By Diane Carney
Equestrian, Judge and Commentator — West Palm Beach, Florida
How long have horses been a part of your world?
As long as I can remember! I got my first ribbon at the National Western Stock Show, I was 6 years old in the 11 and under equitation on The Irishman. I was jumping 3’6” by the time I was 10 and had fallen off a hundred times by then. I was doing the Rothmans Grand Prix in Edmonton, Canada, by the time I was 17. I went to college and got a bachelor’s degree in political science and history before working in the Colorado legislature for four years while waiting to get into law school. I never got in, and my best friend, Christy Honnen, told me I could get paid to ride horses, so I became a professional in 1980 and a great life has followed.
What part do you play in the horse world?
I wear a lot of hats and I see it as my life, not a job. In all of them, the goal is to promote the sport of hunters, show jumpers and equitation. When doing the livestream commentary, I’m talking about horsemanship at all these levels and I think the horse people tuning in to the livestream enjoy our conversation of the mechanics and can appreciate the sport better from the in-depth conversation from the rider perspective. I’ve appreciated being ask to be commentator by Traverse City, the Pennsylvania National, the National Horse Show for the ASPCA Maclay Finals, Capital Challenge for WCHR week and a few more.
I’m a USEF “R” licensed official and while judging, I believe it’s a great opportunity and responsibility to keep the basics of horsemanship and the quality of jumping front and center. That’s also the focus of the many national clinics that I teach, very focused on the basics of our American riding system.
What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
The horses! They’re such great athletes and have wonderful hearts. I enjoy helping people increase their horse IQ to appreciate the horse and not let the focus shift to showing or business first. To watch a junior rider from small pony to grand prix winner both nationally and internationally is fun for me.
What are your goals for the future?
I have plans to coordinate riders, both professionals and amateurs, to compete internationally. I enjoy judging, commentating and teaching, and have no intent to slow down.
What is your biggest achievement?
My contribution to the International Hunter Derby and since 2007 the phrase “derby horse” has become part of our vocabulary. And my contribution to Athletes for Equity in Sport, Inc., which will assist in the essential positive checks and balances needed in the SafeSport process to protect all athletes. (athletesforequity.org)
Favorite thing outside of horses?
Golden retrievers – I’ve had five: Gunther, Bernie, Bud, WallE and Rover.
Photos by Melissa Fuller, msfullerphotography.com