Sparkles and Sunshine: Horseback Rider Interview Series: Kayla Kody

Horseback Rider Interview Series: Kayla Kody

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Happy Thursday!

I am very excited to introduce you all to someone who I have been following for quite some time now. Kayla Kody is a dressage rider, enjoying life with her amazing horses! One of the first interactions with her was when I won a giveaway she shared for some polo wraps. It was one of the first times I had won anything - especially on social media and I was so excited! She is honest, caring, and her horse's quirks will make you laugh out loud! I hope you all love getting to know her better like I did!

1. How long have you been riding?

My first official lessons were when I was seven. My parents would tell you that I was obsessed with horses from the day I was born and used to spend as much time as I could with them. Especially when we would go to visit my grandma, aunt, and great aunt in California, since they had horses. When I was there I'd get pony rides a-plenty and I was the happiest girl!

2. What was something you struggled with when you first started riding? (i.e. I sucked at finding my diagonal lol).

Recognizing when the horse was bolting and correcting it. I was so young and fearless that it delighted me and I'd giggle as we galloped away, granted I was on a slower more seasoned horse at that time. That all changed after the first time I fell off and I was like "wait a second...that can happen?!" I wish I could channel up some of that old fearlessness when I need it these days!

3. Why do you ride?

As I said, I've always been obsessed with horses and riding just fits with me. I love the outdoors, a good competition, always learning, and riding meshes so effortlessly with all of that. However, even if I couldn't ride I'd still need to be around horses. So, I guess if you asked me to pinpoint one thing it'd really be the horses, they're just incredible and so intuitive, it's a partnership like nothing else.

4. What made you switch from jumpers to dressage? Do you still jump from time to time?

So my two older horses, Epic and Kalypso, were just starting to get to that age where jumping wasn't appropriate for them anymore. I always thought dressage was the most boring sport. A dressage trainer, Hailey Guard,  became the resident trainer at the barn I was boarding at. The two older guys needed exercise and I was traveling a lot so I put them in very light training with Hailey (who is now my current trainer and one of my best friends). After a few weeks I wanted to take a lesson so I could help my horses with their new exercises and the rest is history! It was so hard in the beginning and I was really just doing it for my old guys but then I learned some of the other movements and I was like "oooh this is fun! I need to figure this out."

I do still jump sometimes when I go back to Virginia on friends horses, or when we come across something little on the trail, or when my horses see a ghost in the corner ;)

5. Who are some of your biggest inspirations?

As far as famous people in dressage, probably Laura graves. But, my past trainers and current trainer all have such incredible qualities and I aspire to take everything I've learned from them and combine it to best suit me. I have been unimaginably lucky with the people who have taken me udner their wing in the horse world.

6. Tell us more about your four horses! How did you find them/how long have you had them? Height/age/breed/quirks? :)

1. Kalypso | 15.2 hh | 24 y.o. | Hanoverian x Saddlebred - as if that breeding isn't quirky enough he is a PISTOL. He taught me everything I know about difficult horses. He was my great Aunt's dream fold, she bred her very spicy saddlebred to an Olympic Hanoverian jumper and we go Kalypso. My great aunt died shortly after Kalypso turned three. She had been ill for a long time and he was unhandled, not gelded, and completely unmanageable. The family didn't know what to do with him. He tore down a round pen, broke a man's arm (and his Rolex) the day he arrived at the very first place we took him. Somehow, someway, my parents agreed to let me "inherit" him for my 10th birthday. He's been with me ever since (19 years). The trainer we had when we got him to Virginia, Anne Causey, truly saved him (and probably me.) Quirks - aside from his personality Kalypso has Cushings so you will see a good bit about that on our page.

