This is a story that begins with a pony—a penny pony.
“Actually, it was a two-penny pony,” says Stacy Westfall with a laugh. “I was six-years old and my brother and I each paid a penny to buy Misty, a Shetland Hackney pony.” Misty, an experienced teacher of many young riders, including Stacy’s own mom, would be the first of many horses to play a prominent role in Stacy’s story.
It’s a story about the extraordinary horsewoman, Stacy Westfall, headliner of the 10th Annual Washington State Horse Expo, March 6–8, 2020 in Ridgefield, Washington.
Stacy a nationally renowned equine clinician and trainer has many titles to her name: Cowgirl Hall of Fame Inductee, First woman to win Road to the Horse Colt Starting-World Champion, Western Dressage-World Champion, All-American Quarter Horse Congress Freestyle Reining Champion, AQHA Ranch Horse World Qualifier… and avid trail rider!
To think, it all started with a penny pony.
“I went from dreaming about having a pony to owning my own pony,” said Stacy. “I rode Misty until my feet were practically dragging on the ground. My dad promised he’d get me a horse if I brought home straight A’s. Spoiler alert —Stacy’s grades earned her the horse—a bay mare named Bay.”
After high school Stacy left South China, Maine to attend the University of Findlay in Ohio where she majored in equestrian studies. College taught her the nuts and bolts of how to train horses but at the same time, she was also beginning to doubt her belief that she and Bay had some sort of special connection as she was immersed in the practical applications of horse training.
Despite everything she was learning about traditional horse training at the university and against the accepted thinking of the time that horses do not form relationships with their riders, she returned home to visit Bay and she proved they did indeed have a special connection.
“After being separated from her while I was at Findlay, I went out to the pasture where she was with several other horses. As soon as she saw me, she left the other horses and came running up to me. I knew right then and there we did have a special connection and I would never again let anyone tell me different.”
She set herself the training challenge to compete bridleless in freestyle reining, a form of reining competition where exhibitors design their own routines and perform to music. Her goal was to ride the freestyle competition bridleless and showcase her communication with her horse.
Mission accomplished. Her groundbreaking ride resulted in a Freestyle World Championship and a national name for herself. Videos of her bareback and bridleless rides soon went viral and even landed her a spot on the Ellen Degeneres Show.
According to Stacy, riding bridleless is not the end goal, but rather a tool you can use to check your communication with your horse. “If I never get to a bridleless stage with a particular horse it’s okay.”
Stacy also loves educating fellow horse lovers. Attend one of her clinics at the Washington State Expo and you’ll be treated to a master class on how to open the lines of communication between you and your horse. As a student of the art of communication, Stacy has extended her skills to include teaching her methods to other riders.
“It’s my hope that I did my job well and people leave my demo with a better sense of how to communicate with their horse,” says Stacy, but more than that, “I want them to come away with their questioned answered.”
In between her scheduled clinics, Stacy can be found in her booth. “I do everything I can to spend as much time as possible in the booth. There are so many questions and not all of them work in the clinic setting. These questions are just as important. I make it my goal to do everything I can to answer questions one on one.”
Do you have a question on how to improve communication with your horse? Stacy’s story (fairytale) is still being written—come be a part of it. Bring the family, watch a clinician in action, meet them personally in the presentation pen, attend a seminar, shop in the Marketplace, play in the Kid’s Corral, visit the Chuck Wagon and catch fun equine performances. With even more riders and spectacular horses, the very popular Saturday Night show will be bigger and better than ever. The March 6–8, 2020 10th Annual Horse Expo promises three full days of fun activities and education for the horse enthusiast!
For more information about the Washington State Horse Expo, including ticket information, visit www.washingtonstatehorseexpo.com.
Article provided by Lynn Jenkins
The Northwest Horse Source is an independently owned and operated print and online magazine for horse owners and enthusiasts of all breeds and disciplines in the Pacific Northwest. Our contemporary editorial columns are predominantly written by experts in the region, covering the care, training, keeping and enjoyment of horses, with an eye to the specific concerns in our region.