Chris Joyce grew up waiting for the day he would turn 7 and be allowed to join his older sister riding with the New Canaan Mounted Troop, a non-profit horsemanship program in New Canaan, Connecticut. From 7 to 18, Chris put in his work day each week — though it often became more than that — so he could ride once a week. In high school, he decided to pursue show jumping competitively and began riding with Kate Oliver at CEO Stables in Bedford Hills, New York, where he now works while doing his junior year of college online.
Chris comes from a large family — so large, in fact, that his dad’s side keeps a “Joyce Family Directory” of all of his cousins. Chris is number 146, going back to his great-great-grandparents — yet somehow Chris is the only rider.
“I love show jumping because to me it really feels like a team sport, and I enjoy the relationships you build with the horses,” Chris said. “It’s a challenging sport, and add a horse into the mix, it only gets more interesting.”
Speaking of sports, Chris is a self-proclaimed die-hard New York Yankees and Giants fan, which occupies most of his time outside of riding and studying. “I’ve been this way all my life, and it probably won’t change,” he said, “no matter how bad the Giants are!”
Photo by Amédée Maggard
From riding at 3, mutton bustin’, 4-H and barrel racing to showing Western pleasure, showmanship and horsemanship up to the American Paint Horse Association World Show in Ft. Worth, Texas, Ronald “Ron” Stephens has been a horseman all his life. He grew up in Loveland, Colorado, where his parents bred Paint Horses. In college, Ron began working with Karen Banister — and fell in love with English and jumping. From the supportive, down-to-earth community to the special partnership with the horse and the value of each different phase, eventing is where Ron has found full expression of his equestrian passion.
Now, Ron balances his career as a pilot with campaigning in Training Level with Farrago S, a Dutch Warmblood known to friends and fans as Froggy. Ron found and imported Froggy, who’s nearly 18 hands to perfectly complement Ron’s 6-foot-5 frame, with the help of Angelika Beutel at Summit Equestrian. Ron relies on Rochelle Costanza and the Platinum Farms team to keep Froggy in shape during the one to two weeks a month Ron is “gallivanting around the world.” He makes good use of his world travels, including indulging his passion for skiing. His bucket list is to ski every continent, and only COVID prevented him from completing the final continent on his list this year: Antarctica.
Ron calls himself a “hoarder of hobbies” including not just horses and skiing but traveling, mountain biking, rafting, dancing, scuba and more, but what makes him fascinating also includes what meets the eye. “I have heterochromia — two different colored eyes — and it’s the only thing hetero on me,” he said. “Sorry, ladies.”
Photo by Jennifer Slade
Whether it’s been breeding and starting successful dressage horses or training for physique competitions, Sean Rae is not afraid of a challenge. In fact, that’s exactly why he’s so passionate about dressage.
“The thing I like about dressage is that it can never be mastered,” Sean said. “Each new horse I encounter makes me call upon my experience as a rider, my experience as a father, my experience as a veterinary technician, or my degree in animal science, along with the countless hours and years spent in the saddle — and even after all of that, at the end of the day a new horse will come into the barn that can make me sit back and think, Wow, I have to come up with a completely new way to approach this one.”
Sean has been riding since he was 5, when he began with a year of vaulting. He started training professionally at 14, which led to starting young horses — many of which went on to national acclaim. Now, Sean has relocated to eastern Washington, where he’s taking a step back from horses to focus on his equestrian real estate career, but he sees it as a “rebuilding phase” to prepare for returning to FEI-level competition.
We’ll certainly be ready to see him in the ring, and he’ll be ready to be there in more ways than one. Sean says he’s obsessed with hiking and the great outdoors, and if he’s not hiking, he’s in the gym — training for physique competitions. “That’s been an interesting experience, as I essentially got into the sport as an adult amateur,” he said. “It gave me a whole new perspective for the fear and anxiety that my clients must feel when they go to their very first dressage show!”
Photo by Tracey Bish
Jake Evans was born and raised in Texas, and his mother swears his first word was “horsey.” Despite his early fascination, he didn’t start riding until he was 12, through a neighbor who rode with Peter Pletcher. His passion took over when he started show jumping, and he’s dedicated his life to it. Those who know him say Jake is extremely hardworking and ambitious, with short- and long-term goals always in mind no matter how challenging they may be.
