By Ruby Tevis
Portraits by Shawna Simmons
Augusta Iwasaki is no stranger to a fast-paced lifestyle. For Augusta, success comes with commitment, and her dedication to riding horses has brought her to competitions in every co rner of the United States. In 2019, at 15 years old, she captured the championship title and her first international win in the USHJA International Hunter Derby with her horse Small Kingdom at the Del Mar Horse Park. This is only the beginning for Augusta, who hopes this year will bring about more spectacular wins.
Comparing Augusta’s achievements to her parents’, it is clear the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. As the daughter of renowned trainers Elizabeth Reilly and Chris Iwasaki, Augusta’s been immersed in the horse world from the beginning. “I started riding when I was 4 years old,” she said. “I wasn’t interested at first. I actually stopped riding for a while, but my parents didn’t push me. Eventually, I asked my mom to take me to the barn again, and I haven’t stopped since.”
Today, Augusta trains at her family’s own Makoto Farm in Calabasas, California. “Makoto is my dad’s middle name. It means ‘truth’ in Japanese,” Augusta said. “My father and grandparents have a rich Japanese heritage.” Since it was founded in 2008, Augusta has spent her childhood riding and caring for horses at Makoto Farm. She began showing ponies at age 6, and moved up to showing horses at age 10.
“I’ve had an amazing childhood. Both of my parents are so supportive, but they also know when to push me out of my box,” she said. Because of her parents’ support, competing hasn’t been overwhelming for Augusta. “All of the pressure for showing comes from myself. My mom and dad have never made me feel like I had to do something or win something. They both know how competitive I am, and know that I want to win more than they want me to win.”
A Small Legacy
Several of Augusta’s mounts, including the gelding she captured the USHJA International Hunter Derby champion title with, share one key feature that has brought Makoto Farm to the limelight — the name “Small.”
“The ‘Small’ horses started with a horse called Small Town,” Augusta said. “That was the first horse that brought my parents into the spotlight. He was very special to my family and was very successful. The tradition started in honor of him.” From Small Talk to Small Adventure, Small Gesture and many others, the “Smalls” of Makoto Farm have become a staple in the California hunter-jumper community.
Augusta’s hunter, Small Kingdom, is one “Small” that’s left a big impression. “Small Kingdom, or Rory, is the smartest, most mischievous little horse ever,” Augusta said. “He’s my horse, and I got him about two years ago. He has so much personality and takes care of anyone you put on him. He will do anything you ask him to, from children’s hunters to derby finals.” The 8-year-old warmblood gelding, bred by Italian show jumper Sabrina Sigognini, has opened many doors for Augusta.
“Last May, my goal going into the USHJA International Hunter Derby was to win, but I never thought it was going to happen,” she said. “I just went into the ring to do my best and have fun with my horse.”
With sights set on the top of the podium, Augusta rode Small Kingdom to a score of 373, topping the leaderboard. “I honestly couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Years of prep went into reaching that goal. I did my first international derby when I was 12, so I’d been working up to that victory for a long time.”
It Takes a Village
From Augusta’s first moments on a horse to her first win in the pony division to her globetrotting success as a junior, there has never been a moment where she lacked support. Along with the instruction of her parents, Augusta has studied under Ken and Emily Smith, Erica Quinn and Tasha Visokay.
“Ken and Emily have taught me to expect the best of myself, and that every step taken in the ring is important. Erica has taught me the importance of focus and consistency in the ring,” Augusta said. “Tasha helped me to be confident in my abilities and accept the mistakes that I make. I used to get so caught up in my mistakes, so her guidance has been crucial to me.”
Augusta made lifelong friends while showing ponies as a child, and these connections have grown into her support system today. “The most special part of showing ponies was the friends I made and got to share all of my pony experiences with. A lot of the friends I made when showing ponies are like family to me now,” she said. Along with her human mentors, one of her biggest teachers was her pony, Somekindawonderful. “I got to ride so many special ponies, but he was the pony that taught me the most. He means so much to me because he made me feel like I could do anything.”
Of course, Augusta’s biggest cheerleaders are her parents. “My parents do everything they can to help me reach my goals,” she said. “My parents are my trainers, but they also make sure I’m in a good headspace and prepared to go in the ring. I’ve been able to ride and own some incredible horses because of them. They’ve taught me to be myself, be grateful for all of the things I have, but also to always aim higher, and to push myself to be the best person I can be.”
Outside of the barn, Augusta enjoys reading and spending time with her friends. Between balancing horses and her social life, she attends online school, which has allowed her to take time to travel for spring shows and compete in Wellington over the winter. “I went to a regular school until seventh grade and I really enjoyed it, so switching to online was hard,” she said. Though the adjustment to online school was difficult initially, Augusta has found a perfect balance, and is grateful for the opportunities the flexibility has offered.
As she is nearing her 16th birthday, Augusta is looking toward the future. Recently, she has expanded to showing in all three rings and hopes to build her resume in show jumping and equitation. “Hunters was the first division I ever showed in,” she said. “I didn’t start doing the equitation and jumpers until a lot more recently. The consistency and precision it takes to do hunters has always been very fun for me, but I really enjoy doing the jumpers and I would love to do more in the future.”
For more information, visit www.makotofarms.com/
Photos by Shawna Simmons, www.sasequinephotography.com