Rutledge Farm Sessions
Aleco: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Sandy: To enjoy life to the fullest.
Aleco: What would you say to an up and coming rider as a key to success?
Sandy: Honesty, integrity, and hard work.
Aleco: Why do you like teaching clinics?
Sandy: To see the progression of people, from the minute we start the clinic, to the minute we finish, and all the different phases they go through, whether it’s getting nervous, or getting angry, or getting sad, to being happy. When they end and they say to me, “Oh my gosh. I felt that. I know what you meant.” Then, I know it has been a successful clinic.
Aleco: What are the three most important lessons that you emphasize to your students?
Sandy: Remember it’s a team. You and your horse. Remember that if you want your horse to peak performance, then you need to be able to peak performance, and consider them to be best friends forever.
Aleco: What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your career?
Sandy: The beginning of my career was a long time ago, just so you know. I don’t know. I don’t really think there is…. I think it’s all gone the way I thought it would have. It’s still going strong. I don’t know if I would have done anything differently, or wish that someone would have told me something different. I don’t have an answer to that question. It’s been great, and it’s been a great ride. Literally a great ride. (Laughs)
Aleco: In general, regarding horses, what do you wish people would pay more attention to?
Sandy: Learning their personalities, and spending more time with them. Not just time on their backs. And I’m not saying you have to take them for a walk 20 times a day, but learn their manners in the stalls. I think that my favorite thing to do is to go down to the barn, at night, when it’s quiet, and listen to the horses eat hay. It’s a great sound, and when it’s quiet, down there, you can learn about them. Whether their comfortable, physically, or whether their nervous about something, you’re going to see all that, as opposed to when we’re on them and we tend to just dial in on those moments, and those minutes, that we’re on them, and don’t know those other sides to them.
Aleco: If you could change one thing about your sport, then what would it be?
Sandy: As for my own personal reasoning, but for my fellow riders and professionals… if I could change one thing, then I would make safety vests required. It’s because I think that we’re in a dangerous sport, and I think that we need to do all that we can to protect ourselves.
Aleco: What is the most memorable moment of the sport for you?
Sandy: You mean like in my own career?
Sandy: Most memorable? Let me see. I think I’ll probably have to give you a couple. I don’t remember what year it was, but maybe 2005, and I rode a lovely first year green horse, named Indian Summer, for Ralph and Holly Crysto, and we had a clean sweep at Devon, and in that division, which I’m not sure there’s been more than very few horses who have ever had a clean sweep of all their classes. In 2008, I was the WHR, Professional of the Year. Gosh, the list goes on. I’ve been so blessed. I have so many magical memories. I couldn’t pick a priority, because I don’t think it would be fair.
Aleco: How have you seen the sport evolve through your career?
Sandy: The qualities of horses and riders have improved 10-fold. The horse flesh that our level was showing, especially, I mean it’s amazing, and the riders, there’s just so many good riders up there. If I was to say what I would like to be different, for the up and coming generations, and this certainly isn’t about everybody, but that the kids growing up were a little more hands-on, with their horses and ponies, and that they learned how to braid and such, and then, when they’re old enough, to be able to learn how to drive a truck and trailer. All those things that we did as kids, such as clean the stalls, themselves, and spend time in the barn, and I just wish all the kids got to do that.
Aleco: Can you please tell about some of your favorite exercises for your horses for when you’re not showing?
Sandy: Some of my favorite things to do, when I’m not showing, is really to take the horses on the hills, if they’re available, because I think that hill work is great. You don’t need to jump all the time, to have your horse fit, and I think that the hills are an amazing tool. Unfortunately, in Florida, we don’t get to have those. But really, I’m more of a working the horses on the flat girl, more than jumping person. I think that gets them fitter and stronger. If I could just have hills, that’s the only thing Florida doesn’t have is hills, and I don’t think we’re getting them any time soon. (Laughs)
Aleco: What is some advice you would give to an up and coming rider?
Sandy: Advice for up and coming rider? A little bit of what I said earlier. Remember that honesty and integrity are the two most important things. Dedication to what we do and realizing it’s not just about winning. It’s about creating a partnership with an animal, and teaching each other, and going through all the levels of training, and then, if you have success, great, and if not, then it’s okay. It’s hard with any sport. We all want to win, and unfortunately, we all make mistakes, and it’s hard to say it’s “Okay”, if you make mistakes… but you learn to say that it’s okay if I make a mistake, because it’s going to happen.