Shannon Donnelly, B.A., ESMT, CMT
"I have been involved in the equine industry for 20+ years as a competitor and working student - and now barn owner, USEF registered professional, and trainer. I began riding at the age of six, at West Weylands Farm in Esher, England. My family had moved to Surrey, England as a result of a job relocation assignment for my father with Corning Incorporated. I would see horses ride by our house every single day and subsequently begged my mother to take me for lessons. My mom also loves horses and has been a huge supporter of my equine endeavors. She and I would go to the barn together, and often take lessons together. We moved back to upstate New York from England two years later and, with some convincing, I started riding again.
Through the years, I moved along from ponies, to small horses, to horses- up the ranks of pony hunters, children's hunters, and the big eq. All the while I was making sure I was taking proper care of my horse and equipment, as I never belonged to a "show barn" or had a groom- I was the groom. Even when I was granted the opportunity to ride in Wellington during a few spring breaks, I made sure to do all I could to help and learn. I developed a great sense of responsibility and discipline that I truly believe would not be the same if it were not for my experience with horses. From a very young age, I was taught the critical importance of horse care and upkeep. In fact, upon arriving for my very first riding lesson in England, I was brought to my horse’s stall and taught how to muck and change water buckets before I was even allowed in the saddle.
As a junior competitor on the ‘A’ circuit, I applied for the USHJA Emerging Athletes Program (EAP), and was selected as one of nine from all Zone 2 (PA, NY, NJ) applicants for three separate program years. Riders accepted into the EAP initially participate in a five-day EAP Regional Training Session where we work with top riding clinicians and stable managers. Instruction focused on flatwork, gymnastics, related distances and course work, as well as an intensive stable-management curriculum that incorporated proper care and grooming, horsemanship skills and barn management. The application process itself required a full online application, three letters of recommendation, and a score above 80 percent on the Horsemanship Quiz Challenge. The program was created to foster grass-roots talent and riders who may not have constant access to top level shows or trainers- and as a young rider from a small barn in upstate NY, I found EAP to be one of the most challenging, yet rewarding learning experiences of my riding career thus far.
During my years as an EAP participant (2011-2013), I was trained and mentored by world class riders, Olympic competitors, and trainers such as, Melanie Smith-Taylor, Eliza Shuford Hucks, and Karen Healey. Additionally, throughout my career as a developing rider, I also participated in a number of barn-hosted clinics with professionals such as, Peter Leone, Anne Kursinski, Michael O. Page, Candice King, Frank Madden, and George Morris. I prioritized being the best student I could be and listened closely to absorb every bit of information and knowledge I could from each clinician. Michael Page always told me,
“it would be naïve for someone to claim they know everything there is to know about riding and horses. Even the very best riders know they are not experts. You must always be willing to learn.”
I have carried that sentiment with me since he first expressed it to me at the age of 12.
I pushed my passion for horses even farther in recent years and studied to become certified in both Canine and Equine Sports Massage Therapy. I rounded out my studies during a week-long practicum at Equissage with the program founder. Through massage therapy, I was able to further develop my connection and understanding with horses, in addition to appreciating the benefit of myofascial release and body work in our hardworking teammates."
My overall goal is to foster a positive riding atmosphere, while focusing on each individual detail and nuance of establishing a well-rounded rider.
I prioritize rider strength & balance, horsemanship, and horse care, as riders navigate each horse they ride.
Understanding the equine athlete and rider biomechanics is of the upmost importance while training in and out of the saddle.