July 2017 - Dressage Life: What Makes A Successful Professional
Written by Genay Vaughn
Thursday, 29 June 2017 18:55

It’s a lifestyle, not a job, and one in which hard work, passion and paying dues pays off.

You have to be a hard worker and have a really good work ethic. I don’t think anyone will be successful starting out unless they are a hard worker or have a really good work ethic because nothing is handed to you when you are just starting out and trying to make your name.

Genay Vaughn and Donarweiss GGF passing the jog for the U25 Grand Prix during the Adquan Global Dressage Festival, Wellington, FL, 2017. Photo: Lily Forado

International Youth Ceremony during the Adquan Global Dressage Festival, Wellington, FL, 2017.

You don’t always get to ride the fanciest horses or the most made horses and you don’t always get the best jobs where you are riding. For example, I cleaned a lot, too; I cleaned everything. I scrubbed the stalls until they were completely clean, I cleaned the entire farrier area.

People may think it’s all glamorous but there are parts that you have to do when you’re just starting out - you have to pay your dues when you’re working off your lessons. I ride all kinds of horses that anyone wants me to ride.

It’s really being a hard worker and having a lot of passion for the sport. It’s not always glamorous and fun when you’re on your hands and knees in the stall, cleaning for hours. The people who do those jobs are often the working students and the young professionals who want to be the top people someday and they have to start at the bottom.

I think the people who don’t become successful professionals are the people who think it’s going to be handed to them, or they think they’re too good to scrub stalls or too good to ride certain types of horses. Those are the people that may never make it, or maybe they get lucky and get a sponsor where they don’t have to do all that.

I think the best people and the most passionate people are the people who stick with it. They’re willing to do any job to get lessons or to work their way to the top.

When you’re at the top it’s not always easy, either. You’re riding tons of horses, and maybe they’re better quality horses, but it’s still really long hours and long days. Debbie McDonald would be at the barn coaching from sun up to sun down, and Adrienne Lyle would be at the barn riding from sun up to sun down. It’s not as easy as people think it is.

It’s a Lifestyle

You have to be ready to make this your entire life. I was able to go to college and ride, but when you want to make this your profession, you have to make it your entire life. You have to be passionate – you have to ride the not-so-trained horses and have fun doing it. You have to have a love for it and stick with it because it’s going to be your entire life.

The young pros I met in Florida are really passionate and really dedicated, riding so many horses a day, even if they are not the best horses or they are young horses, and cleaning stalls. They are really dedicated to what they do as working students.

Dressage Life: Genay Vaughn is a full-time college student and active dressage competitor who also trains young horses and teaches students at her family’s Starr Vaughn Equestrian in Elk Grove. Last year she took the first step toward her lifelong goal of representing the United States in international competition when she was selected for the first-ever United States Under-25 Grand Prix team to compete in Europe. Her current equine partner is the Hanoverian stallion Donarweiss GGF (De Niro – Hohenstein – Archipel), owned by Starr Vaughn Equestrian Inc., bred by Greengate Farm, and approved AHS, ISR/OldNA, CWHBA, AWS,and RPSI. Find Genay on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/genay.vaughn.5

Then there are others who are not willing to do all that, or they want everything handed to them – those are the people who eventually drop out. Or they go to college and they find other interests they like better, like parties and proms – normal college life.

That’s fine if that’s what you want. You can always come back to the horses later if that’s your choice.

Words of Wisdom

My dad always said that there’s always going to be someone working harder than you, trying to take your spot, so you’d better be ready to work hard. When you’re taking days off with your friends, there’s always someone practicing and trying to be better than you. So you have to be able to make your entire life about it.

This is a lifestyle – it’s not a profession or a hobby. You have to ask yourself if you’re passionate about the sport. You have to work hard. You won’t always win, so you have to accept it. Never be satisfied. If you lose, don’t throw a tantrum! Ride as many horses as you can and learn to train horses up the levels, so you’re not a one-hit wonder. The more horses you ride, train and show, the better you become. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Read books. Become more educated. Never think you’re too good to ask for help. Work hard and be passionate – it’s worth it!