California Riding Magazine • November, 2009

Stacie Ryan: SBR Farms
Trainer puts unique resume and a
straight-forward style to work for her riders.

Los Angeles hunter/jumper trainer Stacie Ryan has several years of experience on the international jumper circuit. As the owner of Canadian Olympian Jill Henselwood’s mount, Black Ice, for many years and a World Cup rider herself, Ryan rode with the best and traveled the world in pursuit of her dreams. In 2005, she returned to her native Los Angeles area to care for her aging parents. Since then local riders have received the benefit of her experience and expertise through Ryan’s SBR Farms.

Based at the private Hideaway Farms in Calabasas, Ryan has been helping a small group of riders acquire solid horsemanship basics and pursue their competitive dreams. She has built her business around her clients’ goals. Her team ranges from champs on the Interscholastic Equestrian League scene to adult riders who love to ride, but presently don’t compete. She prides herself on correct riding basics and a straight shooter approach to working with students and their families. “I’ve lived on the other side of this (trainer/student) equation for many years,” she comments. “I always told myself that if I became a professional I would always do right by my students. I’m very straight forward and no nonsense. I always tell it like it is.”

The effectiveness of Ryan’s training approach has proven results in the show ring. This year, two students, Lacey Early and Katie Hettwer, had especially great results in the IEL championships and the local and regional medal finals and year-end point tabulations.

Among 135 riders in the IEL Junior Varsity division, the largest of the competition, Early ended up overall reserve champion thanks to her great finishes in Equitation and Hunters. Early came to Ryan’s program in January of 2008, as a green rider. She left recently, but not before making her mark on the IEL circuit and preparing for what turned out to be a top 10 finish in the PCHA Medal Finals. Ryan is proud of the equine partner, Pikfair, she found for Early. “It was a match made in heaven,” she says, for a rider “who has super talent and will continue to be really successful.”

Katie Hettwer & Cease Fire
Photo: Maria Morgan

Like Early, Hettwer had a very successful year in all the year-end standings and the IEL medal final, where she finished third. Even though a broken collarbone kept her out of competition throughout this past summer, Hettwer still had plenty of points to fulfill her year-end goals.

Ryan prefers mostly private or semi-private lessons for her students. “I like to customize each lesson for what that student needs to work on,” she explains. Typically, her riders take four lessons a week. Dressage-based flat work is essential in everybody’s program and especially for her IEL riders who have dressage tests at their competitions. This and gymnastic exercises dominate the lessons leading up to Sunday’s work over a full course. “Then we pick it apart and fix the pieces that need to be fixed,” Ryan explains.

A Familiar Face

Even though she spent several years living and riding in Canada, Ryan is a familiar face and name in California. As a junior and young amateur she rode for 20 years with Nick Karazissis at Far West Farm. Throughout the 1980s, she was a major thorn in the side to anybody who wanted to win the day’s big regional medal finals, most of which were combined junior and amateur competitions at the time. Typically those classes were won by a star rider recently aged out of the junior ranks, but Ryan, as an amateur, won final after final. AHSA National Adult Equitation Champion, CPHA, WCE, LAHSA, Foxfield and AHSA Regional Hunt Seat champion three consecutive years are among the honors that adorn her resume. And that list doesn’t count many medals which are no longer in existence.

Lacey Early & Pikfair.
Photo: Maria Morgan

When she realized she’d won just about everything there was to win in that division, she decided to pursue her Grand Prix dreams. Opting to learn from someone at the top in her desired path, Ryan moved to Canada and began riding with Jill Henselwood. She bought and developed several young horses and did several World Cup qualifiers with her Grand Prix mount Same Old Song. During this time, she bought Black Ice. Ryan and the handsome jumper were doing well in the 1.45 meter division when family circumstances required that she return to California. She left “Blackie” with Henselwood and that pair went on to several international successes. At 16, Black Ice was recently sold to a junior rider, but Henselwood and Ryan are on the lookout for another prospective international horse for Henselwood to target the 2012 Olympics with.

Ryan is grateful to have such remarkable experiences on which to draw upon in teaching her students. In addition to Henselwood, Canadian legend Ian Millar often weighed in on Ryan’s progress throughout the years. “When you ride with them, you leave with an understanding of top quality horse care,” Ryan explains. “Of how to manage and maintain your horses properly.” Today, the trainer applies that to her students and their horses with an emphasis on “classic, textbook basics.” The pay-offs, as her students’ successes attest, have been rich already and will surely continue to be.

For more information on Stacie Ryan and SBR Farms, call 818-921-9264.