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Trainer’s Kids: The Ups and Downs of Having Your Parent as Your Horse Trainer

Numerous leading youth, amateur, and open riders have been the product of having parents who are horse trainers. It’s easy to assume that having your barn in your backyard can only be positive, but there are many ups and downs of having a trainer for a parent. At the end of the day, if you have a bad show or a bad lesson, you still have to come home together. We talked to some trainer’s kids that understand these obstacles.

Claire McDowall, daughter of leading trainer Kelly McDowall, says her favorite thing about growing up with a trainer would have to be the experience she got from riding different horses. This has inspired her to become a collegiate equestrian coach to “help others ride horses too and help them grow their connection with the horse in a short period of time.” She is currently a junior at Oklahoma State University and a member of their equestrian team.

“When you have a parent for a trainer, it usually means that you do not always get the easiest or most cooperative horses, but those experiences only help you grow and make you a better rider and person in the end,” McDowall explains.

She believes it has helped her with collegiate riding and with her own horse. Claire is currently showing her gelding Chips N Whiskey, aka Woodford. “He is the goofiest horse I have ever had. He has so much personality and sass, I am pretty sure he is me if I were a horse,” she says. This horse is particularly special to her, as he led Claire to her first world show trophy, winning bronze champion in the three-year-old trail limited rider division.

Nya Kearns and Cheyenne Augsburger can especially relate, each having both parents as their trainers. “To me, the best part of growing up with a family involved in the industry is knowing they want what is best for you, in and out of the arena,” Kearns claims.

Cheyenne’s favorite thing about having her parents as trainers is meeting people through horses. She loves getting to know others in the industry and experiencing the “precious memories” that will always be with her.

Having a parent as a trainer is not everything it is cut out to be and comes with many challenges. For Claire, a particular hardship was drawing the line between parent versus trainer. “My dad and I bumped heads a lot in the past. When he would be trying to give me a lesson, I would get defensive because he would speak to me as my trainer and not my dad. It took me a long time to make sense of that,” she says.

Despite some challenges, Claire has a great relationship with her father. “He is a very kind person who cares very deeply for the success of his clients and his horses,” she said. ​

Traveling was a challenge for both Nya and Cheyenne. Cheyenne says, before she began homeschooling, it was hard for her to stay behind while her parents were on the road.

For Nya it was the opposite. Her biggest challenge was prioritizing her education while being on the road, which she believes her parents have done a great job with. Her education is still extremely important to her and she is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a minor in Psychology. Her riding has led her to Southern Methodist University, where she rides on their NCAA equestrian team, where her father, Brad Kearns, is a coach. She is thankful for the opportunity the industry has provided her to continue riding at the collegiate level.

In the next few years, Nya plans on finishing her degree and continuing to show the amateur events on her gelding, Merlin. “Growing up with horse trainer parents, there is often a quick turnaround on horses that you show, as they progress in their show career and get to make new partners for others,” she says. Despite this, she has found her “once-in-a-lifetime horse.” Merlin has contributed to her extensive record, including four AQHYA World Championships and two AQHA Championships. He is 19 this year and holds a special place in, not only Nya’s heart, but her entire family’s.

Cheyenne looks forward to continuing her youth career on her two geldings, Made No Regrets and Huntin For Candy. Huntin For Candy, aka Skamper is her “heart horse”, being a team since Cheyenne was just eight years old. “Both of my horses have so much heart and they always amaze me with their great work ethics,” she says. They have also contributed to her stacked show record including four-time Congress Champion and NSBA World Champion, among many Congress, AQHYA, and NSBA Reserve Championships.

It is clear that having a trainer as a parent has led these three to great success. Some are quick to assume it was easy for them, but this is simply not the case. They have all faced their own challenges working with their parents, but it has all paid off for them in the end.

About the Author: GoHorseShow Intern Violet Shetler is a junior at Penncrest Cyber Academy. She was born and raised in Saegertown, Pennsylvania. She plans to attend Southern Methodist University in the future to study journalism. Along with academics, competing with her horses is very important to her. She has been riding her entire life.