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March 2020

Motivation Monday: An Interview with Paralympian Roxanne Trunnell

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Horses have always been a part of Roxanne “Roxie” Trunnell’s life. As a competitor in able-bodied dressage, Roxie aspired to be an Olympian. When she was a teenager, she created her own business to help purchase her first dressage horse, Nice Touch or, Touché.  She earned a United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Bronze medal and was close to obtaining her Silver medal until contracting a virus in 2009 that caused swelling in her brain that changed her life forever….The virus put her in a coma and resulted in her requiring a wheelchair. However, she refused to let this stifle her dreams. Determined to ride Touché, again, Roxie elicited the help of her family and friends to get her back in the saddle. After a long recovery, Roxie slowly began to ride again and completed her Masters in Psychology with a focus in Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy.  Roxie now competes as a US Para Equestrian aboard Dolton, a 2012 Hanoverian gelding owned by Flintwood Farm LLC.


Roxie rode to the top of the most recent, 2019 USEF Para Dressage National Championship, where she secured the high score of the weekend (a 79.333%)!

Roxie’s career highlights also include:

  • 2016 USA Para Equestrian Dressage Individual Paralympic Games Rider
  • 2016 Grade Ia Reserve National at the 2016 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships
  • Team Gold medalist at the 2016 Wellington CPEDI3*; winning the Grade Ia Team and Individual Tests
  • Won the Grade Ia Team Test and Grade Ia Freestyle Test at the 2015 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championship CPEDI3*

See her most recent Freestyle here:

Join us this #MotivationMonday as we hear her perspective on all things life, horses, competing and everything in between!

How did you get into riding?
When I was 2 years old I had roughly the same kind of illness that I got when I was 23 years old that affected my balance. It was suggested that I do vaulting as a way to manage it so when I was around 9-10 years old I started doing vaulting with Lindy Cogswell at Happy Horse Riding School in Burbank, Washington. When just vaulting wasn’t enough for the horse crazy girl I was becoming, I started taking regular riding lessons I’ve never stopped riding since then.

What is your favorite thing about horses?
Hmmm I would have to say there are so many things I like about horses but my absolute favorite thing about them is how you can just be “you” with them. I got my mare Touché when I was 13 years old and she had been through so much with me and then when I got sick I just disappeared on her. She could have been angry with me when I came back but she noticed I was different but that was okay. I was still her person and it didn’t matter if I was different just as long as I supplied her with plenty of carrots and cookies.

What qualities do you look for in a good dressage partner?
For me I prefer a horse with “spunk” to them but that also knows that when they step in the show ring their job is to behave and pay full attention to their rider and to not pay attention to whatever is going on outside that ring no matter how scary it might seem to them.

What makes your horse, Dolton special?
His personality is very goofy. You can tell that he is a young horse with the way he acts on the ground but when you get in the saddle with him he is very much all business and acts way older than his years. He’ll see something or something will happen during our ride that would totally upset another horse but with him it’s like he’s sees it, thinks about it, and then decides it’s not going to eat him so he might as well go back to work. This is a surprising reaction coming from a 7-year-old. Dolton really has a great mind and a totally kissable nose

What is your favorite thing about competing? 
I don’t compete for myself but why I keep doing it, is that Dolton really seems to love all the attention he gets at a show. And when I’m at a show I’m usually parked in front of his stall so he has “his girl” around much more than he does when I come for a lesson. I think he likes that.

What would you say are your biggest physical challenges? And how do you overcome them?
My challenge I really had to overcome was a mental one. Before I got sick I was riding Prix St. George on my girl Touchè so going from doing all that walk-trot-canter & lateral work to just being able to walk was a hard pill to swallow, but I have come to realize that just doing a walk test is more difficult than what I was doing. You can’t hide any little bobble from the judges (they see EVERYTHING!!) If you fuss with your horse’s mouth too much you risk them going into a lateral or short walk. In the PSG tests if something isn’t feeling right in the trot for example you can move into the canter work and sometimes just pushing the horse forward more would fix the issue, not being able to do this during my tests adds to the degree of difficulty required in the grade 1 tests.

What has been your greatest victory?
I think my biggest victory was that I didn’t let this illness break me. My first thought when I woke up from the coma was that I wasn’t going to ride again, and that scared me. I may not ride like I use too but I’m still riding and spending time with my furballs so that is a victory in itself.