Jake now lives in L.A., where he works for Archie Cox at Brookway Stables. Jake loves traveling coast to coast, working with equitation and hunters to Grand Prix horses. He takes his job seriously, but if you catch him on a break, he’s always cracking jokes and thrives on the camaraderie of a horse show. “What I like most about show jumping is the raw emotion and adrenaline it can make you feel, and the partnership you get to form with the horses,” Jake said. “Archie truly runs a spectacular program that I’m very grateful to be a part of.”
A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Jake also enjoys the perfection sport of archery and often practices his shooting. He can also be found staying fit at the gym or working with and training his Belgian Malinois, Chief. “We always joke that Chief is the dog version of Jake,” said Jake’s girlfriend, McKenzie Mills, who knows them both well — good at their jobs but with a soft side. “He’s actually protection trained so he always makes us feel very safe, and believe it or not, he’s a big cuddle bug at the end of the day!”
Photo by McKenzie Mills
Dan Erik Englund
When Dan Erik Englund was 5 years old and he ventured out for a “little unexpected walk,” little did he know it would lead him to a career that would take him throughout Europe and North America. While it took worried parents an hour to find him, when they finally did it was in the middle of a neighbor’s large field, petting a mare and foal. Though it was a terrifying experience for his parents, Erik was hooked on horses and they supported his passion, including leaving his hometown at 15 to attend Sweden’s top horse training school five hours away. From there, he developed his talents in the UK, Spain and the United States with Olympians and other top trainers.
“I didn’t pay rent until age 30 due to living at farms of employment,” Erik said. “I honestly think that’s one of my biggest accomplishments in life. I’ve been given the opportunity to travel the world, which I have so much appreciated. I’ve experienced the most amazing but bizarre things you could ever imagine. It has 100% shaped me into who I am, and also built so many wonderful friendships all over the world.”
Erik has been working alongside Swedish trainer Ida Mattisson for 10 years and trains out of Twinwood Equestrian Center in Houston, Texas. He enjoys being able to cross-train both dressage and show jumping, which he feels not only improves his riding but deepens his connection with each horse. Erik also loves running a smaller rehab business, utilizing Twinwood’s facilities to give horses the best chance possible at returning to the show ring.
When he’s not riding and training, Erik can be found improving fitness and deepening connections another way — through dance, even on a patio with a face mask and proper social distancing. “Sometimes a body moving is more interesting than listening to somebody speak,” he said. “We do the same in riding, right?”
Erik with Sotto Voce, owned by Susan Ellis
Photo by Kristie Nichols, moonfyrephotography.com
It’s safe to say Cody Wooten’s life revolves around horses. He started riding at a barn close to where he grew up in Maryland when he was 8 years old, and has been pursuing the highest level of equestrian perfection. He got a degree in equine science from Centenary University in 2016, worked in Europe riding and training hunter prospects, and then returned to the U.S. to work for Olympian Peter Wylde.
Since 2019, Cody has been working alongside Caitlyn Shiels as a trainer at Caitlyn’s True North Stables in Antioch, Illinois. “We manage, train and campaign competitive show hunters and jumpers, as well as help our clients reach their equestrian goals in and out of the show ring,” Cody said. “I love working with show horses because I enjoy being a part of the horses’ progression, as well as helping riders compete at all levels. I also love the attention to detail and aspirations of perfection that come with the sport.”
Cody’s perfectionism carries over into his other interests, too. When he goes to restaurants, they’ve got to be really good. He stays fit through exercise and makes sure to keep up relationships and visit friends that he wouldn’t normally see on the show circuit. He enjoys listening to podcasts and keeping up with politics, but his love second to horses is music: Cody has memorized the lyrics to just about any song you can think of. We’d love to put that skill to the test!
Photo by Collin Pierson of Fine Art Horses
Jeremy Kelman’s role as managing director for global electronics sales is hard to explain, involving algorithms for trading stocks in large quantities. His other roles, however, are easy to explain: horse show husband and devoted father. Though he hadn’t been close enough to a horse to know how big they truly are until he met his wife, Ali Sirota, Jeremy has embraced the showing lifestyle — despite a rough start the first time he met Ali’s horse, Briljant.
“The first time I met B, I tried petting his nose and he gave me a nice little bite on my left shoulder,” Jeremy recalled. “That was my indoctrination into horses, and I thought, I do not like these things. Their legs are powerful, they can kick you — but their teeth are huge and they can bite you and kill you! That was my first foray into horses, but now B and I have a very special relationship, and I love him more than any animal I’ve ever had. He has the biggest heart, and I’d never known you could have a relationship with a horse or another animal like the relationship we have. It’s been very special, especially with where it came from — him biting me.”
