One of the things that I love the most about Instagram is the incredible equestrian community that I have found. Recently I have got to know some riders from the Hunter Jumper world. One such rider is Shaunna Angell from @spurandsnaffle
Shaunna keeps her horses on her family farm in rural California and has always been a part of the equestrian world but these days when she’s not at the barn she’s probably in the gym. In her role as a fitness director at a gym Shaunna teaches regular classes. She says, “Fitness has been a huge part of my life and very closely relates to my riding! I think it’s so important that equestrians treat themselves like athletes, and train like it too.”
How did you find your way into the equestrian world
I basically never had a life before horses! My parents were both involved with horses before I was born, my mom had been riding since she was a teenager and my dad was a farrier. My first time on a horse was at 6 months old, my mom would take me on long trail rides in a front pack. I started riding my first horse Bucky, who was a Buckskin QH pony, when I was 4 and started riding lessons at a local barn when I was 6.
What drew you to the Jumper ring?
I remember always wanting to jump, and I’m not really sure why! I used to jump Bucky over logs on trails, and I got my first English saddle about a year after I started taking lessons. I think I was drawn to the adrenaline and the feeling of it. I remember feeling so free and like I was going so fast! When I was about 12 my mom took me to watch a hunter jumper show at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and I was dead set on showing there someday. From there we decided to seek out a true hunter jumper trainer and I got my Thoroughbred mare, Penny, shortly after.
What other disciplines have you tried in the past
Before I got totally sucked into the H/J circuit, I showed my mom’s paint horse in a lot of county level shows and small paint horse shows. We did hunter under saddle and English pleasure classes.
I also had a homebred solid paint gelding who I took team penning type lessons on! It was super fun and that’s probably what I would do in another lifetime. I occasionally take dressage lessons, a good flatwork foundation is so important for jumpers (and really helps my seat!)
Tell us about your current horses
I’m in kind of a funny place right now because I very recently sold my main jumper Wesley. So I’m riding and showing my sister’s Oldenburg mare Marley at the moment, she’s young and I’m working to move her up in the jumpers. Marley is truly a sweetheart and just wants to please, although she does still have her baby moments! I’ve gotten her up to the 1.00m jumpers so far this year with some good success, and I’m really excited about her future.
I’m also bringing my TB mare Penny back into work after six months off! I didn’t have the time for her while I was showing Wesley so much but I’m having a lot of fun getting her going again. She is an absolute firecracker, and the mare I rode in the 1.20’s a few years back.
With Marley I am hoping to get her into a 1.10m class by the end of this year. I think it’s very doable, we just need to work on our ride in between the jumps! I also want to take some dressage lessons with her and work on getting some more softness through her neck and head, and better adjustability between jumps.
For Penny I am working towards getting her muscles fit and her endurance back up! I am hoping she will be back in the show ring this fall!
Has there been a horse that has had a big impact on you?
Penny was a huge teacher in my life. She was my first “real” horse and I started on her in the .80’s at my very first rated show, all the way up to the 1.20’s. She taught me to have a good eye, to be fearless, and that the fastest ride should feel like slow motion when you’re doing it right. She taught me to be smart in jump offs and very savvy with my track.
An equally influential horse in my life was Wesley. He was a big Westphalian gelding and a completely different ride coming off Penny! Wesley was very nervous and untrusting when I got him, and overtime he taught me of the true connection I can have with a horse. He trusted me entirely and I had to be brave for him. In return he took care of me over every jump, no matter how huge! He taught me how to dance with a horse, how to move with him, and how to share my heart with a partner. I will forever be grateful for Wesley, and I largely credit him with making me the rider I am today.
What would be your advice to other riders?
My biggest advice to riders of every level would be to just focus on yourself and your horse, and be proud of your accomplishments, no matter how small. With social media making such a big impression on our lives today, I know how easy it is to compare yourself to other riders. To envy their horses, tack, clothes, and victories. But nobody’s life is as perfect as it looks in their immaculately curated photos. Don’t miss out on your own accomplishments while you’re wishing you had theirs! Celebrate every moment you get with your horse, set goals and be proud of yourself when you reach them. No one will ever love you more than your horse does, never take that for granted.
Did you love this story and want to read more inspirational stories from other riders? Head over to the Featured Ballerina’s page for more.