What has been your greatest challenge in riding?
It’s a mystery why I can ride the way I do but at the beginning of all of this a lady involved with therapeutic riding tried to explain it to me. It’s like the “file folder” in my brain where I store all my riding knowledge wasn’t damaged when I got sick and so I still have all the knowledge and remember how things are supposed to feel while riding. That’s the most challenging aspect of all of this, I know/feel how it is supposed to be/look but my body just won’t cooperate with me.

How do you mount at competitions?
I get this question a lot probably because Dolton is on the large side. I can walk, although my balance is completely messed up so I have to use a walker, forearm crutches, or a cane to compensate for that. When I’m around the horses though I’m always in a wheelchair or scooter so that if I was to fall it wouldn’t scare them. So to mount I just get to the side of the mounting block, have someone balance me on one side and I grab ahold of the bottom so I’m balanced on the other side and then I just walk up the mounting block. I put my foot in the stirrup and swing my other leg over Dolton’s butt and there I am on my black beast!

How does your trainer push you to be the best you can be?
Well as you probably already know dressage is all about perfection so what makes perfection happen? Practice, practice, and more practice!! I have 4-5 lessons a week on Dolton where me and my trainer Andrea Woodard work on nothing but accuracy and other dressagey stuff. Exceling in the Para Dressage ring takes just as much work and dedication needed in any sport.

Do you use specialized tack? If so, what adaptations do you have?
I have a custom saddle designed to fit me & Dolton perfectly. The leg blocks are placed just in the right position for my legs to keep them in the appropriate position. And I have the bad habit of pressing my heels down so rubber bands strap my feet into the stirrups, this enables me to still keep my stirrups even though my heels aren’t down all the time and yes they don’t hold my feet to tight in the stirrup that when I fall off I’m “stuck” to the horse, Touché has thoroughly checked out that they will break!

Have you ever fallen off? How did you regain your trust in your horse and yourself?
Haha yes I have fallen off more times than I can count, I think Touché currently holds the record of putting me in the dirt the most but I’ve yet to fall off Dolton. Way back when I was first learning to ride, my trainer told me that if I fall off, and I’m not hurt, I better get back on that horse. That has stuck with me over the years, if you ride horses you are going to fall. I’ve just learned to shrug it off and it doesn’t matter how many times you fall off it only matters that you get back on the horse and keep trying.

What is your favorite quote or motto?
My favorite motto to use is “it is, what it is”. It was never part of my plan to have my life turn out like this Being able to show people that even though my life was completely turned upside down I figured out how to compensate for my handicap in order to continue doing what I love is complete awesomeness.

How do you deal with nerves and find focus at competitions?
I don’t really feel pressured since success is measured in so many ways. Growing up I had a trainer who would say “when you enter a dressage arena on your horse at a show and then leave the arena after the test is complete on that horse than it was a good test.” I always think about that statement right before I go in the show ring. I always try to find something positive about my rides, and not just the negatives. So much can happen in the show ring that it really boils down to how you as a rider felt about the performance.

Do you listen to a “pump up” song/music? What is it?
I like loud music, so anything from Five Finger Death Punch, Distrubed, etc. are my “pump up” music bands.

What are your goals for the future?
For the future I am hoping to obtain a Paralympic gold medal but really what keeps me doing this is not how I do in shows really but it’s more about spending time with my ponies.
What do you want people to remember you for?
I’m not sure I would want to be remembered but I do hope that Dolton gets remembered for being the best Grade 1 horse that Team USA could have ever hoped for. He is one special guy.

How can we support you?
You can be a huge support by showing up to Para classes at shows to show support and even by coming out to compete yourself. I’d love to see more Para riders coming out and doing their thing. Win or lose it doesn’t matter, showing is supposed to be fun!

A Short History of my Adult Life in and out of the Saddle

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A Short History of my Adult Life in and out of the Saddle

By Nancy Davidson

Back in 2004 I had just bought my horse “Martini” and was training with Hartmut Knabe, an Austrian-born equestrian who had immigrated to the U.S. some years earlier to work for August Busch III in St. Louis, who at the time was big into horses and could afford a private trainer.  (He also worked with the U.S. Equestrian team but since he was not a U.S. citizen he could not compete as an Olympian with George Morris and Frank Chapot). Hartmut was a wise, senior equestrian who no longer rode but who had a wealth of experiences to draw from as he helped me get to know my new horse and to prepare to compete.  One thing that always resonated with me was his frequent mutterings about people who buy horses and think they can, just like that, qualify for important year-end awards or become fantastic riders in a matter of months. Goals, he would say, do not have timelines and deadlines.