Jeremy also savors his relationships with his children, 13-year-old Lylah, 11-year-old Elijah and 2 ½-year-old Savannah. He supports all three of his girls — Ali, Lylah and Savannah — in their riding, spending countless hours at horse shows, lessons and the barn. He enjoys snowboarding, traveling and being around horses, but not riding — yet. He hopes to brave getting in the saddle and learning to ride so he can go on a horseback riding excursion on his next trip to Europe. He’ll certainly have lots of people cheering him on when he does — and it’s sure to go better than when he first met a horse!
Photo by Kathy Russell Photography
Jason Koffel was raised around horses, but a profession in the equestrian industry was never on his radar. “Unless your parents were farriers, no one really says ‘I want to be a farrier’ when they’re 10,” Jason said. “It’s something that you just fall into, which was my case.”
As a gifted athlete, Jason pursued his sports career into college. His sophomore year, he dislocated his shoulder — and chose a different course. “Since I was done playing ball, I thought, I really don’t want to be in college,” he admitted. “A dumb reason, I know, but I come from a long line of tradesman and I’m a firm believer you don’t necessarily need to go to college to make something of yourself.”
His family had always had horses, and Jason enjoyed watching the craftsmanship of their farrier when he would come to take care of their horses’ feet. In the spring of 2005, Jason decided to attend the Kentucky Horseshoeing School and has been a practicing, full-time farrier ever since. Now, he specializes in shoeing sport horses in the Houston, Texas, area, where he also enjoys gardening, growing and raising his own food, and is an avid archery hunter.
Though he may never have reached the major leagues, Jason still gets his sporting fix in — including competing with his wife in the North American Wife Carrying Championships, once placing fourth with a time of 1:06.03.
Photos by Kristie Nichols, moonfyrephotography.com
TJ O’Mara grew up watching his three older sisters ride. Even when he began riding himself, though, it was uncertain if “horseman” was in his future. “Initially, I wasn’t attached to horses,” TJ admitted, “but after experiencing a bond with one particular horse, I was hooked — I also took any chance I got to be competitive with my sisters!”
That competitive spirit led TJ through a successful junior career to becoming a young professional, when he balanced riding professionally with graduating from the University of Kentucky in only three years. Last year, he spent six months in Belgium riding and competing young horses for Jos Lansink, and now TJ works for Max Amaya at Stonehenge Stables in Colts Neck, New Jersey, and Wellington, Florida.
“I like the experience of true competition in our discipline,” TJ said. “It’s fascinating to see the level of competition in hunters, equitation and show jumping. They all offer something different, and it’s great that so many professionals can make a proper career out of each respective division.”
After growing up riding with Max, TJ is grateful for the opportunities he’s been given to succeed in the sport as a professional. He’s looking forward to building his career and seeing what his future holds — but horses are more than just his career, they’re TJ’s life.
“Any day away from the horses is a bad day for me, but on my days off I enjoy traveling and visiting different cities,” he said. “It’s rare to get a day off, but my goal is to visit as many places as possible.”
Photo by Kind Media
Jesse Kimmelman didn’t seem destined to be a horseman. He was raised on Long Island in a family of attorneys and professional tennis players. But a pony ride while visiting his grandparents in Arizona changed the course of Jesse’s life when he was 6 years old. Horseback riding at summer camp when he was 9 cemented his passion, he asked his parents for lessons and his riding took off from there. He rode hunter-jumpers through Florida circuits, indoors, medal and Maclay finals until he aged out of the juniors — but not before he discovered his life’s work.
“I was 14 years old, one of my equitation horses had colic surgery at Fairfield Equine and I went to visit him with my mother,” Jesse remembered. “I saw him walking around the recovery stall hooked up to IVs and it was like one of those lightbulb, ‘aha!’ moments. There was not much else I could see myself being happy doing.”
After a year of undergraduate studies, Jesse fast-tracked his life by starting vet school at 19. He graduated, experienced veterinary medicine at a private practice and realized he wanted a better work-life balance. He started his own one-man practice, Kimmelman Alternative Veterinary Services, providing primarily chiropractic and acupuncture services to clients between New York and Florida, as well as at shows across the country.
When he’s not working, Jesse enjoys traveling, the infrequent tennis match and spending time with family and friends. “I do ride occasionally, but I’ve realized it’s easier not to because when I do, I remember how much I miss it and would like to own a horse again,” Jesse admitted. In the meantime, he’s found himself quite in demand at work — and looks forward to owning a nice amateur-owner horse someday.
Photo by Daniel Scinto