July 2016 - CPHA Spotlight: Karli Postel
Written by Kim F. Miller
Friday, 01 July 2016 02:32

A young professional by any other name would smell just as sweet.

by Kim F. Miller

Karli Postel has one of the most respected last names in the equestrian industry. But it’s not her name that landed her the plumb post of assistant trainer and barn manager at Cross Creek Farm in Malibu, straight out of college, three years ago.

Cross Creek partners Lesley Bulechek and Diane Dufau have a lot of nice things to say about Karli, but the adjective that best describes her is “effective,” says Diane.

Diane has known Karli since the Foxfield Riding School scion was a pony-riding pipsqueak. She lent her a mount for the USEF Pony Finals and, later, another for the USET Talent Search Finals. During those years, Karli helped out with pony camps and other programs.  (Karli happily reunited with that Talent Search mount, Lox Graf, who, at 25, is still one of Cross Creek’s favorite school horses.)

Diane recalls judge Jeffrey Welles’ praise for Karli’s riding during those USET Finals. “I remember him explaining that we were not just looking for the pretty rider, but, more importantly, for the effective rider.” That defines Karli, Diane says. Not just as a rider, but in every aspect of her position at Cross Creek: from running a pony camp week that ballooned overnight from four to 14 students to campaigning clients’ top hunters in Open Hunter and Hunter Derby classes. And everything in between, schooling and showing horses, teaching lessons and interacting daily with clients at home and at shows.

“We are so proud to have her here,” says Diane. “She takes so much pride in everything she does. She approaches everything as if it was her own program.”    Lesley sees that pride reflected in how seriously Karli takes the position. An example of that occurred early on when Lesley was reviewing how each horse was prepared for an upcoming show. On the day of the show, Lesley deviated from the notes that Karli had taken on a specific horse’s prep and called her on it. “She pays such careful attention to everything we’re doing.”

The daughter of JoAnn and Bill Postel’s only non-horse-crazy kid, Peter, and Cindy Postel, Karli takes things seriously while also carrying on her family’s legacy of a ready smile, a kind heart and a generous spirit. She is one of those people whose ascent in the sport spurs a smile for the many professionals who’ve seen her grow up in it.

Karli & Lox Graf, her USET Talent Search Finals mount.

Karli, in the white shirt, and Cross Creek partner Lesley Bulechek celebrate student Sabine Buchwald’s win of the CPHA Style of Riding Award during theCPHA banquet. Pictured with them is special award winner Morgan Dickerson.

A Foxfield Upbringing

Karli grew up riding at Foxfield in Westlake Village. She was long a member of the famous Foxfield Equestrian Team, who ride their drill exhibitions without saddle or bridle, using just a wire around the horse or pony’s neck. Karli was often the kid galloping round the ring, standing atop her horse’s back with her arms outstretched.

At about 14, she wanted to step into A circuit hunter/jumper competition more regularly. She began riding with her aunt Kathy Megla and Holly Scapa, who ran a sale horse business together at the time. She rode a lot of their prospects, of various ages and experience levels, to help sell them and gained valuable experience on the bigger show circuits. All the while, she returned regularly for tune-ups with her grandmother JoAnn Postel and grand-aunt Nancy Turrill back at Foxfield.

A career in the horse world was her desire from early on, but she assumed that riding would be the most fun part of that. Gaining teaching experience during her four years earning a psychology degree at Goucher College changed all that.

During her sophomore year at the Baltimore area college, Karli took on a teaching assistant position that enabled her to work with and observe a different riding coach each semester through graduation in 2013. “That really opened my eyes to this type of job,” she says.

In three years at Cross Creek Farm, she’s enjoyed some rewarding experiences from that perspective. One was helping Sabine Buchwald go from timidly jumping a 2’ oxer on her pony to winning last fall’s CPHA Style Of Riding year-end award and now moving into the Modified Jumper division.

Demonstrating some of her Foxfield Equestrian Team skills while riding as a stand-out team member for Goucher College.

“Riding has always and continues to shape my life and it’s nice to witness that happening for other kids,” Karli says. “Especially in Los Angeles. There’s so much going on with technology and various pressures, so it’s great to see kids get involved and excited about riding.”