Our current lesson halt is certainly disappointing for all of us and particularly so for everyone who was clipping along, gaining strength and confidence, before the pandemic slammed the door shut.  I don’t know when we will be able to resume riding. I am really hoping sooner than later and until then we are taking it one week at a time. The barn closure caused me to reflect on the different times in my life that I had a lapse in riding and, looking back on those times, I can honestly say they ended up being mere blips in my riding trajectory and desire to reach goals.

After graduating from college (where I rode for the team all four years), I moved to NYC and got a “real job” at Sotheby’s.   It took me a good six months to get my feet on the ground before I could resume riding, which I did in Central Park. Back then there was a lesson facility on the upper west side where I took lessons.  I had to take the crosstown bus and then another bus uptown to get to the stables, but it felt great to be back in the saddle and experiencing riding in a different way. The indoor ring was on street level and the horses lived in stalls on the upper floors.  The horses would go up and down via a ramp! The “barn” barely looked different from the neighboring brownstones.

I had another gap of about six months when I got married and moved first to Colorado and then to Williamsburg, VA, where my new husband began law school. I worked at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in the development office.  Once settled in our routines in Williamsburg, I began riding with another Sweet Briar graduate who was a trainer at a local barn. An Army move to Charlottesville a few years later, then Ft. Hood, Texas, back to Falls Church, back to Charlottesville, then to Phoenix now with two children and a dog, all reduced my ability to ride to trail rides here and there.  In Phoenix I was able to ride more regularly, but a move back to D.C. and a third child sidelined any ability to get back in the saddle. Finally, after moving to Atlanta, I was able to get on a regular riding routine. Again I was clipping along pretty well, leasing a horse and then buying Martini, competing and in constant training, teaching, and building a career in the equestrian business – all was well.  

A fateful May 2013 day — it was a Monday — literally changed the trajectory of all of my riding goals, experiences and future in the sport – and all for the good although I didn’t know it then.  I had a quirky fall, nothing dangerous, nothing scary. In fact I recall I was giggling as I was falling but unfortunately I landed on my right hip, vaporizing it. I remember asking the doctor in the ER if I would ride again, he assured me I would.  The first ride back was in August 2013. After months of PT, I resumed my ability to exercise horses. In the early weeks of my recovery, Sprout posted a job opening for a volunteer coordinator. Thinking I would not be able to return to my previous level of riding, I thought I would take that safe job…  The rest is history we all know and I am of course very happy where I landed.  

Riding lapses are a part of every equestrian’s journey.  Whether sidelined with an accident, illness, economics, pregnancy, relocation or a pandemic, not riding will be a blip and I look forward to resuming our lessons and helping everyone achieve their short and long-term goals (Keeping in mind that the deadlines we set can be fluid and that’s okay!).  What can you do in the meantime? You can put fitness at the top of your daily schedule. Sprout will update its Family Network on FB and the website blog with exercise videos. I will send out exercises to add to those already sent. I will do them as well each day. Whether you focus on your upper body, your core, or your lower body (or all together), this time out-of-the-saddle will be valuable.  You will return stronger and ready to start where you left off. I commend the website for all sorts of videos and learning opportunities about horses in general and equestrian sports in particular.

My next blog entry will be about overcoming fear, conquering demons and truly understanding that Hartmut Knabe was right, you can’t put concrete timelines on sports goals, particularly equestrian sports (horses get ill and have accidents too).  Working through the demons, the fears and diminished lack of confidence that I’ve experienced has only strengthened my interest, appreciation and love for the sport.  This lapse for all of us will be a blip and our daily exercises will help ease the dread and point us toward greater muscle strength and balance when we return to the saddle!

