It's that time of year again.
Team Knollwood is always proud of its riders both in and out of the ring. This year, six very special riders graduated from high school, and are on their way to great adventures. These ladies and their mothers helped us understand what Knollwood has meant to them, and what their future plans are.
So here, in alphabetical order, are this year's high school graduates who are off to new experiences:
Lora Becker was 15 when she joined Team Knollwood. She hails from DesMoines, and grew up riding just like her mother. From a young age, Lora had her sights set on the competitive equitation divisions. Her trainers in Iowa weren't equitation oriented, so the search began for trainers who could help her reach her goal.
Mom Tancy was aware of Scott and Carol's expertise and success in equitation, and after a visit or two decided to make the move to Knollwood. Tancy says, "It's been an excellent match. The level of instruction , the wonderful lesson horses, and the excellent care and training that both the lesson horses and the performance horses receive are immediately apparent upon visiting the barn.'
Lora came to Knollwood with the always expressive horse, Dare to Care, known to all as Jerry. After her first season with him, Jerry went on to become a champion show pleasure horse for Gabby, and Lora was fortunate to become the owner of Royal Tryst, aka Sophie, for the balance of her equitation career. Lora and Sophie have worked hard and have climbed their way to the top of the equitation world. This year, she was the reserve champion at the prestigious Lexington Junior League show, and last weekend won the championship at the All American Horse Classic in Indianapolis. Lora was a member of the USEF Young Riders Team this year, too. Team Sophie is looking forward to the challenges of the big finals this fall.
Lora says "My favorite memories are circled around the wonderful friends I've made through Knollwood. As an out of towner, I frequently stay at the 'Hotel Berget', and I've had so much fun being able to spend ten hours a day at the barn for weeks straight."
She adds,"Knollwood has meant everything to me for the three years I've been there. I love how supportive the other riders are, I love how Scott and Carol put just as much effort into success as I do, and I know if I hadn't moved to Knollwood, I wouldn't have the thing that means the absolute most to me: Sophie. It's been a joy to spend the last season and a half with the most special horse I've ever known."
Mom Tancy adds, "I know many other parents have said this, but it's absolutely true -- Lora has learned to prioritize her time since we live seven hours away from the barn; she has learned to balance academics and a social life with her equine pursuits; she has learned all about the financial implications of this sport; and she has learned the joy of success and the disappointment of the 'less than perfect' performances and placings... and she has never once considered giving up."
After a gap year to pursue the equitation finals and other adventures, Lora will be attending the University of Virginia. While she's not set on a major. Lora wants to settle in a big city. And she adds "There's about a 110% chance that I'll never leave the horse industry."
Sarah Bell grew up a Knollwood Kid.
She started riding with us when she was nine, and has enjoyed years of success in both the academy and show divisions, and had become an impressive role model to our younger riders.
Sarah had a friend who rode at Knollwood, and first came to the farm for summer riding school. She says she fell in love the moment she got here.
Sarah counts the wheelbarrow race at Helper Olympics as one of her favorite Knollwood memories. She remembers screaming all the way down the hill, adding that she and Jen were an unstoppable team. She also recounts her first trip into the ring in a suit on Alex last May. Sarah and Alex spent a season learning from each other, and loving every minute of it.
When asked what Knollwood has meant to her, Sarah says, "Where do I begin? Knollwood has had such a great impact on my life. I have made some amazing friendships, and found a second place to call home. Not only did I learn to ride, but I also learned so many important life skills. I have learned responsibility, to work hard, and most importantly patience. The power of patience is incredible."
Sarah has assumed a lot of responsibility at the farm during her high school years. She served as a Knollwood Knockouts officer, a respected camp counselor, and taught tiny tot lessons on Saturdays. Her work ethic and patience are second to none. Sarah's hard work helped her win an ASAW college scholarship as well!
Her mom Kelly says that Knollwood has really helped Sarah. 'It has made her tired and kept her out of trouble because she always found a way to spend her time there. It has become a second family to her and helped her create friends for a lifetime.'
Sarah is attending Canisius College in Buffalo where she is studying Animal Behavior. Her goal is to train service dogs to work with people who have PTSD, are paralyzed, or need extra help. She also hopes to make riding a large part of her life again.
Her words of wisdom for younger riders? ''It's not the ribbon, it's the ride.' is such an important quote to live by. As long as you rode the best you could, had fun, and made your trainers happy, that's all that matters."
Heather Campbell grew up at Knollwood. She started group lessons when she was 8, and started her academy career in the 10 and under walk and trot division.
Heather was a hard working helper, and quickly became a mentor to the younger riders. She became very involved in the Knockouts, holding several elected offices along the way. Her kindness and leadership led to teaching tiny tot lessons on Saturdays where she grew into a strong first instructor for our youngest riders.
Heather enjoyed showing in the 'B' division for her last couple of junior exhibitor years. She had great success showing both CH Callaway's Don't Panic and Chepengo in the pleasure and equitation divisions.
Known for her sportsmanship and riding skills, Heather is always a resource for other riders on their way up.
