From Customer to Intern: A Blog by Liberty Khazae
By Liberty Khazae
For a few years now, I have been showing at Quarter Horse shows riding the Hunt Seat all-around in Equitation, Hunter Under Saddle, Hunter Hack, Working Hunter, Equitation Over Fences,and Showmanship. I have ridden horses pretty much all my life, and started showing open shows and 4-H when I was four. I started showing AQHA when I purchased my first horse at sixteen. I grew up in Wisconsin and I have always thirsted for knowledge when it came to horses. After much thought and discussion with my trainer Alison Koenig, we thought it would be a good time for me to branch out and learn from other professionals. Who better to learn from than one of the best people in the industry?
I spoke with Rick Skelly, located in Wisconsin, who has been training and showing Quarter Horses for 48 years. Rick has trained many AQHA World and Congress Champions. He owned Natural Iron, who was one of the best hunt-seat stallions in AQHA history. Natural Iron’s offspring are consistently at the top of the winners circle in many different events. Rick< agreed to take me on as an Intern and make my dreams of seeing the winter show circuit in Florida come true. Coming to Florida is always something I wanted to do, but expected it would be with my own horse. My horse, Memphis, was injured last winter, so those dreams of bringing him with to show were out of the picture. I changed my dream from getting to show my horse into an even bigger dream of starting a potential career in horses. Rick and I hadn’t done much planning in advance for me to come to Florida so I had some last minute necessities to purchase. My parents were kind enough to give me a training saddle for my Christmas present! Saying I was excited to come to Florida is an understatement. I had a countdown going and found myself constantly smiling even thinking of the idea.
On Christmas morning, I packed up my car and said one last goodbye to my family and friends. I was starting my new adventure as an intern for Rick Skelly Quarter Horses. Rick spends his winter months at Fox Lea Farm in Venice, Florida. I may get the perks of leaving behind negative temperatures in Wisconsin for sunny and 75 degrees, but it isn’t all fun and games. Just the journey getting here itself opened my eyes as to what horse professionals deal with on a daily basis. Our truck broke down not once, but twice. It took Rick’s assistant Ellen Jost and I five days of traveling before we made it here. We didn’t have to just worry about getting the truck fixed, but we had live animals to care for.
The first week I was here in Venice I was fortunate enough to have Ellen here to help teach me the ropes. I work seven days a week, anywhere from eight to twelve hours a day. My daily tasks are feeding and watering the horses, cleaning stalls, lunging, tacking up the horses, and riding. The work is very hard, but very rewarding. I’m learning so much every single day. The second week, there was an AQHA show here at Fox Lea Farm. The show was very big with over 500 stalls booked! It was a great opportunity to meet new people and see how a different barn prepares to show.
The week after the horse show, Ellen had to go back to the Skelly Ranch to take care of the horses left at home. I was then left with more responsibility for the horses remaining in Venice. I’m starting to get the hang of things more and more every day. We will be staying here at Fox Lea Farm until early May. Rick’s usual routine is to then head home to Wisconsin where he shows the Wisconsin Quarter Horse Shows May through September.
I’m very excited to have the opportunity to be down here in Florida for the winter, learning from one of the best trainers in the industry, meeting new people, improving my horse skills, and overall developing as a person. I know I belong somewhere in the horse industry and I hope this experience will help me decide what I am meant to do in the future.
Thanks to Libby for sharing with us her experiences so far working in Florida! We’re excited to hear how some of her other adventures go, and what other advice she has for people looking to get into the industry.