Hold Your Horses

Four young women tell personal stories about their commitment and dedication to what they love most: their horses.

By Manning Lee // Photos by Stephen Walker

Adie Parish at the Little Clovelly Farm barns where she rides her horse, Cuba.

Adie Parish with Cuba

“We ride as a team”

I’m a Junior at The Gunston School. I’ve been riding for 10 years since I was in second grade.

I do hunter jumper events and I compete at local shows in the Chesapeake Bay Horse Show Association (CBHSA). I jump over obstacles and in the flat class, I walk, trot and canter. I also show in Maryland Horse Show Association. (MHSA). In 2018, I was the Grand Champion Non-Hunter Horse and in 2019, I won CBHSA Equitation Class which judges how each rider looks, how well she is positioned, and how she looks on the horse.

Parish at the CPI Invitational at The Ridge at Riverview Farm, Asbury, NJ. 2019. Photo by Paws and Rewind.

I ride for Hilary Gibbons-Neff and every year she takes a group of us to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association. I’ve been competing with her since ninth grade where we ride as a team. On competition day, you go to the barn and get dressed and ready to compete. Next, we draw to see which horse we ride and that is random. We get one horse for our flat competition and one for the jumping. Since we don’t ride our own horses, it makes it interesting since we never know what kind of horse we’re going to get.

These competitions are great and it is a lot of fun to be with our friends. Last year I was excited that I qualified for Zone, which is another step. I was excited about that, but even more exciting is that two girls on our team, who are a few years younger than me, qualified for Nationals.


Calista Bell in the paddock at Little Clovelly Farm in Preston, with her flea-bitten grays, C’est Bon Cidane and Fable.

Calista Bell with C’est Bon Cidane and Fable

“Step back and start over”

I graduated from Saints Peter and Paul in 2018 and I’ve ridden horses most of my life. I compete in high adult jump 3’6-3’9. Last year, in the middle of a competition, my horse and I jumped a bit too fast and too soon and crashed right into the jump. I broke my pelvis in two places, my tailbone, and bruised my ribs and lungs. In April, I had surgery but entered another competition in June right after my surgery.

Bell competing on C’est Bon Cidane at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in 2018; Photo by Shawn McMillen.

In August, my horse, C’est Bon Cidane, came down with cellulitis and I am unable to ride him until he heals. We bought another horse in October through the Retired Racehorse Project and his name is Bluegrass Demon. I call him Blue. As a retired racehorse, he needs a lot of retraining to become a jumper, but he is a wonderful horse. I work with him seven to eight hours a week. He is a great horse and is working hard. He will be ready soon to compete in jumping.

What I’ve learned about life through my recent adversities is that sometimes it’s better to take a step back and start over. I decided that through everything that I want to become an occupational therapist. I want to work with the horses to help people heal. I plan to study at Towson University.


Taylor Howard and Paxton after a grooming at the Little Clovelly Farm.

Taylor Howard with Paxton

“It’s mostly about trust”

I’m a sophomore at North Caroline High School. I’ve been riding horses since I was four years old. I compete in hunter jumper events in the .80 meter and also in Equitation. I train at Little Clovelly Farm with Hilary Gibbons-Neff.

I recently had to put my old horse down and someone I knew heard what happened and sold me her horse named Paxton. Paxton is an amazing animal, but it takes time to work with a new horse and for us to learn how to work with each other. I can say that it is a little complicated, but it is mostly about trust. Once we trust each other well enough, then we will do very well.

Howard and Imagine Dragons (aka Paxton) compete in the 2’6” hunters at WIHS local weekend in 2019. Photo by Shawn McMillen.

Our first show was HITS Ocala Winter Circuit in Ocala, Florida. There Paxton and I got third place in the .80 meter. I also competed in the IEA competition with Hilary Gibbons-Neff’s team. I love that competition because there are so many people who compete and my goal for the next year is to move up into a higher level of jumpers into the two-meter jumpers.

I’m a competitive rider, and I’d say I got my competitive spirit from my mother. Speaking of my mother, she also rides in shows. I love that any competition that I’m showing in she is most likely also showing in the competition too. It gives us something to do together as a family.


Rachel Roman and Moose, in Monroe, Washington. Photo by Swaephotography

Rachel Roman and The Mongol Derby

“Life shouldn’t be boring”

I’m Rachel Roman, an adventure-seeking, nature-loving athlete who grew up Royal Oak. I spent my whole life on or around horses. What started with a pony in the backyard turned into a lifelong passion for equestrian work. When I’m not in riding boots, I spend the majority of my time outdoors. Growing up, I was always outside tromping in the woods or in the Bay.

The Mongol Derby is the longest multi-horse race in the world. It’s a 1,000-kilometer competition across the steppes of Mongolia held over 10 days and follows the former messenger routes of Genghis Khan with the racers changing horses every 40 kilometers.

I entered the race on a whim. I sat in on two interviews and I was chosen as one of the 47 riders for August 2019. Each day of the race, the contestants pick out and ride a different Mongol Horse. The Mongol horses are one of Mongolia’s oldest breeds. These semi-feral ancestral horses are short, stocky and and super athletic, and are known for their strength to withstand attacks from prey. Riding the Mongol horse is very different than other horses. The important challenge is just to remain on the horse’s back.

Roman in the Mongol Derby in 2019. Photos by Sarah Farnworth Photography

Each day during the race, we would run the horses from one checkpoint to another. At each checkpoint, we were required to check each horse’s health to see if his pulse rate came down and that it cooled down quickly enough. If a horse finished the day too fatigued or overworked, then the rider was penalized with time added to the day’s total. It’s the rider’s responsibility to care for the horse’s well-being.

What I gained from my experience is a love for the Mongolian people. They have a tremendous sense of hospitality. I definitely want to go back and continue entering races. I have my sights set on Race the Wild Coast in 2021, which is in South Africa, as well as the Common Riding Festival which is a festival along the Scottish boarder. I may even try to go back to Mongolia to serve with my friend bringing medical supplies to a remote tribe there. The possibilities are endless.

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