I am a Sprout Horse

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I am a SPROUT horse.
I was born for greatness.
I grew up in Europe, California, Ohio and on the historic Farnley Farm in Virginia.
I was taught to hunt, to drive, to jump, to dance.
Carefully…and correctly.
With patience and persistence – an eye on every detail.
I carried my humans to abounding victories, earning them prizes and acclaim.
I tucked my knees and kept the pace.
I ran through hazards keeping four wheels straight.
I hunted with the master.
A show circuit staple, they all knew my name.
And time marched on.
Until one day.
My body began to feel the miles…
My kid grew up…
My owner got sick…
I was sent to an auction…
I moved on.
And I became a SPROUT horse…
because I AM great.
I will see your soul and know what to do.
You are everything you need to be,
And I will be your partner.
Together we are unstoppable.
I will teach you to believe in your abilities.
To tap into your inner strength and harness your own power.
I will show you how to ride and to live …when to stay in control and how to let go.
I will give you a thrill, calm your nerves, push your buttons and make you laugh.
I will remind you to stay aware, connected and engaged.
Because like a herd…we’re better together.
Some think my job is easy.
That I walk in circles.
They don’t know.
I step under the unbalanced rider to keep them on my back.
I trot in rhythm…up, down, up, down.
I catch the tears of an anxious teen and keep their secrets.
I teach kids that can’t run to canter!
I make your dreams come true.
I now know why.
I learned to hunt…to find the good in everyone.
I learned to jump…to bring you through life’s hurdles.
I learned to drive…to remind you to persevere through the journey.
And I learned to dance…to help you find joy in the day.
I am a Sprout horse.
By Brooke Waldron (March, 2020)

Luck LIVES at Sprout!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope today is your LUCKY day!


As we sit here on pause from programs and service, I am thankful for a moment to reflect on Sprout. Ask any of our staff, students or volunteers and they will tell you that magic happens on this farm and that here the IMPOSSIBLE is made POSSIBLE.


So, I suppose it’s safe to say that Sprout is a pretty LUCKY place.  Over the years, we’ve served more than 5,000 individuals – we’ve celebrated first words of a child on the back of a horse, we’ve watched first steps taken without assistance down our aisles, we’ve brought teens out of the judicial system and back to school we’ve worked alongside young adult’s eager to gain job skills and united people from all walks of life under the conviction that community is powerful…that believing in something is powerful…and that we RISE by lifting others.


I can tell you that these outcomes DIDN’T happen by chance.


I believe that Sprout’s luck is the outcome of action.  And there are a few UNDENIABLE factors that have influenced Sprout’s luck over the years. These factors laid the foundation of our success as a young organization and will permeate the culture and director of this place as we move into our future.



The body of Sprout is comprised of 18 horses, 15 staff and a continuous flow of a hundred weekly volunteers that give over 6,000 hours of service to this mission each year.  We come together regardless of the weather or convenience, when we’re stretched too thin, or going through personal crisis… We show up because we care deeply for the people we serve and about being there to for them ….because luck comes when you show up.



We set our sights on CHANGING LIVES – and we push to make this goal a reality…because replacing despair with joy matters…replacing limitations with potential matters…replacing isolation with the love of friends matters…


The vision of Sprout is to provide HOPE, HEALING, EMPOWERMENT and RECOVERY to members of THIS community….



We, at Sprout, are POSSABILITARIANS – a unique breed of people that cling to the philosophy that every person on this planet has something to offer.  That for every challenge, set-back or struggle there is also an ABILITY.  We use this view every day in our lessons and therapy as we work to find the spark in each student…and set it ablaze.



Sprout now offers 4 and soon to be 5 areas of programming – not because we chose to from the start but instead as response the growing diversity in needs of our students….

Seeing limitations as opportunity and meeting them head on has helped us grow and made us stronger and better.



At Sprout, we appreciate and celebrate INNOVATION.  We are excited and inspired by challenge and change.  We are the creators, we are the do-ers. It’s this mindset that allows us to create adaptive tack for riders that gives them independence, to stay on the cutting edge of therapy and to push the boundaries of what “traditional” therapeutic riding looks, acts and feels like.



We work hard not because we are told to…not because we have to…we work because it comes from the heart.  I can honestly say that PASSION has kept Sprout afloat through our beginning years and knowing that this organization has a soul that will never be stifled gives me the confidence that the best is yet to come.



And this might be the most important one…I believe each person that comes to Sprout is here for a meaningful reason…and that there is no coincidence that we are together in this community.


The fact of the matter is that Sprout’s “LUCK” is ALIVE and it’s STRONG.  Sprout’s “LUCK” comes from you and It comes from me and it comes from anyone whoever selflessly gives to change the life of someone who needs it…


It’s the realization of GOOD, it’s a LIGHT in times of trouble and it’s a HOPE that the best is yet to come.


So, with that let’s “WALK ON” together – it’s our LUCKY day!


Motivation Monday with Rebecca Hart

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Check out Sprout’s “must watch interview” with Paralympic rider, Becca Hart. She gave us lots of great advice from strategies for staying grounded when show-ring nerves flare, to how she chooses her horses, to her adaptive tack, to her favorite sayings (“just keep swimming”) to her views on failure, perseverance and why she loves horses. You are sure to be inspired and in awe of what an amazing person she is!