Raising, training and showing horses is as tough as it is rewarding. For many it takes a village comprised of trainers, barn staff, grooms, and more. For some, all this is simply not financially possible, or not the way they choose to embark on their journey with their horse(s). This group of horse lovers who fulfil all these roles for their horses by themselves are known as Do It Yourself (DIY) amateurs, eligible to show in Amateur Owner Trained and Shown (AOTS) classes specifically for exhibitors who work with their own horses. One such rider is Miss Snyder.
After finally finding her dream horse, Missy set out to achieve all she could with her beloved partner Khonstellation ABC+++//, who’s known as ‘Spotty’, while going it alone. The result was incredible. In her own words, Missy shares her story of finding, falling in love and achieving great success with her Half-Arabian horse.
“When I was very young, I saw a spotted horse for the first time in a children’s book. I was in love. A few years later, one of my fondest memories was meeting my mother’s new Arabian, SCF Royal Silver (Lewisfield Lure x AM Gingham Fashion). He was an energetic, grey (soon to turn flea-bitten) 3-year-old, and I remember how I was in awe of him from the moment I touched him. As many children do, I wanted a pony of my own, only I wanted an Arabian… with spots. Mom and I would chat about dapples and flecks of color on Arabians as I flipped through her Arabian magazines, but I wanted a leopard patterned Arabian, and they ‘just didn’t come that way.’
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“I soon began taking riding lessons on Arabians at a nearby farm, and I was hooked on the breed. At home Royal was like a big brother to me. He taught me early on how brilliant, eager, fun, versatile and loving Arabians are. My mother rode, but never showed him, and he was her constant companion for 29 years.
“I still wanted my spotted Arabian, but when I was in my teens my first horse was Pepper, a leopard Appaloosa. He took care of me. He was everything to me. Then when I became an adult I rescued my first Arabian, a black bay named Zalezhar Halima. He was only 14hh, and together we earned seven National titles over fences when he was in his twenties. He was like my child. I had both of them for many wonderful years.
“But, I still wanted my spotted Arabian.
“In 2014, on Mother’s Day weekend, I finally met him. He was a loud, leopard Half-Arabian yearling, and I simply could not believe how amazing he was. I drove all the way home from Kentucky so excited… I finally found my spotted Arabian. I named him Khonstellation ABC (Marciano ABC x Sierra Starview), and call him Indi or Spotty at home.
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“Now, I will be honest. I had big plans, but the truth is I am an elementary school teacher with bigger dreams than paychecks. I wanted to bring this horse to his potential and be a rock star team, but I had to be realistic. I couldn’t afford a fancy trainer at a fancy barn with fancy tack and a fancy rig. Every penny of my horse passion comes from my own personal bank account. Being an AOTS, I knew I was going to have work really hard with an untrained youngster with whatever help I could afford, and that is what I did. This required going in to work extra early so that I could drive almost an hour each afternoon to work with him. It required spending weekends at the barn instead of going to festivals and parties with friends in the huge city where I live. It was, and still is, a massive commitment. I learned all I could and took baby steps with him. I refused to use any harsh training tools to speed up the process and took my time carefully working with him to gain strength, balance and confidence. We spent months ponying off my older Arabian and long-lining for miles through trails and fields. Some days it was elating. Some days it was exhausting. There were moments of pure frustration and also fear of messing him up. But through the support of my wonderful friends and family, I kept going. I took lessons when I could, spent five to six days a week at the barn and finally introduced him to the show world in-hand. Eventually after backing him and training him myself, we started showing under saddle.
“Since Spotty is a family member and not just a show horse, in his best interest, we only show at a handful of shows per year. We have also been to the beach, ridden miles of trail rides, schooled cross-country and enjoyed swimming in the lake in the summer. However, with so little show experience, his accomplishments so far have astounded me. To date, he has earned two National Championships and 18 Regional Championships. He was Region 12 high point winner and Arabian Sport Horse Alliance year-end Reserve Champion and Bronze Milestone award winner and a Georgia Arabian Horse Association multi-champion. He holds Championships in the open Hunter/Jumper show world, was club Reserve Champion in combined training, and holds several USEF Horse of the Year awards as well. He recently earned his Legion of Supreme Merit from AHA. He has never worn shoes. And he just turned seven.
“Showing AOTS can seem daunting, draining and difficult because it is. I have a decent foundation, but I had to YouTube training videos more than I care to admit. When your horse is being trained by you and not someone else, it means a huge juggling act with family and work and vacations and life commitments. It can be intimidating. But you simply can’t worry about what other people are doing or winning. Sometimes I showed completely alone and made friends along the way. Thankfully, I reached out to trainer friends who let me stable with them and gave me help when I would see them at some shows. One of them we lost this year. For the short time I worked with her at shows, it was magic, and she always made me feel like I was capable and on the right track with my horse. She always told me how truly special he was and made me confident. I am forever indebted to her.
“It really is true that those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind - and will be there. Focus on your successes. And know that when something isn’t working, tomorrow is always a new day. You don’t have to drill skills. In fact, your horse won’t appreciate that. There is time. And remember, your horse doesn’t give a flip about a horse show like you do, so enjoy the journey.
“Showing AOTS can mean doing everything, and I mean everything, yourself. But if it’s the only route to your dreams, then follow that route fearlessly. It is a journey that is more fulfilling than people realize. And by doing right by your horse and taking the time that he/she needs, you might just end up ahead of the game anyway. You don’t have to have that fancy barn or trainer or rig. But if you feel overwhelmed, it’s important to reach out for help. I found out quickly that there are a lot more folks in my AOTS shoes than I realized, and often people care and want you and your horse to succeed. I am also lucky that I have the support of my family and friends who have my back and cheer me on. But at the end of the day, you have to learn to listen to your horse and listen well. Your horse is the most important thing.
“Showing AOTS is the most rewarding thing I have ever done, but while I am proud of the work, my horse is the one who gave me my dream that was way too big to say out loud. Khonstellation ABC+++// owes me absolutely nothing, and I owe him everything.”
Check out the Arabian Amateur Alliance group on Facebook for advice, support and community for DIY amateurs or those who’d like to get started.
Are you a DIY amateur or competing in AOTS classes? Drop a picture and some info in the comments, we’d love to see them.