have a hobby that she could enjoy. Although she did local shows when she was 7 years old, she did not start showing on the rated circuits until she was 14.
“This was somewhat due to financial reasons, but mostly because my father had different goals for me when I started riding,” she said. “He mostly wanted me to have a hobby I could enjoy. But, when I showed interest in making my debut on the rated circuit, he completely supported and facilitated me.”
Now that she has aged out, she hopes to make it as a professional. She began her professional life as a working student for Don Stewart making the long drive from her home in Atlanta to his farm in Ocala.
“My job with Don is an opportunity that I am very excited about!” Anna said. “I’m mainly going to be hacking horses, showing horses to potential buyers, doing horse-related laundry, and cleaning tack at the end of the day I’m also hoping to show some as horses are available. A lot goes into running an operation of that size and I would love to learn about all aspects, from the care of the horses, to the business side of things.”
While she does plan to attend college, she also plans to make riding her career and says she has been designing her dream barn since she was 8 years old. Her ultimate career goal is to be a successful Grand Prix rider, as she considers herself to be more of a jumper rider.
Anna loves the jumper ring because of the teamwork.
“The hunter ring showcases the horse and the equitation ring showcases the rider. But, the jumper ring showcases the team,” she said. “A good jumper has the same goals as its rider; Get over the jumps clean and fast. They’re on at all times, and they’re powerful and agile. Nothing beats riding a horse like that. But, another thing I love about the jumper ring is the fact that it is completely objective. No politics and no worrying about who’s at the gate.”
However, Anna said that her favorite thing about equitation is its purpose. She feels that eq classes create more solid and effective riders, and it helps them transition into higher levels in the sport as well as into professionals if that is what they choose.
Anna also rode in the hunters for about 6 months when she was 12 or 13. She thought it was “fun, but slow.” Although she does appreciate the hunters much more now and loves the hunter derbies, she said hunters “will never steal [her] heart like the jumper ring has.”
Anna’s love for the jumpers also comes from the fact that she started there. Being blunt, Anna said she wasn’t “politically correct” enough for the horse world with her dad as her trainer and her lack of finances. Her perfectionism attracted her to the equitation, which she used to better herself as a rider.
After aging out, Anna has decided she will leave equitation behind aside from her goal for qualifying for the Talent Search Finals.
Although Anna rode with her dad growing up, she also got a chance to ride with Rob Gage, a well-known USEF judge. She met him through Judge My Ride, a website where riders can post photos and videos of themselves riding and get feedback from USEF rated judges, like Rob.
“He was the main person who commented on my pictures and was very encouraging as I tried to improve my position. He came to my town for a clinic in May of 2012. I was terrified when I met him, which is really funny in hindsight Rob is hysterical, blunt, and always supportive,” she said. “He tells you, loudly, when you screw up because he wants you to fix it so you can succeed. I almost always ride my best when I’m around Rob because his confidence in me makes me confident in myself.”
Right now, Anna has 6 horses, most of which are leased out. She has the ponies she rode in the pony jumpers that taught her to jump. She also has her equitation horse that is leased out in Massachusetts. Additionally, she has two jumpers, Charlie and Prize. Charlies is an older Thoroughbred who is doing 1.20m courses, and Prize is a rescue mare that jumps 1.30m.
Anna didn’t experience the dreaded “aging out syndrome” like some riders do when their junior career ends.
“I’ve always viewed my junior career as the start of a long-term career in the horse world. Riding as a junior is not the end, it’s the beginning. Even though I didn’t earn any big titles during my junior years, I’m thrilled with what I learned and the experiences I had,” Anna said. “This sport is a constant education. If you don’t succeed in your junior years, you have the rest of your amateur or professional years to try again. I’m excited to see what my future as a non-junior holds.”
Although Anna is riding with Don Stewart, she plans on continuing to rider with her father as well. Anna has several trainers, and she enjoys getting to work with a number of different professionals as it gives her different ways to think about things.
“It’s nice to gather all the information I can, try each method, and then decide what works best for me, my style, and my horses,” she said.
Although Anna did not get to meet her goals as a junior, she has discovered one thing: time is a friend when it comes to riding.
“Tomorrow always provides us with the opportunity to do better and to try harder. Time provides us with knowledge and experience, which is invaluable and never plentiful enough in the horse world. You also have to enjoy each step of the journey,” she said. “If you don’t like the path you take to get to your goal, was the goal really worth it? I may not have qualified for the Maclay, but I have nothing but fond memories of every day I spent working towards that dream.”
We asked Anna her advice for riders that want to qualify for the Big Eq Finals. She said be realistic.
“If you are 17 years old, just moving up to the 3′, and have only shown on the local circuit, it’s not going to happen. Now, there is nothing wrong with being 17, moving up to 3′, and only showing on the local circuit. It’s just not the recipe that gets you to a Big Eq Final. There are reasons I didn’t qualify. I didn’t have enough time, money, or experience,” she said. “You need to have the right horse, enough money to show a couple times per month, and enough time to really get the experience you need over the equitation courses.”
She also suggested that someone show as often as possible because a show is a completely different atmosphere than riding at home.
“There is a lot of self-inflicted pressure in the ring and experience is the only cure.” Anna said, “In addition to that, the more courses you see and ride, the better.”
Like myself, Anna suffers from a case of the nerves, and she said it tends to affect her eye. However, she found that time, experience, and developing confidence in herself have helped her. She also said that coming to the realization that she can’t always be perfect was another big thing that helped.
As usual, we asked Anna who she looks up to in the horse world, and she of course said Beezie Madden.
“She’s phenomenal. She’s gutsy, intelligent, and unbelievably solid. It has always bothered me that so many upper level riders let their position go out the window. People make excuses constantly, like ‘it’s more important to be effective than pretty.’ I get it. It is hard to ‘equitate’ over bigger jumps on horses who jump with so much power, but both Beezie and McLain Ward prove it’s possible to be effective and have an effective, attractive position. I really admire that.”
Anna’s favorite brands include:
- Tailored Sportsman
- Essex Classics
- Horseware Ireland
She also loves to buy on eBay and high-end used tack Facebook groups.
Anna said she believes that one never knows where this sport is going to take them.
“…[M]y mother has said to me a lot ‘Everything that has happened has led to this.’ It doesn’t matter which incident she’s talking about, it always holds true … I started showing with Don last year for the sole purpose of qualifying for the Maclay. Instead of that, I got a job with him, which is much better, in my opinion. Since we can’t tell what path we’re on, it makes no sense to panic when things are going wrong. There is always a silver lining, though it may be hard to find, and you can always turn bad into good. This advice has kept my eyes open and provided me with a lot of opportunities I never thought I would be fortunate enough to receive.”