By Catie Staszak
Junior rider Adam Edgar is not afraid of the word ‘No.’
“There are so many people who are going to tell you that you can’t do it,” said Edgar. “I had numerous people tell me, ‘You can’t do this. You don’t have enough money.’ My thing was, I was never afraid of no or someone telling me, ‘You can’t do that.’ That was more of a drive to do it.”
Edgar, 17 and from Leesburg, Va., did not have the luxury of owning his own horse or pony growing up, but he catch-rode his way into a working student position at Over The Hill Farm under the tutelage of trainer Bill Schaub.
Last month, he was awarded a U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Foundation “Making A Dream” Grant, enabling him to compete at the U.S. Junior Hunter Championships - 'East in Devon, Pa., with Jamie Stryker’s 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding UpCountry Charmer (Contender X Geriance). In the large junior, 16-17 division, they finished fifth in Monday’s classic round, 10th in Tuesday’s handy, and were fifth overall in a division of 39 competitors.
“It’s so shocking just how many people really do want to help,” Edgar said. “For me, that’s something that’s just astounded me and made me so unbelievably thankful. It’s been such an amazing experience so far.”
Edgar received $2,500 from the USHJA to cover “transportation, hotel and supplies needed.” Stryker offered UpCountry Charmer for the competition. Other sponsors stepped up to help fund the young rider’s trip, including CWD, who gifted Edgar with a new saddle, and Diane Schiereck of Seashore Acres, who provided a veterinary exam for “Charmer.”
“It’s really been a big relief, not only for my mom and me, but also for Bill,” Edgar said. “It really helped make this all possible.”
Edgar has been catch-riding since his mother won him a free riding lesson at Red Gate Farm in Hamilton, Va., through a school raffle; he rode a horse named Misty and was hooked from the start. Initially, though, he was not drawn to the hunter ring.
Once he was past basic walk-trot-canter lessons, Edgar started eventing on Carbon Copy, a pony owned by a friend of his mother’s. “I got really into [it]. I wanted to do it and go to the Olympics for it; I loved cross-country,” he said.
But Carbon Copy had some antics up his sleeve. “He tried to buck me off a lot. At one event he tried to buck me off in cross-country, and I ended up just stopping and getting off,” Edgar recalled. “I walked all the way back to the trailer. My mom was like, ‘I don’t know if this is the safest thing you should be doing.’ "
It didn’t take long for Edgar to pick up another mount, but this time he relocated to the hunter ring. Carol Eichner, the trainer next door to where Carbon Copy was stabled, asked him to catch ride one of her ponies. Working with Eichner at her Everready Farm in Loudoun County, Va., led to Edgar getting the ride on his first “real medium pony” mount, a pinto pony gelding named Damingo.
“I just fell in love with [the hunters],” Edgar said. “[I enjoyed] learning to ride well and then learning how to finesse it, and I loved the challenge of having to go in and be perfect, and I never looked back.”
Edgar and Damingo moved up to the medium pony division in 2014. Qualifying for the U.S. Pony Finals in Lexington, Ky., was easy - they earned a spot in the line-up the first time they contested the division - but the logistics of going were not. Edgar’s mother, who owns a skin care shop in Leesburg, could not afford to send her son to the show on her own.
“The story I like the best is from when he was riding with Carol Eichner,” Schaub said. “He qualified for the medium pony [division], and as he walked out of the ring, he was like, ‘Now I get to go to Pony Finals!’ Carol said, ‘Yes, but you’re not going to be able to afford to go.’ And he was like, ‘Yes I will. I’ll figure something out.’ He made dog cookies, and he went around and sold them. He took them to school and went around the neighborhoods and sold dog cookies, and that’s how he paid for his first Pony Finals.
“Adam is just one of those kids with such a good savvy and such good people skills,” he added. “It wasn’t taught; he just figured it out.”
A Second Family
Edgar met Schaub at those Pony Finals. He had another ride there, Anna Rossi’s One More Time, in the large pony division, and Rossi had Schaub train him at the competition. The two immediately hit it off, and Edgar and “Ditto” ended up ribboning.
“I was so nervous when I first met [Schaub], and I was so awkward, but he ended up being just one of the funniest, nicest people,” Edgar recalled. “I ended up 16th overall, and it was great.”
“I used to summer in Virginia, so I saw him as a really little boy, and I watched him ride through the years,” Schaub said. “I would help him a little bit with [Ditto] when we were at the same shows, and I really liked the kid. He’s a hard worker; he’s just one of those kids that everybody wants to help.”
Schaub worked with Edgar at Capital Challenge (Md.) that year and helped Edgar find rides at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington (Fla.) in 2015, when Edgar began picking up rides in the pony divisions and in the children’s and junior hunters.
