No kid has ever been more excited to blow out eight birthday candles than Bronwyn Cooper.
“The barn rules at home were that you had to be eight years old to ride,” she remembers clearly. “As soon as I was old enough, I started lessons and spent nearly every day around horses. The barn quickly became my second home.”
Bronwyn, now 20, believes that horses have truly shaped who she has become by teaching her patience and empathy as well as the value of working hard for what she wants.
“In this sport, shortcuts won’t get you anywhere in the long run,” she says. “If you want to truly succeed, you need to put in the extra time and you have to make sacrifices.”
Tell us a little about the horse you are riding this season?
This season, I am lucky to have the chance to half-lease a mare named Ruby, who is a quirky, but a very talented and kind horse. We’ve been working together all winter and I am very excited to compete with her in the Jumpers this year.
What are your goals this year?
I would love to be consistently jumping around the 1.20m jumper ring, but I will start with the lower classes and work my way up.
Who has been a role model for you?
I enjoy watching all kinds of riders and believe that there is something I can learn from everyone. One person I look up to is my coach Cathy Inch because she has taught me not only about riding, but about hard work and dedication. Cathy is as tough as nails and one of the hardest working people I know, and she’s taught me what it takes to succeed if you want to stay in this sport. Without her guidance and the time she has dedicated to helping me, I would not be where I am.
What challenges have you had to overcome?
Early on, I struggled with my competition mindset. I was easily discouraged and took failure quite hard. I learned the importance of having a positive attitude, being grateful and not stressing about things out of my control. Most importantly, I learned how to not let a bad day affect a good ride.
Do you still get nervous before a show?
I definitely do. Getting more miles in the show ring over the past few years has helped make it a lot less intimidating. I’ve learned that the best way to overcome my nerves is to be as prepared as possible and to keep busy so I don’t have too much time to stress about showing beforehand.
Speaking of your love of horses, which three have shaped you most as a rider?
The first would have to be my first pony, Ripley. We weren’t exactly winning every class; in fact, it was a good show if I didn’t fall off more than twice! Actually, Ripley is one of the reasons I have stayed in the sport so long because he made me more determined. He taught me that even if you don’t see the results of your hard work right away, it eventually pays off with patience and trust.
Next would be Cora, my first horse. Cora was pretty young when I bought her, so we both had to learn the ropes of showing in the jumper rings. She was a great horse to refine my skills on because she would forgive my mistakes but wouldn’t let me get away with poor riding or corner cutting. I really felt like we grew together.
The third would be Ricky, who was incredibly talented and experienced in the big jumps. Ricky was a patient teacher and he boosted my confidence. I fell in love with him instantly and am forever grateful for the season I got to ride him.
Lastly, what advice would you give to new riders just getting into the sport?
Don’t forget why you started in the first place. It’s easy to get wrapped up in competitions, and the drama and the lifestyle of horse showing. At the end of the day, it should be about your love of horses, the sport and about wanting to improve yourself. I would also advise new riders to stick with it. This amazing sport has brought me countless opportunities including being able to travel to Florida, Nashville and Germany. It’s an incredible experience that opens up a lot of doors.
The biggest hurdle to starting any new sport is getting the necessary equipment. What do you need to just try the sport? What can you borrow? What would be nice to have? What should I wait to buy until I am fully committed to the sport? Here is what you will need before your first riding lesson.