Each issue, MSEDA will highlight a member who is active in the organization to give other members a peek into their horse-loving lives. Interested in being featured? Email Sarah at email@example.com.
By Sarah E. Coleman
Georgia Skelton comes by her love of equines honestly: Her mom, Kateri Skelton, put Georgia on a horse as soon as she could sit up. Georgia has long been involved in the horsemanship behind riding, even acquiring her second horse from winning a knowledge-based competition. Want to know how she got her horse, why she enjoys training her horses and why she loves benefit horse shows? Click here to find out.
MSEDA: Where are you from?
Georgia Skelton: I was actually born in Gulfport, Mississippi, but we moved to the Danville, Ky., area when I was a year old.
MSEDA: What brought your family here?
GS: Horses and my Dad's work brought my family to Kentucky.
MSEDA: When did you begin riding?
GS: I was put on horses from the time I could sit upright, and mom rode while she was pregnant with me, so you could say I have been riding horses my whole life!
MSEDA: What is your background in horses?
GS: I was raised riding a mixture of hunter/jumpers, and then progressed to a mix of dressage and eventing as I joined our local Wilderness Trace Pony Club. Today I am trying to focus on dressage with my personal horses, but I participated in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) while in college [at Georgetown College].
Young Skelton with Erriel
MSEDA: How long have you been competing?
GS: I started in lead-line at 4 or 5 and have been riding competitively (whether on my horses or in IHSA) ever since. I didn't get to compete as actively in college, but I still try to ride them like I am working toward competition.
MSEDA: When did you get your first horse?
GS: My family had horses already when I was a small child, but I would say I got my first official pony when I was around 7 or 8 years old. She was a Welsh cross pony named Babydoll that I did the hunters in 4-H with until she retired and I outgrew her.
MSEDA: What horses do you own now?
GS: I currently own two horses: One is a homebred horse (bred by my Mom, Kateri Skelton), his name is Aspen (G Aspen's Trust Fund). He is a 9-year old-gelding, Thoroughbred/Dutch Warmblood cross, registered RPSI. The other is a 7-year-old mare registered with the North American Studbook (Hanoverian/RPSI cross) named Lucky (Luck Be A Lady SCF). They are both in the never-ending training process to be dressage horses.
MSEDA: How did you get each of them?
GS: Aspen I raised and trained along with my Mom and lots of other professional horsemen/women's guidance! It has been a long road, as Aspen is huge and athletic while I am very small--he used to not even think he could canter with a rider! I have had to work really hard to show him how to use his body, which is still a work in progress every day. Lucky I actually acquired from an internship! During my freshman year of school at Georgetown College, I was convinced by one of my friends to participate in the USHJA Horsemanship Quiz Challenge with her, as we had done 4-H knowledge competitions together for years.
I ended up being one of the winners of that competition and was offered a prize of an internship at the renowned Spy Coast Farm, which breeds Belgian Warmbloods for hunter/jumper competition. I was fortunate enough to work with both the young horse trainers and the resident veterinarian. While there, I fell in love with a bay roan mare who was bred for the hunters, but didn't quite fit the “hunter” profile. At the end of the summer, I was offered Lucky. I still cannot believe that she is mine--she is so perfect for me and I am so grateful for the opportunity to train her into a show horse.
MSEDA: What horses do you compete (and what do you compete in?)
GS: I have competed both Lucky and Aspen up to Training Level in dressage. I also compete with Duncan (JustPlainDuncan, an unraced Thoroughbred), another horse belonging to my mom. I have competed first level dressage and done some eventing with him. I do most of the training on my own horses, getting help from professionals as often as I can, so for me it has been and continues to be more about the journey of developing the horses myself rather than progressing up the levels
.Skelton riding Lucky
MSEDA: What Pony Club are you in?
GS: I belong to Wilderness Trace Pony Club, I am a C2 riding, HB horse management.
MSEDA: What is your favorite part of Pony Club?
GS: I love the family aspect of Pony Club. We are a small and close-knit club, and we’re always working together and helping each other out.
MSEDA: Will you compete this year?
GS: I hope to do a few small shows this year before I head to Auburn, Alabama, in August for veterinary school at Auburn University.
MSEDA: How long have you been a MSEDA member?
GS: About five years.
MSEDA: What is your favorite event or show and why?
GS: I love to go to the benefit shows like Paul Frazer and the Pony Club-hosted shows. Not only is it great to feel like you’re benefitting great organizations like CKRH (the proceeds from the Paul Frazer Combined Test and Dressage show benefit Central Kentucky Riding for Hope, a therapeutic riding facility based in Lexington), but it’s great to get out in early spring and see the horses beginning to slick off or show off their fancy clip jobs, and get a good first competition under their belts. The environment is just very welcoming at these shows.
MSEDA: What level do you compete in (if you compete)?