“It was really Bill who said, ‘I want to help, and I want to campaign you for rides,’ " Edgar said. “You really just have to find the right people, and you have to take every safe ride that you can get. Anything that’s rideable and that you’re not going to get hurt on, you have to take. The more you ride and get noticed, the more you’re going to find the people that you’re going to get in the right situation with.”
The following year, Schaub took him on as his working student.
“I have learned so much, not only about riding, but also so much about being a horseman and always putting the horses’ care first,” Edgar said. “We just learn so much every day, and Bill has just been awesome. He understands my mindset, so we work really well together. He lets me do my thing, and he’s never once tried to make me ride the way that I don’t ride; he’s always just tried to help me polish my riding and make me better and better - not different. I could never repay him for that.”
“I always try to sponsor at least one kid - a Shawn Cassidy, a Parker Wright, a Taylor St. Jacques, a Taylor Adams - and right now I’ve got [Edgar] and [12-year-old] Luke Jensen as working students,” Schaub said. “I just try to give back. I was never able to do this either when I was a kid in this kind of manner.”
Edgar still calls Leesburg home, but he spends a lot of time on the road traveling to horse shows. He takes online classes through EdOptions Academy, and while spending time at Over The Hill in Sanford, Fla., he stays with Jensen and his mother Martha.
“Martha Jensen takes care of those boys and has them everywhere they need to be, because Adam’s mother can’t go, and Adam is pretty much on his own,” Schaub said. “They’ve got to do their schoolwork, and I make sure they’ve got their formal stationary with their monograms on it, because ‘Thank you’ notes have to get out.
“That’s just my style,” Schaub continued. “I tell my boys, ‘Listen, a text and an email, in my book, are not thank yous. You’re going to hand-write notes.’ With this USHJA grant, we have a list of who gets thank you notes. That’s part of the job, and it just becomes familiar.”
“Bill is like a dad to me,” Edgar said. “He always gives me a hard time about things, but I have to remember that we’re like family. We’re always joking, we’re always having fun, and it’s just like we’re one big family. There’s no drama; there’s none of that. It’s just fun.”
The Gift Of Grant
Edgar and Schaub first heard about the Making a Dream grant through the Wellington-based trainer Charlie Moorcroft, who is on the USHJA Foundation Board of Directors. That led to a meeting with USHJA Foundation President Jennifer Burger.
“I sat down with her at WEF, and she asked what some of my goals were, and I told her I’d love to do Junior Hunter Finals,” Edgar said. “She told me she wanted to help me make that a possibility.”
A few months later, Steve Rosenberg, the foundation’s coordinator, called Schaub to tell him his pupil would be receiving the grant.
“He got a unanimous vote, because everyone on the board had been watching him from the corner of their eyes, since we started this during Florida circuit time,” Schaub said. “His mother was really straining to help, and I’m doing all I can, and a lot of people will help him, but [this grant] really made [Junior Hunter Finals] happen for him to have this experience. Hopefully next year, he’ll have more catch rides. He’s just getting more in to the junior hunters.
“I’ve just been amazed at how good everybody has been to help,” Schaub continued. “We’re getting more and more sponsorships, and the zones are willing to help, and they set an example.”
The USHJA Foundation’s funding should go a long way, because Edgar says he is in this sport for the long run. The rest of his summer includes a month in Kentucky and another shot at Pony Finals, and next season he hopes to pursue the “big eq” finals as another stepping-stone to becoming a professional.
“I love helping kids, and I love teaching, so I’d love to eventually become a professional, have my own barn, teach kids and ride,” he said. “I just really love helping kids, and it’s so important, especially after all the help I’ve gotten, to give back and help other kids that need.”
“One of the mothers came up to me the other day and said to me, ‘You don’t realize, Adam saved my kid the other day. She went in the first class and got a 55 and was so depressed, and he came up and sat down and said to her, ‘Well, I just got two 36’s. That beats you!’ ” Schaub said.
“He’s really good that way with the other kids. He’ll sit down with them and tell them not to worry, because he went through all of that, the worry stage and the nervous stage. He just had to figure out a way to overcome it. He’s a real team player, which is nice to have around. It just seems to come natural to him.”
Edgar already knows the advice he’ll give his own students.
“Catch-riding so much and riding with Bill is still a lot of work, but I love it, and I’m finally starting to feel that all of that work I’ve put into it is paying off,” he said. “People notice hard work, and they want to help. My biggest advice to anybody is, ‘Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t be afraid of people telling you that you can’t do it, because if you put your mind to it, anything really is possible.”