Becca and Sandi Spellman are a dressage duo with a little something extra special – they’re a mother and daughter pair! Dressage runs in the family; I took the opportunity to speak to the two about life with a family-riding buddy. Becca shared what it’s like to ride with her mom and Sandi explained what it’s like to ride with her daughter.
How long have you each been riding?
B: Since my mom has always had a horse, I’ve always been around horses and riding but I started formal lessons when I was eight.
S: I did trail rides starting when I was about seven on vacation, etc.; I took English lessons briefly when I was about 12, then worked at a riding stable in Wisconsin taking trail rides out the summer I was 16. I started riding seriously when I began taking English and jumping lessons when I was 21 and bought my first horse five years later. I started dressage in 1985 when I was 30 years old.
How did your passion for horses begin?
S: It just was always there – I don’t ever remember not loving horses. We owned a cottage in Wisconsin and I knew where all the horses were, and when we would drive up there from Chicago, I would watch for each field of horses. I grew up in Chicago and my parents could not figure out where my love came from since they were non-horse people.
B: One of my mom’s friends gave me her horse, PT, to ride. PT is the steadiest of schoolmasters and has done everything from reining to FEI-level dressage. It was amazing to be able ride him and learn from him- he gave me confidence and it just grew from there.
Did you always know you wanted your child to ride?
S: I didn’t care if Becca wanted to ride or not; if she did, I wanted it to be her love, not because of mine. I would actually leave her home and go ride my horse alone. When Becca was seven or eight she decided she would like to take lessons. Becca started and was so-so about it, which was totally okay with me – but then all of a sudden something kicked it and her passion was unleashed. I only cried two times when Becca was little – the first time is when she did her first schooling show at the barn she was taking lessons at. I still can see her going to get her school horse to do her walk trot class.
Who pampers their horse more?
B: My mom all the way- she even spoils my horses who look at her like a human PEZ dispenser.
Who is better about keeping their tack and horse clean?
S: We are probably equal. Becca learned from the best, her three other “mothers,” who also ride and have always shared their horses with her. Our horses and tack are always squeaky clean.
What do you respect most about your mother’s riding?
B: Her dedication and love of it- she always wants to go ride and gives 100% of herself.
What do you respect most about your daughter’s riding?
S: I am impressed with how tenacious Becca is when she rides. She takes her riding seriously and watching the progress through the years is exciting. Becca also never gets angry or mad at the horse; if something goes wrong during a ride, she always says ‘they tried’ and that she didn’t communicate well to the horse. Becca leaves her emotions out of her riding, and also demonstrates this when she is at horse shows. Our trainer has always been impressed with Becca and how she rides, her natural ability, her desire to improve, and how she keeps her emotion out of her riding.
What does Mr. Spellman think about your love for riding?
B: He just accepts and hopes it goes well.
S: Mr. Spellman has always been supportive of the riding but does not ride himself. Whenever we get home from the barn, he always asks how the horses are. Through the years he has come to all the horse shows and finally Becca and I told him it was okay not to come, and that we’ll catch him up on what happened when we get home. He would come to the horse show and watch and keep asking, “how she doing?”
Do you prefer to watch Becca ride or ride with her?
S: Tough question – but I guess I would prefer to watch Becca ride, even though I love to ride. I couldn’t imagine my life without horses and riding.
What is it like to horse show with your mom?
B: It’s the best- she’s the ultimate show mom. I do the barn work but she gets my horse ready and takes care of the horse when I’m done. It makes showing that much easier… I’d be lost without her.
Do you think riding together has brought you closer?
S: Definitely – but at times it can be tension filled as there are times we don’t agree on how something is done (less of that nowadays). Mostly it’s been great to spend time together, caring for and about the horses, and also to get the social interaction with other people at the barn as well. And of course after we ride we always go to get a bite to eat and talk about everything and anything.
B: For the most part yes… we’ve always done it together. Sometimes we argue if we have a difference of opinion but its pretty minor when we do.
What is the top coolest thing about riding together?
B: I think the coolest is part is that my mom understands how you can be to sick to go to school or work but not sick enough to not ride. She understands the need to ride no matter what.
S: Spending time together, watching each other progress as well as the horses, and just enjoying the horses and each other’s company. The other really cool thing has been everything I have learned from Becca – through the years she has given me tips and suggestions and that have definitely made an improvement to my riding.
Does anybody else share their riding passion with a parent or child? We share a certain bond with our family, and it seems as if horses truly strengthen that relationship!