Name: Casey McDonald
Location: Fresno, CA
Occupation: Horse trainer
Horse trainer Casey McDonald was the kind of little girl who didn’t just want a My Little Pony, she wanted her own real little pony to
“I loved horses when I was a kid and would stay on this pony ride at the carnival by my house in Lodi, California for hours,” she reminisces. “I think my parents probably spent $100 on pony rides per day. When I was 4 we moved to Texas, and my mom promised I could start riding.”
By the age of seven, she was helping out around a local barn in exchange for extra lessons. Her hard work and dedication garnered her much success, eventually landing her a spot on the Fresno State Equestrian Team. Eventually she went on to start a career as an assistant trainer, and these days she is the principal and head trainer of her own business, Poppy Hill Farm. Not only does she still ride and run a barn of her own, she shares the love of all things equine with her students.
Usually nearly two dozen young girls come to the barn weekly. Even the younger girls are responsible for their own pie of the pony pie, helping to feed the horses, muck the stalls, and prepare the arena.
“Working with animals that are so dependent takes a lot of labor intensive hours, but the hours are well spent and at the end of the day I always feel dirty, sweaty, and greatly accomplished”
“They are such hard workers!” Casey exclaims. “Working with animals that are so dependent takes a lot of labor intensive hours, but the hours are well spent and at the end of the day I always feel dirty, sweaty, and greatly accomplished,” Casey says. Her students do, too!
During the summer, Casey starts bright and early, as she and her students have to try to get mounted and finished up before it gets too hot in the blazing Fresno sun. The girls are taught in groups of three, and finish up around noon, cleaning up the ponies, mucking the stalls, and feeding everyone while grabbing some food themselves.
After she and her students (and some of their parents!) finish tidying everything back up, Casey rides some of the younger horses-in-training and works with others who weren’t ridden that day during lessons. After she finishes up at the first barn, she stops home before heading out to another, where she teaches some of the older students and does some personal riding of her own. After she’s finished her long day of equine adventures, she packs up and heads home to her fiancé and his son to wind down and enjoy her evening.
Does Casey have any advice for other girls hearing the whisper of horses at a young age? “You don’t have to be an heiress to start riding and enjoy it! So many people think that riding horses needs to cost a fortune. I try hard to keep my prices as low as possible so my girls can enjoy it despite it’s often costly price tag,” she says. “I had so many great trainers who let me work off bills, or helped me out over the years, I want to do the same for my girls. Also, keep working at it. It’s not always the most natural rider that ends up being the superstar. It’s a sport that gives back what you put in and you never stop learning how to ride.”
Casey hopes to found a program in California’s Central Valley that helps kids and adults alike to utilize riding as a confidence building tool. She also is looking to compete in larger, more prestigious competitions. If her past is any indication, there’s no doubt that Casey will be leaping into armfuls of blue ribbons in no time!
You can see some of Casey’s jumping prowess, or just check out her farm, at www.poppyhillfrm.com.