By Tafra Donberger
Portraits by Kristin Lee
You would never guess that there was a time when Carly Anthony was a timid rider. The winner of multiple USET awards, a successful NCEA equestrian with a national title and All-American honors and currently finding success across the nation, this forward and fashionable equestrian can still humbly recall the time before the titles.
Growing up with a horse trainer for a mom, Carly and her sister, Alexa, were horseback from a young age. “My sister would canter circles around me while I was in the center crying,” Carly recalled laughing. “It took me a while to get confidence.”
It may have taken some time, but when Carly hit 16 and needed to narrow her activities down to one thing, she chose the horses. She began showing in the equitation classes and doing quite well, with the opportunity to train with Karen Healey. Her mother, Cara Anthony, saw Carly’s natural talent and skill with the horses and made the decision to let Carly take the reins of her own grand prix horses, including the very special Vogue, who was not your typical equitation horse.
“We got her in really poor shape, very unloved,” Carly recalled. “She had a very sweet disposition and was willing to do what you wanted, but we had to put a lot of work into her.” Though she may have been a rescue, she turned into an outstanding mount for Carly, and while under Karen’s guidance, Carly and Vogue won the Ronnie Mutch Equitation Championship in Thermal.
Like Mother Like Daughter
Cara knew that Carly had the ability to continue to advance as a junior rider, and their next chance of a horse came in the form of Castaway Lad, “the little grand prix horse that could,” Cara described with a laugh. “I found him in Ireland. Nobody thought much of him; he was a stout, draft-type Irish horse.”
“His barn name was Grumpy,” Carly said. “He was short and stumpy, pigeon toed, big dinner-plate hooves and not your typical show jumper, but oh did that horse give you every ounce of his being to give a clear round!” Cara developed Grumpy into a grand prix horse, but again made the decision to let Carly take over.
“I think the fact Carly recognized what level he was, that he was capable of, gave her the confidence to try for herself,” Cara said. “She thought, I can do it, too, he’s still Grumpy. I can be successful too! I think that was very empowering.”
Carly continued to grow and rack up the wins, but as she developed, she also benefitted from the kindness of the professionals who surrounded her. The many big influences in her riding life have included Karen, George Morris, Joe Fargis, Jimmy Torano and, of course, her mother. As she and Grumpy wrapped up her successful junior career, she could’ve gone pro or taken over the family business, but instead, chose college.
University of Georgia
Carly was accepted with open arms onto the University of Georgia’s equestrian team, where she found incredible opportunities and continued training. Former coach Meghan Boenig recalled Carly’s time on the team fondly. “Obviously she was extremely talented,” Meghan said. “We knew she would have the ability to ride anything and everything.”
Her freshman year, the Bulldogs won the 2009 National Collegiate Equestrian Association’s (NCEA) National Championship. “There were so many incredibly successful upperclassmen to look up to, and to be a part of that as well as contribute to that win was an incredible honor,” Carly said. “The amount of pressure, focus and energy it takes to be there for a week and give everything you have was a great test for future team competitions.”
In NCEA competition, riders are given a four-minute warmup with a horse that’s randomly drawn, and while Carly found that to be the most challenging part of being on the team, being able to read a horse and ride it well was one of her strengths. “One of the things I loved about her was her ability to be effective from step one,” Meghan said. “She could read a horse quickly and she was extremely effective quickly within that four-minute warmup. She had a very quick read and feel for the horses.”
“Even though that’s not enough time to figure out such a complex animal, it pushes you to focus on the most important aspects you need in order to win, and forces you to ride what you have in the moment,” Carly said. “This is a concept I still use today and I believe what makes the top professionals so successful. The ability to get on any horse, feel what you have underneath you in the moment and ride from there is an incredible skill to have as a rider.”
Summers during college were spent as a working student for Eric Lamaze, who helped Carly develop her skills as a show jumper at the five-star and grand prix level, giving her horses to develop then taking them to ride himself or sell. Once graduated, she called and asked him the chances of finding a full-time job with him.
