byEsther Hahn| Dec 13, 2016
At the young age of 19, Schuyler Riley became the first female to win the USET Talent Derby. Shortly after that she decided to dedicate her life to the sport and become a professional—to both teach and ride at the highest level.
Fast forward to today, at the age of 45, she can count numerous Nations Cups, two World Cup Finals, and many international competitions from Calgary to Dubai to her name. We caught up with the owner and operator of Wolfstone Stables in Wellington, Fla., to ask her our 20 questions:
NF Style: At what exact moment did you fall in love with horses?
Schuyler Riley: When I was 7, I took lessons at East Hill Farm in Plainville, Vermont, on a little grey roan pony named Dotsie. I loved her—even when she ran me out of the ring to the hay room.
For riding, do you prefer black boots or brown boots?
If you could do any other equestrian discipline what would it be and why?
I’ve always wanted to do cutting horses. They’re so smart and they seem to love what they do.
What is the most embarrassing thing to have ever happened to you while riding?
Lordy, it’s a toss-up: jumping the wrong water jump at Spruce Meadows (I aimed at the correct one), or as a junior at USET finals I was in the middle of reprimanding my horse for stopping at fence no. 3 and he jumped the last fence with me hanging like a flag on a flag pole and we were eliminated for off course. Or, perhaps, the best ridiculous moment of my entire life is when Borat interviewed me.
What is the most inspiring thing to have ever happened to you while riding?
To have George Morris kiss my feet after producing a double clear in the Nations Cup in La Baule. One of my biggest role models in my life, George isn’t afraid to dig deep to get results and stick to his word. He taught me about leadership and his belief in me and all of us on the team made us better; he made us stronger and he made us winners.
What is your favorite #TwoHearts Moment of your season?
A hundred percent, it’s Nick [Skelton] winning the gold medal. He’s been a friend and a mentor to me. I know how long and hard of a road it’s been for him and Big Star. His story is really what dreams are made of. It took a village and enormous strength, emotionally, physically, and mentally, for it to all come together in that moment on that day. It was a true #TwoHearts phenomenon. On any given day, a rider can be on, or not, and on any given day a horse can be on, or not, but for the team of horse and rider to be “on” like Nick and Big Star were on that day… That’s why we do this.
What was the hardest lesson you have had to learn in your riding?
Who is your mentor and why?
My father, Tom Domencich. He is always a calm voice of reason. He keeps me centered and helps me see the bigger picture. Plus, I am more of a mathematically minded person and he always has a system for problem solving.
If you could ride a horse from the past, who would it be?
From my past, I would like to have Carolus II back. He was a wonderful stallion, and I did well with him, but I think I could ride him so much better now, and he could earn the accolades he deserved. From history, I would have loved just one grand prix course on Gem Twist. That horse was a freak for any rider who sat on him. He could fly.
If you could ride a horse right now, that is not your own, who would it be?
Janne Friederike Meyers’ horse Goja. He’s just so clever careful and scopey. He looks like he loves his job and like it’s easy for him.
How do horses keep you grounded in the industry?
Horses are much easier than people. They are so honest with their opinions and even though they can’t speak, they really do try to communicate with us—at least, the good ones do. Equestrian is the only sport where men and women compete equally because the horse is the equalizer.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
For an activity: diving. For eating: the best red wine, fresh bread, and amazing cheese.
When were you most happy on a horse?
Synchronicity, which usually equates to winning. The ah-ha moment on a horse and you never get tired of winning.
If your top horse were a famous person, who would it be?
Dobra is Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich.
What is one piece of riding clothing or equipment you could never do without?
My Voltaire saddle. It’s saving my body and my horses’ bodies.
What is your helmet of choice and why?
Charles Owen. I’ve fallen off in many brands, but Charles Owen is the best. I’ll knock on wood, but every time I’ve fallen in Charles Owen my head has been fine. I can’t say that for any other brand
Which famous clothing brand do you wish would come out with a equestrian line?
While I love to play in Roberto Cavalli, my taste in the equine world is more Armani.
What is your biggest splurge to date when it comes to your riding and/or horses?
Jumping on the Global Champions Tour and in the Global Champions League this summer. It’s been surreal.
What is the best piece of riding advice you have ever received?
From Paul Valliere: Be able to do the job as well as everyone who works for you.
From John and Beezie Madden: First comes pace then comes track then last is distance—always in that order.
From Neco Pessoa: Flat work is like going to the gym for horses.
From Johan Heins: Go through the turn. The horse must jump the jump.
From Conrad Homfeld: At some point, you have to unlock your knuckles from the mane and help your horse in the combinations. (I have so many more from Conrad but this just makes me laugh the most.)
From Norman Dello Joio: Stop trying to ride bad horses. Good horses make good riders.
From Michele Grubb: Make the last three strides before the jump the smoothest.
From George Morris: Fight for it.
What is your life motto?
My father told me at a very young age, “I don’t care if you want to pump gas for a living, just be sure it’s what you love to do.”
Life is isn’t easy. Horses aren’t easy. But I love what I do and that makes up tenfold for everything that isn’t easy. Picking up the trot is like my first real breath of the day.
- Twenty Questions With Brazilian Show Jumper Rodrigo Pessoa [NF Style]
- All Twenty Questions posts [NF Style]