She feels very fortunate to have landed at Lesley and Diane’s program. Located at Sycamore Farm In Malibu, Cross Creek maintains an average of 25 horses and offers everything from leadline lessons to juniors and amateurs excelling at advanced levels in equitation, hunters and jumpers. If she’s not teaching or riding herself, “I’m watching, listening and observing how they do everything,” Karli says.

Being part of a staff of three is a nice luxury. “It enables us to offer a wider variety of perspectives and we don’t feel over

Karli’s role at Cross Creek includes everything from teaching beginners to campaigning top hunters.

extended or stressed out.”  Lesley is a renowned hunter rider and Diane, after many years riding in the higher jumper divisions, now plays a more behind-the-scenes role. “She is the glue that keeps everything going at home,” Karli observes.

Since Lesley had her first baby, Oliver, a little over a year ago, Karli has felt especially lucky to get the ride on some very fancy hunters. “As a kid, I did a lot of equitation and jumpers, but I never really had a true hunter.” She has the ride on one now in Fortune, an 8 year old sale horse who’s turned out to be a star with Karli in the Hunter Derbies. She’s also campaigning a nice Pre-Green hunter and has seen her network of helpful friends grow to include hunter super star John French, thanks to Lesley’s long friendship and association with his Northern California-based program.

Learning The Ropes

Along with their horsemanship expertise, Lesley and Diane have helped shape Karli’s budding professionalism. “Lesley has encouraged me to find my voice and, without being rude, to be authoritative and in charge,” she explains.

“I’m young and I look young and that’s been important.” Diane has encouraged Karli to temper her eager-to-please reaction to most requests. “She’s taught me that you don’t always have to say ‘yes’ immediately. That it’s sometimes best to let people know that you will check on something and get back to them.”

Karli’s background in equitation and jumpers is one of many reasons she’s a fan of the CPHA’s new Style Of Riding class. It’s set over a time-allowed jumper course, but rewards those who complete it with fewest faults and with smooth, effective equitation. “It’s a really cool class. It’s nice for the jumper kids to feel like they can go in and show off their position, and to require their success in the class to be rooted in a deeper riding foundation.”

Karli is a fan of the CPHA in general, in part because its current president Jeni Brown is one of several pros who were influential to her equestrian upbringing. At the moment, she is simply a member, but hopes to begin volunteering her time and ideas to the organization in the future. “I like the idea of surveying our program, seeing what our clients could benefit from, and using that to add something to the horse show world.”

Karli & Fortune

Even knowing early on that an equestrian career was in her stars, Karli is glad she took time for college. A small, liberal arts college near Baltimore, Goucher had not been on her radar screen until the school’s Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association team coach reached out to her. In addition to having the teaching bug firmly implanted, she rode all four years in IHSA and ANRC competition. The former involves catch riding and the latter entails being paired with the same horse for an entire season. So, she got in a lot of riding at very little cost.

Her psychology degree has been a huge help in understanding other people and their reactions to things, along with her own emotions and reactions. Last but not least, living on the East Coast broadened her general perspective. Growing up in Newbury Park and within Foxfield’s magical Sherwood Forest, Karli says “I think I was a little naïve.”

Goucher is a safe campus, but nearby Baltimore is a big city. Arriving in her white Mini-Cooper with California plates, Karli pulled into the first gas station she saw.  “A lady approached me and said she really thought I should go along to another area. It hadn’t even registered with me that there might be a problem.”

A go-getter at heart, Karli had already lined up a job at a Baltimore area riding program before graduating. But when Diane called about joining the Cross Creek team, Karli jumped at the chance. She was relieved when her best friend from Goucher proved a suitable replacement for the first job she took.

Now back on familiar, warm and sunny turf, Karli looks forward to continuing her equestrian education and contributing to the sport over a long future of involvement.  

This is the sixth profile in our new CPHA Spotlight, in which we’ll feature a professional member of the organization each month. The CPHA provides a forum, voice, and many valuable programs and benefits for equine industry professionals throughout the region, including those who live elsewhere but compete and/or work within it regularly. Members can be trainers and anyone else who earns at least half their income from working with horses. CPHA also hosts prestigious medal classes and finals for juniors and amateur members. For more information on the organization’s good works and getting involved, visit www.cpha.org.