By Summer Wessinger-Prehoda
Portraits by Adrienne Morella
Many equestrians are multi-talented, and eventer Whitney Mahloch is no exception. She has trained dressage, hunters, jumpers and eventers to the Advanced level, along with training horses for Western, showmanship and driving. Factor in working as a groom, waitress and exercise rider while running her own freelance training business, and Whitney isn’t just talented, she’s also a busy young professional on the rise.
Owner of Whitmore Equestrian, Whitney can, and will, do almost anything as long as it involves horses. Her unstoppable mindset and passion-driven skill for various disciplines proved to be crucial to her ability to carry on competing with her heart horse after a career-ending injury.
A Diverse Upbringing
As the daughter of a riding instructor and a dairy farmer-turned-mechanical engineer — Steve and Kelly Mahloch of Sundance Farm in Plymouth, Wisconsin — Whitney said the farm and horse life were in the cards for her from the very beginning. Whitney was encouraged from a young age to take part in her local 4-H club so she could get time in the saddle in an affordable way. She quickly took to all aspects of the 4-H community and rode to Grand Champion titles in both English and Western during State Finals.
Whitney proved her versatility not only in discipline but also in breeds of horses as she acquired various mounts: a pinto pony, a show-type Quarter Horse mare and an Arabian gelding, all before she turned 13. Each new equine partner added to her knowledge, and soon Whitney had a strong basis in cross-training multiple breeds. Whitney used her earnings from her first 4-H pet project — a sheep she sold for $1,800 —to purchase a 10-year-old Thoroughbred named Brazilian Tommy. It was with this first Thoroughbred that she discovered her love for eventing and rose steadily up the ranks from local 4-H shows to the Preliminary Level.
Whitney attended Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College with scholarships in both English and Western equestrian teams. In her sophomore year, she adopted a 3-year-old Thoroughbred named Military Mind, known as Milo, from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF). She had trained and re-homed a horse from the TRF before, and Whitney could tell something about Milo was special. After a short trial period, she called TRF and told them she was keeping the young gelding.
Whitney graduated with a degree in equine business management, and Milo, whom she had adopted for $500, was successfully moving up through the Advanced levels and into FEI events. Whitney was moonlighting at restaurants, grooming, and picking up rides at the local training track for extra competition cash to continue competing Milo, until an opportunity to work as assistant trainer for Olympic eventer Will Coleman in Virginia changed the course of her life.
“Working with Will really set the bar for me on the level of quality I wanted to exhibit in my own facility and training,” she said. “I had my first introduction to FEI care and competing at the FEI level when I was there, which is something I will always appreciate and take with me.”
After a successful year, Whitney moved on to Cheryl Holekamp at New Spring Farm to work specifically on the stadium jumping aspect of eventing as she continued to produce Milo up the ranks. Whitney then became a part of Tradewinds Farm in Ocala, Florida, before summering in Pennsylvania for two years at Blue Hill Farm under the guidance of International CCI5* rider Missy Ransehousen.
Since 2014, Whitney has also returned to her roots each year to help with the Sundance Farm Horse Trials held at her family’s farm. “I usually fly up before the event starts to get everything lined up and ready to go,” Whitney said. “I love being involved in all of it — setting up jumps and flags, putting ropes up, placing all the decorations out, assembling the stabling, and everything else that comes with putting on a good event.”
The production isn’t only a family matter, but incorporates the whole eventing community in the area with over 100 people contributing their efforts to make it a success. “It’s so much fun to give back to the eventing community,” Whitney said. “We try to look at things from a competitor’s perspective because in reality we are the competitors as well, so we try to make it as nice as we would want it to be if we were paying to ride in it.”
A Hiccup in the Plan
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitney was faced with a difficult decision. After an event where Milo seemed labored and struggled to complete the cross-country phase, she made the difficult decision to pull the gelding out of competition and proceed with tie-back surgery.
“He stopped twice on the cross-country course, and this is a horse that has never ever stopped out there. I immediately thought, What’s wrong?” Whitney said. The left side of Milo’s airway was paralyzed and led to a drastic reduction in breathing ability, a common issue especially in ex-racehorses.
After a successful surgery, Whitney was able to put him back into work and begin training again, but a longer-term issue reared its head. Once the pair returned to jumping, Whitney knew something wasn’t right. A thorough vet examination pinpointed a tendon that had been an issue throughout the years and was now bothering him more than ever before.
“I had tears in my eyes when I asked the vet if I would be able to continue to jump Milo or if I needed to stop,” Whitney said. “He knew I didn’t want to hear it, but he advised that because of Milo’s history, it would be best for him to give up jumping. It’s so sad, when something like this happens. You can’t help but go back and watch all the old videos you have and think, How is it possible we’ll never get to do that again?”
“With Milo, I feel like I owe it to him to be willing to continue on a different path because he has always been so willing with me,” Whitney said. “Whenever I asked him for something new, he didn’t always give me the right answer immediately but he was perfectly willing to try and figure out what I was asking so he could do it for me. A horse with that kind of demeanor is not always easy to find.”
Milo has been the partner Whitney always dreamed of and from the day she first sat on him, Whitney knew that his gaits were above average for a Thoroughbred. “The day I went and tried him, I was trotting him around and his trot was just the most lofty and beautiful trot I had ever felt on a Thoroughbred,” she laughed. “I was like, Well, this is crazy! and I realized there was an incredible amount of potential in him.”
In prior years, the pair had received their USDF Silver medal, so Whitney had no doubts about his ability to excel in the dressage ring. So, following her decision to not jump him anymore, Whitney decided to make Milo her dressage dance partner.
Dancing Down the Aisle
Moving into the dressage ring is not too surprising, as Whitney is almost as passionate about dancing as she is riding.
“Riding is dancing and dancing is riding,” Whitney affirmed. “Both are sports where you’re required to hold a certain position while moving your body in tandem with another being!”
Whitney added that what she has learned on the dance floor has carried over into her riding career and vise-versa; and in typical Whitney fashion, her love of dance varies from line to swing to ballroom dancing.
In a way that can only be described as a romance meet-cute, dancing is how she met her now-fiancé, Joel Grabe. After moving to Ocala, she went with friends to a country bar to try line dancing. Eager to add line dancing to her resume, Whitney began going to the bar regularly to practice. “When I was leaving one night, I noticed the security guy had on an Ariat hat, and I figured he knew nothing about horses but I told him I liked his hat anyway,” she recalled. “He apparently decided that was all the green light he needed to ask for my name and number the next time I was there!”
While Whitney was right and Joel is not a pro in the saddle, she describes him as the ultimate boyfriend-groom both at horse shows and at her home facility. He has even become part of the set-up crew at the family’s horse trial.
She and Joel, an architectural design associate, were married in August at Whitney’s family farm—with the intention of getting back to work soon afterward. Her first order of business is to find another young talent to train in eventing while she and Milo continue to dance up the levels of dressage.
For more information, visit www.whitmoreequestrian.com
Photos by Adrienne Morella, www.adriennemorellaphotography.com