OCTOBER - EFO Feature Rider of the Month: Vanessa Saccomani
1. How did you enter the Equestrian Industry?
Horses have always been apart of my life; however, once I graduated from Carleton University I decided to move to my family's farm, Deepcreek Warmbloods, to pursue a professional career. Within a few months of being there in 2017 I received a phone call from Cavalia. I was hired initially as an artist, but decided to change to a trainer position as I felt my skills were better suited there.
2. You have a very interesting profession within the Equestrian Industry. Can you explain to everyone what exactly it is that you do?
Currently, I am an equine trainer with Cavalia Odysseo in which I am responsible for 5-7 horses a day. We are currently touring with 70+ horses, this gives me a unique opportunity to ride a wide range of breeds such as: warmbloods, quarter horses, Spanish purebreds and lusitanos. My responsibilities include the training of the horses with coordination of the vet techs, osteopath and equestrian director with the objective to improve their overall performance.
3. How long have you been with Cavalia?
I joined Cavalia last year when they were in Mississauga, Ontario for two and a half months; however prior engagements restricted me from continuing. In March 2018, I reconnected with them in Scottsdale, Arizona and have been touring since then.
4. What does an average day look like for you?
An average day encompasses 6 horses in which I am responsible for training. I wake up at 6:20 to ensure I am on site for 7:30 am to give me enough time to prep my morning. After I put my boots on I make my way through the artistic tent and warm up to the stables. There I grab my tack and bridles for the morning. From 8:15 until 11:45 I am riding four horses.
Typically, I order my horses based on skill level, starting with my more difficult horses. The reason being is the warm-up arena gets very busy between 10:30-2:00 pm, so I like to ensure lots of space to get the most productive ride from my horse. Once I am finished riding my four in the morning the horses receive their lunch and I make my way to the staff kitchen. From 1:00-3:00 pm I am riding, finishing with cleaning my riding boots. My schedule can change depending on rehearsals and they are shortened on the weekends due to earlier shows.
5. What are the most common challenges you face?
The most common is the lack of mirrors in the arena. It is always a benefit to see yourself to help self-correct posture and properly execute movements. However, I am fortunate to be working with a great team and I frequently ask the other trainers to watch or be on the ground to help.
6. Do you have any suggestions for young rider looking to enter this field?
If being an artistic reider appeals to you, I'd recommend being skilled in multiple aspects of the equestrian world: dressage, jumping, cosaque, trick riding, liberty and Roman riding. A trainer, in my opinion takes thousands of hours in the saddle, especially with a coach or in a clinic.
7. What does it take, in your opinion, to be successful in this field?
Time, passion and determination are needed in any and every field within the equine world; this position is no different. As I said before, acquiring multiple disciplines that give you a strong versatility is an asset. Long hours and training is typical for the artists as they have to stay in peak condition and strive to increase their skills. I'm very blessed to have this opportunity.
8. What accomplishment are you most proud of either with Cavalia or within the Equestrian Industry in general?
When summer break rolled around during high-school or university, I always went out to my family's farm in Northern British Columbia to train and compete. Here I was typically given a horse that had sat in a field for over 8 months. I have 2-4 month to prepare them for the fall show. Given the isolation of northern BC, I did not receive many clinics/lessons but still managed to secure high point dressage with each horse I was given. You learn a lot more from a horse you have to get supple, get fit and train then receiving a fine tuned horse. I always felt a huge amount of accomplishment when I was able to see the before and after results.
9. The most memorable horse which you have owned or ridden is ______ and why?
The most memorable horse was named Formation (a.k.a Bubba). He was a beautiful black Westfalen/Morgan/Dutch Warmblood cross that I was given to train two summers in a row. We developed an amazing bond, that still to this day has not been matched; always makes me think of Avatar. He was one of the horses that I won high point dressage with. Also, I started to do trick training with him which I believe helped our bond. I was planning on competing at the BC Championships with him in 2017 however, Cavalia came up instead.
10. If you weren't in the Equestrian Industry, what do you think you would be doing instead?
There were many routes I could have gone. However, I probably would have joined the Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) and hope to get into the dog unit.
11. What has been your favourite show with Cavalia?
The first show I'd ever seen would hold the most memorable as you truly don't understand the level of connection and horsemanship until you see the show.
12. Describe the funniest wardrobe malfunction that you have had when riding?
I am blessed to not have any wardrobe malfunctions (knock on wood)!
13. What is your favourite post-horseshow thing to do?
At the end of the show day it is to go and sit with my horse in their stall and just hang out with them. Have a handful of their favourite cookies and be appreciative of what they did for me that day.
14. What do you like to do for fun with the horses?
On the farm I always mixed up what the horses did. I would rotate training in the indoor, outdoor, fields (great for improving balance), trail riding, pole work and jumping. I think it is important to keep their work interesting and keep them engaged through utilizing different environments and types of work.
At Cavalia, I usually alternate riding in the warm-up arena and outside arena, yet sometimes the big top (stage) is available in the morning. Here we have more space and access to do some hill training if desired.
15. I know you don't ride just one horse but do the horses have a favourite treat?
Asides from reviving their grain, all the horses love apples, carrots and any horse cookie they can get!
16. What do you like to do when you manage to get some time off and away from the craziness of everything?
It all depends on what city we are in. In Arizona, I went to the Grand Canyon and currently, Montreal has a lot of character and charm to explore.
17. What is your go-to late night snack?
Fruit, sherbet and popcorn accompanied by a Netflix movie!
18. What is the fondest memory you have with horses.
Growing up my family and I travelled a lot, but once we settled in Ottawa, I was lucky to have a horse pasture backing onto our backyard. From 2005-2016 I spent every free moment there. My horse, Prince, was my saving grace during schooling years. The fondest memory is him being my "prom date" and taking picture with him, my dad in uniform and my German shepherd, Magnum, at my side.
19. Describe your dream vacation!
Backpacking throughout South-East Asia for a few months working with animal shelters and sanctuaries, all while enjoying the abundance of fruit!
Would you rather...
Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions!
Vanessa, we wish you the best of luck in the future and can't wait to see you again!