2. Epic | 16.2 hh | 23 y.o. | Belgian X Thoroughbred - Remember that wonderful kid safe horse you read about above? My trainer at the time (also mentioned above Anne Causey) thought maybe I should have something safer. She found a wonderful experienced horse for us to go look at. After trying the experienced horse we were there to see, something caught my eye in the crossties - it was Epic. As fate would have it Epic was a huge, spooky, draft cross - so naturally I was in love. He took off with me on our trial ride and I was delighted. Luckily he wasn't going anywhere too fast (he's a chunk), could jump a 4 board fence from a trot, and was much less expensive than the experienced horse. He came home with us shortly after his PPE, I was 12 at the time. He's been with me for almost 18 years. Quirks - terrifed of butterflies. Used to use his insane ability to jump to bring himself in from the pasture for dinner.

3. Palomo "SE Palomo" | 17.1 hh | 8 y.o. | Pura Raza Espanola - Last year I wanted to start getting better at dressage and also start looking for my next lifetime partner. We went to Florida on a mission to find a nice warmblood with a great temperament who was under 5 years old (budget a big factor here). My trainer, Hailey, lined up talented warmbloods for us to see, I rode so many and was blown away by them all. Of course, we went to see a special fellow who wasn't anything that I thought I wanted and he caught my eye with his striking gaits and unflappable temperament, yet sensitive and forward demeanor. I came home with Palomo, he's a huge PRE that is super talented. He is teaching me every day. I've had him for a year. Quirks - loves to play with buckets, any kind of bucket.

4. Zodi "Ramazzotti" | 16 hh | 15 y.o. | Bavarian Warmblood - like all of my horses, Zodi was a total fluke. I rode him to help with a sales video for Hailey (aforementioned trainer). During the making of that video, I had THE MOST fun I've had in so long riding all of these fun dressage movements that I had never even gotten to try before. I had been talking about needing something that was a little bit more educated so that I could learn easier. Zodi was not exceeding expectations at his hunter job and my aids were still a little "jumpery" so we really hit it off. He hasn't shown dressage before but is so smart and picks it up  quickly. He became mine in October of last year. Quirks - HATES bugs, like really hates them.

7. How do you budget for four horses? What advice can you give to someone who's trying to save for their first horse or for someone who's trying to budget better for the current horse?

If you want total honesty here I will tell you that horses have an innate sense of how much money is in your bank account and will act accordingly to make sure you return back to next to nothing. Got a little money saved up? Your horse will throw you a curve ball like an unexplained lameness. Lots of money saved up? Hello suspensory injury! When people tell you the purchase price is the least expensive part of the horse they are not lying.

As far as planning and advice I try really hard to make sure I don't buy things I don't NEED. I do not always succeed. I realized a long time ago that if I was going to continue this hobby it was not going to be cheap. t wasn't possible for me to continue on the salary I had, this was a huge factor in starting my own business. It is very helpful to be able to control your own income by adding clients, but finding a  balance between work hours and life hours is probably the biggest struggle with providing for four horses.

As far as saving up for your first horse - lease for as long as you can, or at least until you have a good amount of discretionary income to cover any health or injury costs.

8. What does your trainer constantly get on to you about? Ha!

My lowered left hand! It is the worst and occasionally reverting back to a jumper position.

9. What is the best piece of riding advice you've ever been given?

HAVE FUN!! I cannot tell you how said it makes me when I see people so caught up in competition that they forget that we are so incredible fortunate to have these amazing horse partners and even be doing any of this. For many of us, this is our hobby and we need to remember that, support each other, and always strive to be better, but don't forget to enjoy what we're doing.

10. What are some of your riding aspirations/goals for 2019?

I want to ride a 1st level freestyle with Zodi! I also hope to make it to regionals at training leves or 1st level freestyle.

11. How has riding made an impact on other parts of your life? 

When I was younger being almost 6 ft. tall was not easy, I was totally the stereotypical tall awkward teenager. Back then riding gave me confidence and a place to belong. I would say that now riding centers me. I'm so grateful to run my own business but it can totally exhaust you. Riding and just being around the horses in general can re-energize me and also remind me of what is important.

Thanks so much for reading today's rider interview with Kayla Kody! If you liked it, please leave a comment below! I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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