GS: I have competed up to First Level in dressage, and Beginner Novice in full horse trials.
MSEDA: What are your horse's favorite treats?
GS: My horses love peppermints, apples, carrot, and the little horse nuggets you buy in bags. They don't really like anything too exciting.
Skelton riding Aspen
MSEDA: Do you have any good luck rituals? If so, what are they?
GS: I don't really have any rituals per say, but I usually try to have my tack spotless for shows. It just puts your best foot forward and makes you feel confident in your tack on your horse come show day, plus it gives you that little extra grip in your tack!
MSEDA: What are your favorite equestrian brands?
GS: I just love products that work! I am not set in stone on particular brands usually, and I often am switching out gear like helmets and protective boots I use until I find the right combo for my needs and my horse’s needs. But I am a big fan of Stubben saddles. They fit horses with funny backs and normal horses very well.
MSEDA: What are your horse's quirks?
GS: They are too numerous to count! Aspen in particular is very silly. He has a baby voice and hates to not be caught first, so if I catch Lucky in the field next to his and Aspen thinks he is being left, he just screams like a baby until I catch him, so I usually have to catch and ride him first, and then everything is lovely!
Lucky, I like to call her my peacock, or my duck, because she just struts around her field with her head bobbing like a bird, she makes you think she owns the place. Lucky also has this thing where when you are riding her she sometimes thinks her face gets so itchy she does like downward dog trying to rub her face, and makes me feel like I am going to fall off, so I have to kick her out of her itching session.
MSEDA: What is your goal this year?
KS: My goal is just to keep my horses fit and going happily, and have a good time this summer, as I am moving to Auburn in August, and I am not initially taking the horses with me.
MSEDA: Who do you ride with?
GS: I ride with lots of different people! I love getting to learn from different people’s teaching styles and see what works best for my horses.
MSEDA: Where do you ride?
GS: I am very lucky that I get to ride at my house. We have a 33-acre family farm (Chestnut At Bay), and I have a large grass arena as well as a small sand arena, so I have pretty much all I need to work them.
MSEDA: What is your favorite part of your barn?
GS: I love having my horses at my house because I can walk out my back door and go see them whenever I want. I also can ride when it is nice and cool in the mornings/evenings without disturbing anyone!
MSEDA: What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome with your horse?
GS: My biggest obstacles with my horses have been their spookiness. Both of my warmbloods tended to act spooky for different reasons when I first started working with them. Lucky was just really lacking in confidence, while my gelding Aspen would just get it in his mind that he didn't want to work. I had to really think through why they were having these issues and establish myself as a leader with both of them (with Lucky so she had someone to look up to in a scary situations, and with Aspen so he knew that I am not just a pushover member of his herd, as he kind of a bully in the field).
MSEDA: Describe your horse in 10 words.
GS: Aspen: Tank, huge, athletic, sweetie, sometimes dramatic, always hungry, smart, handsome, silly, softie.
Lucky: Beautiful, the Queen, stunning, stubborn, powerful, petite, lawnmower, loving, kind, happy.
MSEDA: What is your favorite memory?
GS: One of my favorite memories is the night Aspen was born on our farm. The mare was older and very calm; she was used to having foals and was very relaxed to have us around in the stall. Although we missed the actual foaling, I got to help care for him directly after while he was still wet and got to help with his imprinting and early training as a foal.
MSEDA: What other animals do you own?
GS: I have a very ornery 11-year-old Australian Shepherd dog named Avalon (seriously, she knows how to open doors in our house and goes wherever she wants!); a grey cat named Trinity who thinks he is Golem, he runs around the house snorkeling and yowling over his toy mice; and a leopard gecko who pretends he is a rock more often than not (except when he is hungry!).
Avalon the Australian Shepherd
MSEDA: Is there anything unusual about your horses now?
GS: Lucky is a very distinct color; she looks like almost brindle, but she is a bay roan. And Aspen, my brother calls him a moose because his is big and has an unusually shaped nose, sort of like a moose, but he is still handsome to me!
MSEDA: What do you want to do with your career path?
GS: I am currently pursuing a career in veterinary medicine, and I am very interested in equine surgery, specifically orthopedics, but I am still very open minded!
MSEDA: What is one piece of advice you would give (riding-related or not)?
GS: Be determined and believe in yourself--don't be afraid of setbacks. In training my horses and lots of times in my academics/preparation for veterinary school, I have felt like maybe I wasn't quite good enough or my young horses would decide to give me a lesson in humility. I have had to learn to work through these issues and rise above them, to produce a better result next time the issue occurs, because bad things don't just “stop” unfortunately. Everything is an ongoing process!
MSEDA: Where do you see yourself in five years?
GS: Well, in five years, I should be a graduated and practicing veterinarian, but if things go as planned, I hopefully will be working in a residency/externship situation to specialize in equine oorthopedics.