This edition of Amateur Hour is a little different. I was presented the opportunity to interview successful amateur hunter rider Margot Peroni and couldn't pass it up!
Read more about how Margot got her start riding horses, her best and worst show experiences, and what being #AdultAmmyStrong means to her.
Where it all started
Margot Peroni grew up in a very horsey family. A grandfather was in the last mounted calvary and his troop traded their horses for tanks during the mechanization of the United States Army in World War II. Her mother and her siblings grew up riding Saddlebreds. They would eventually make the switch into the hunter/jumper arenas, but started out on gaited horses.
At three years old, Margot's mom would take her to Griffith Park in Los Angeles, CA to go on the pony rides. "I think I was hooked even back then. I begged to go almost every day," Margot told me. I think we can all relate to that - we all have that one pony ride, trip to a barn or other memory that started our life-long equine obsession.
"I think I was hooked even back then. I begged to go almost every day."
Supporting the habit
To support her equestrian activities, Margot does a lot of freelance work in the equestrian industry; she works as a Veterinary Technician for Dr. Larry Wexler of Welxer Equine during the winter months, and during the summer she splits her time lending a helping hand at her husband's company Horseflight with import work at the USDA in Newburg, NY and as a road manager for Ashley Dibonigrazio of Redfield Farm.
"My husband jokes that I’m the real housewife of Califon, NJ where we live. I worked in Institutional Sales in the Financial Industry for about 10 years on and off and I kept coming back to horses," Margot stated. Now, because of a supportive and understanding husband along with her successful freelance endeavors, she's able to spend almost every day a the barn - something all adult amateur equestrians aspire to be able to do!
When it comes to showing, she meticulously schedules shows around her freelance work. "Typically I show about twice a month. We like try to and give the horses a break after Indoors and after Florida," she said of her schedule. It's great to see an equestrian care about their horses' well being as much as show schedules and winning classes and championships. In my mind, that shows the mark of true horsemanship.
"Typically I show about twice a month. We like try to and give the horses a break after Indoors and after Florida."
Adult Ammy Struggles - we've all got 'em!
Whether you're showing on the A circuit or trail riding your best friend, being an adult amateur is no easy feat. We struggle with nerves in the show ring, balancing our time at the office and at the barn, the guilt we can feel ponying up the money for horse expenses when there's things at home we know could use the money, and so many other things that are felt across the adult amateur equestrian community.
Due to all these things that can weigh us down, one of the hardest parts of being an adult amateur can be not overthinking every little thing, which I am absolutely guilty of doing. Margot explained what she struggles with most as an adult amateur, "As an adult all of the sudden every extra penny we earn goes into the horses and I think because of that you end up putting all of this extra pressure on yourself to do well and keep your horses happy and healthy. As a junior rider on your parents tab you don’t really feel the stress of the financial commitment it requires to compete in this sport. You're a little more care free that way. I don’t think I’ve quite figured out how to fully overcome that just yet. I do think any trainers with adult amateurs are part therapist, part trainer and part saint!"
I couldn't agree more! This is an expensive industry and I was lucky to learn that from my days as a junior. My sister and I worked at the barn to help offset some board and we scraped and saved from menial jobs to pay for our own lessons. But it's not the same as when your an adult and paying for everything - board, lessons, showing (and all that involves!), vet bills, etc!
"I do think any trainers with adult amateurs are part therapist, part trainer and part saint!"
Even the best need advice
No matter how far up the equestrian industry latter you climb, positive advice is always welcome. It doesn't always have to be equestrian-related advice, but in my opinion when people offer advice *most of the time* it means they care and everyone loves to feel loved.
"The best advice I’ve received is that there will always be someone with a better budget than you or more horses. The important thing to remember is that we do this because we love the sport and our horses." Margot said.
A recurring theme in my interviews for Amateur Hour has been 'winning is great but it’s not everything.' Most equestrians know that sometimes it's the smallest victories or improvements - which differ greatly from one horse/rider combination to the next - that feel like the biggest win of all. "There will be ups and downs of course, but the day it stops being fun is the day I’ll walk away," she added.
"There will be ups and downs of course, but the day it stops being fun is the day I’ll walk away."
Dedication - it comes with the territory
I believe that equestrians are some of the most passionate and dedicated people; 4 a.m. or earlier alarms to get to the barn or show grounds, late nights waiting on the vet with a sick or injured horse, that's dedication! If you're not dedicated to the sport and your horse,
all the work required to keep these animals in good health is for naught. I often think back to a popular quote, "A horse without a rider is still a horse, a rider without a horse is just a man."
Margot added, "We [adult amateurs] are insane, neurotic, obsessive and unbelievably passionate about our sport. We have to be to have stuck with it for so long or to have taken up this sport as an adult. Either way, it’s a sickness. We can’t help it. Thanks for putting up with us anyway."
Experience - the good, bad & ugly
Experience is the best teacher and can be quite humbling, especially in this sport. No matter if you go in the ring and win, knock down all the jumps or fall off, there is something to be learned each time you sit in the saddle. We all have our good days and our bad days - yes ALL of us - but every day is a new day when you're working with 1,000+ pound creatures with a mind of their own.
So, I asked Margot what her best and worst show experiences have been.
Best experience: winning the $250,000 Platinum Performance Hunter Prix Final in September 2015. "It still seems so surreal," she said. "I don’t think I can top that one ever!"
Worst experience: having a horse flip over on her last year. Margot was very honest about this fall, "It definitely took some of my guts away [and] I’d always been so brave with my riding," she told me. "I’d get on anything and everything I could get my hands on until then, but now I’m a little more timid and cautious. I’m working on getting that bravery back but it’s harder to learn being brave as adult amateur! We don’t bounce back quite like we used too!"
What it means to be #AdultAmmyStrong
I like to close out all my interviews with the same question to get a feel of what adult amateurs are thinking about their time and efforts in the equestrian industry. I asked Margot what AdultAmmyStrong meant to her and I think her answer is very relatable to every adult amateur.
"AdultAmmyStrong is having the guts (or maybe a screw loose) to keep doing what we love as adults even though it feels like a whole new ball game than it did when we were juniors. I know so many amazing women (and a few men too) that are so dedicated to the sport and their horses. They work long hours and make long, often late night, trips to the barn to ride and keep doing what they love. It takes a lot of dedication to make this work as an adult but it’s so worth it."
What does being AdultAmmyStrong mean to you?