After high school graduation, Heather joined the US Army, and recently graduated from basic training. She's been out of electronic contact, so unfortunately we don't have any quotes to include.
Heather will be attending the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater where we know she will continue to be a success in whatever she chooses to pursue.
Jess Kuzniewski took her first lesson on her seventh birthday.
Her mom Kris says,' I signed her up for the 8 week class thinking that would be the end of it. We instantly felt like a part of something special and knew that Knollwood was going to be a big part of Jessica's life for years to come. She ended up loving it, and here we are 11 years later!'
Jess has grown up as a Knollwood kid, enjoying a very successful academy show career, learning leadership as a Knockouts officer, and teaching tiny tot lessons and camps. She adds: "My favorite memories are summers spent at the barn, whether it was to ride at summer camp or to work on Monday nights. Pattern camp was always my favorite week of the summer, because I was able to spend an entire week with my best friends riding horses twice a day, and it helped us improve a ton, too. I was also a helper on Monday nights from the time I was around ten years old, and I believe it has been the biggest learning experience of my life. Being a helper taught me to efficiently handle responsibility and be a leader and role model, yet I was still able to balance it with having fun. I met people that still mean the world to me while working alongside them, and it taught me some of my biggest life lessons to this day."
Jess adds, "Knollwood has been my second home for the past eleven years. From the time I took my first lesson, I knew that I was hooked, and that I would never be able to stop loving this sport. I grew up learning to take care of, ride, and love horses, and this showed me what it means to be responsible, hard-working, and relentless in pursuing my goals. The people that I have met along this journey have impacted me in a multitude of ways, whether it was the helpful guidance of an instructor, the embrace of another parent who loved me like their own, or a joke and a smile shared with a friend who became more like a sister."
After winning an ASAW Scholarship, Jess is studying at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She is planning to double major in French and International Studies, and hopes to join the Peace Corps after graduation before finding a job in government or as a high school French teacher.
Her words of wisdom? "For the younger children who are just starting their riding career: never give up, even when it gets hard (because it will), and you will learn more than you ever could imagine and have more fun than you could ever imagine. Hold on to your barn friends too, because you will find they are often the best ones."
Madison Smith was looking for a farm where she would feel welcome, and found that Knollwood was a fit for her. She started riding when she was 14, and says, "Knollwood is my family, a happy place where I have no limits. I can do anything there, and it's a place to grow that I call home."
Mom Cindi adds, "Madison started Hippotherapy when she was about three years old. We feel that she truly benefited from it, and is probably where her love affair with horses began."
Madison has come a long way in a short time. She remembers her first Knollwood show on Tony, and finished her show career at the ASAW Summer Showcase in August winning all three of her classes on Dexter. She says that Dexter was hard at first, but that they have become a team because he helped her improve her skills. She adds, "Dexter is my happy place."
Madison is attending Edgewood College in Madison, and hopes to become a Teaching Assistant for young children.
Her words of wisdom? "Never give up. Be on horses you don't like because you get the most out of them. They teach you more than any other horse. You can take this to life and other horses. Be kind, and go with the flow."
Sarah Wenzel started riding at Knollwod when she was 14.
How did that come about? Sarah says, "We were looking to switch barns and a friend of mine who rode at the same barn I did told us that they had gone to Knollwood and so we went to see the barn and the rest is history. We loved it the moment we set foot in the barn."
Sarah has been teamed with the exciting park mare Impressive Asset. They enjoyed a successful Junior Exhibitor career before joining the adult ranks this past season.
Mom Vicky says, "Knollwood assisted Sarah with achieving her dream of showing horses. She had limited experience in the show ring when we came to Knollwood. Within 2 years of switching, she and her horse ended her Junior Exhibitor years as the 2016 ASHA High Point Award for Three Gaited Park Jr Exhibitor Region 5. Now, in her third year, she is showing her horse in the Adult Equitation and recently finished Top 10 in the USEF Adult Medal and the UPHA Adult Challenge Cup.
More importantly though, Knollwood continues to teach her skills she will use throughout her life whether on a horse or at the barn.'
Sarah is presently attending WCTC pursuing a degree in Business Management while she continues to work in the show barn.
She hopes to take the knowledge she's learning at Knollwood to lead to become a trainer and owning her own barn.
Sarah's words of wisdom? "Whatever you do in life, put yourself wholeheartedly into it. Be resilient, determined, and whatever your dreams and goals are, pursue them.
I began riding at the age of 7 and I knew from the first time I rode that I wanted to keep riding and go to the World's Championship Horse Show. I worked hard, kept riding and pushing myself. I didn't give up, it took me 11 years to get to the WCHS in Louisville, but I did it, and the entire journey was well worth the wait."
"When you ride and work with horses you learn SO MUCH, because you have to work with them and understand each other, and you become a team."
We're incredibly proud of what these riders have accomplished both in and out of the arena. While we'll miss them while they're away at school, we're sure they'll be back in the barn at Christmas break, and we can't wait to see them.
We know they'll be successful in whatever they choose to do, and we can't wait to hear about all their adventures at school.