Featured Rider November 2018
AADA Featured Rider
Name: Kaitlyn Naughton
Where do you live? Rhode Island
Current Horse(s) name, breed and age: Baron, 2005 RPSI Gelding.
When did you start riding? I was about 6 years old when I began taking riding lessons. Prior to that I can remember staring intently from the back seat as we drove by local horse farms; I would always want to stop and would earnestly tell my mom that I wanted a horse, when finally she responded “Well, if you want a horse you’re going to have to learn how to ride one.” At the time she thought this would be a phase; but throughout the early years of having to be dragged out of the barn at night to working in barns and getting the “whole horse” experience, I soaked up every second being around horses. Over 20 years later I am just as passionate about it as the little girl in the back seat.
What or who inspired you to ride Dressage? My initial riding instruction was actually in the H/J world, and I always enjoyed continuing to have jumping lessons/clinics incorporated throughout my teenage years of riding and training. During my first year of college I began leasing the most incredible FEI Schoolmaster and I was hooked; my focus quickly shifted exclusively to Dressage, and I became serious about training and competing. He fueled my love of Dressage as he took me down centerline for years across Region 8, constantly teaching me along the way. He brought me some of my most memorable showing experiences such as:
- scoring a 66.7% from Lois Yukins at 4th level in 2009
(when he was 27 years old, with 2 errors during our test!)
- participating in the Saturday night awards ceremony at HITS on the Hudson after winning Mitchell Farms sponsored highest scoring “senior” horse in 2011
(scoring a 64.8% as a spry 29 year old!)
That night in August left me with incredibly heartfelt memories that we still refer to as his “retirement ceremony” as we knew going into that show that it would be his last weekend down centerline. He knew the spotlight was on him as he passaged in hand around the arena to impress the crowd.
What is your occupation that allows you to ride? My degree is actually in Early Childhood Special Education. My love of horses brought me to volunteer at a therapeutic riding center during high school where I experienced the rewards of working with children. During a break in my Masters program my love of horses ironically brought me into my current occupation of insurance. I have been fortunate enough to incorporate my lifelong passion with my occupation in our established family business: Naughton Insurance, Inc. I am a fourth generation insurance agent representing Markel’s Horse & Farm Division in the Northeast Region. Currently, I hold licenses in RI, MA, CT, NJ, NY, VT, NH, and ME. My occupation gives me a unique opportunity to fuse my love for horses and experience in the equine world with my career.
What have been your successes in the show ring? After competing in the Dressage arena for over 10 years it is safe to say that I’ve experienced both successes and frustrations (like Baron spooking on centerline during our championship ride!), some comical incidents as well as many learning moments; I am grateful for all of them. Currently I am a USDF Bronze Medalist, with aspirations of finishing my Silver Medal scores. I have also had placings in the East Coast Riders Cup, and qualifications for Regional Championships. Although it has been a few years since I have been in the show ring, I look forward to returning with Baron.
What have been your aha moments in training? I am a firm believer that the greatest aha moments come from the horse. All riders can relate that there is no better feeling in the world than when everything comes together while riding as you and your horse begin to operate as one. It’s the feeling of…”aha, that’s it!” It doesn’t matter whether you are riding pirouettes or simply achieving a solid connection with a horse, that feeling is what makes it all worthwhile and makes you strive for more.
What is the most difficult thing about riding Dressage? Patience; which probably rings true for any discipline involving horses. In the equine world patience is truly a virtue as there is no such thing as an overnight success story. Whether you are developing a young horse, retraining, or even rehabbing a horse from an injury or illness (we all know those accident prone horses!) you will need patience to achieve long-term success. We live in an instantaneous society which expects immediate results; for those of us who are fortunate enough to live a life involving horses, we are humbled to know better. Horses tend to do things in their own time, and it is the time and dedication that we put in which allows us to reap the benefits.
Which trainer(s) have you worked with who have made the most difference to you and your horse(s)? I have been lucky to have ridden with the same trainer, Dione Casey, for the past 20 years. She has instilled many things in me throughout that time, most notably the understanding from a young age that the horse always comes first. Over the years I have also ridden in many lessons with Pamela Goodrich, as well as in clinics with Sharon McCusker, Lars Peterson, and Jennifer Baumert.
Do you own other pets? I do! I have a female German Pinscher puppy named Joules. She was born in October 2017 and is currently in “barn dog” training to be my horse show companion.
What are your other interests outside of horses? Growing up in Rhode Island, I naturally love to be on and around the water. I also love to travel and explore new places and things, which makes travelling for work and making connections with new people something I truly enjoy (I’m not sure how many people can say that about their job!).
What advice can you give other amateurs? Don’t get discouraged! I find that most AA’s are in a unique position when it comes to riding. Every day can feel like a balancing act between work, family, individual responsibilities, and all of the other pulls of life. It can be difficult finding enough hours in the day to devote the time that we’d like into our horses and riding. I joke that I’d love nothing more than to be a lifelong “college kid” and go back to the days where it seemed that I had all the time and flexibility in the world to ride, but reality eventually hits! In my own experience, I have come to appreciate my barn time in a different way as I find solace during the quiet moments spent with my horse. I can feel the stress of the day melt away once Baron nickers when he sees me (most likely for a peppermint). I have come to savor the moments when I can squeeze in riding and lessons. For most AA’s, the mastery of this balancing act seems to make the successes in the arena feel that much sweeter.
Are you a Dressage Amateur and want to be a featured rider?