“He said ‘yes!’” Carly laughed. “Working with Eric was one of the best decisions I’ve made so far in my professional career. He gave me confidence as a rider that I never thought I had. While I had to work for it, he trusted me with his horses and believed in me.”
Heading to Madrid
When ready to move on, Carly next worked for Poden Farms, expanding her scope of knowledge and absorbing the different types of barn management and riding style. Then, it was time for a change, so she moved to Madrid, Spain.
In Madrid, Carly pursued other things, but found herself returning to horses, and that’s where Carly Anthony Show Jumping, the official business, began. “It was fairly low key,” Carly explained. “One sales horse, one client to train. I really enjoyed it. I realized my passion was still to compete at a high level and run a high-level business, and in order to do that, I’d be more successful back in the States.”
So Carly returned to the U.S. and found a position riding for Neil Jones Equestrian. “I’d have to say where I am today would not be without all these people I’ve had supporting me,” she said. “I’m grateful for all of their help, especially the horses and opportunities Neil has given me, so that today, I can have my own business and own horses to achieve my dreams.”
She relies heavily on her experiences at Georgia — being a part of a team while also being a strong leader — in her approach to business. “I got four years of trial and error on what makes a good leader,” Carly said. “Because of that, I’m able to manage and run my business the way I do now. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes and learn from them, but I got a jump start because of being on the team.”
Now, Carly aims to stay flexible, because she knows that even though she has a goal, like aiming to represent the U.S. on the international level, she has to take it one moment at a time. “To be in the moment helps a lot, because they’re horses,” she said. “You can go from a sound horse to a lame horse, or your best horse sells. You just have to be open to change but focused on your goals.”
Fashion and Her Horses
Whether in or out of the ring, Carly brings her live-in-the-moment approach to her horses, her business and even her attire. With classic and sharp sponsors that give her elegant lines and clean looks, she likes to add a little bling.
“I’m a one-piece-statement kind of person,” Carly explained. “That goes the same for my tack, riding clothes, horses. It’s classic, but my helmet has a lot of rhinestones; you’ve got to have some fun with it!”
It applies to her horses as well. “They have to have good technique, all of the staple things you want in a good horse,” she said. For her two current mounts, Chacco and Cornetiero, (called Mouse), both owned by Neil Jones Equestrian, she’s nailed down their unique quirks. “Chacco really got me back into the grand prix ring, giving me incredible confidence,” she continued. “Mouse has big presence but is a small horse. He likes to go with his head straight up in the air; he has his own way of going!”
Carly’s background has truly taught her to be prepared for anything, but most importantly, to prepare her horses thoroughly for what they’re intended to do. “She has her horses prepared, the riders prepared as well,” Cara said. “Whatever the rider or horse needs, she works on that to make sure it’s finished before you arrive at the horse show. She has a strong system of preparation.”
Currently Carly is coaching two riders, with several sale horses intended for the grand prix level. She’s focused on growing a strong team, without losing sight of her dreams. “It’s so exciting seeing her owning and doing her own business,” Meghan said. “There’s going to be a real crossroad between enabling others versus her personal goals. I think she’ll do them both!”
As she’s campaigned Chacco and Mouse, she’s been across the country, enjoying the successes and hardships as they’ve come, and she looks forward to continuing that mantra as she moves forward. “I’d like to compete at a high level and have a group of owners, clients and friends that want to be a part of that,” she said. “I want to share that success and enjoyment. At the end of the day, if we’re not enjoying it, what are we doing it for? I want to truly enjoy what I do.”
For more information, visit www.carlyanthonyshowjumping.com
Photos by Kristin Lee Photography, www.kristinleephotography.com, unless noted otherwise
Styled by Life Equestrian, Helen Pollock @life_equestrian; Make-up by Evelyn Illiana, Bomane Salon; Creative by Pernilla Nathan, Equipsy.