TALES FROM THE TRAILS
Brandy Rivas grew up in South Florida, and horses were always high on her priority list. It’s where her heart lived. She rode every chance she got, on vacations and over summer breaks, but it wasn’t enough. By age 11, she knew she needed to learn more if she was going to progress in the field. She bugged her mother, who offered a solution.
“Open the phone book, and pick a stable,” her mother advised, and that’s just what Brandy did.
“I opened the phone book — that’s back when we had phones books — and I picked one out of the blue, a stable owned by Kelly Hayes,” Brandy recalled. “This was back in the early 1980s. I got a horse, an off-the-track Thoroughbred named Chance, and kept him there, riding hunter/jumpers. Then the stock market crashed, and my parents got wiped out. I was devastated when I had to give him away. I swore I’d never ride again.”
That didn’t last long. Brandy drifted back to horses, picking up catch rides at different barns, riding in exchange for work. When she found out that her grandmother had bought a horse for one of her cousins, she lobbied successfully and finally had another horse of her own. Time passed, and she realized that simply riding wasn’t going to be enough to sustain her.
“Teaching was a good way to help others while being able to support myself,” Brandy said. “I started out as a working student, then got the opportunity to run my own business.”
And so, 14 years ago, Brandy became the owner and head trainer of Equines and Equestrians Inc. at Sunshine Meadows in Delray Beach, a 40-stall barn which currently houses 20 horses.
Brandy likes Sunshine Meadows because of its large size and amenities. The maintenance is taken care of, and there are so many places to ride: rings with all sorts of jumps, mirrored dressage arenas, room to roam on trails, and lots of round pens. The CBS barns are also hurricane approved. She’s a United States Hunter/Jumper Association certified instructor, and she constantly strives to update and improve her skills and knowledge, attending clinics and taking lessons with other clinicians.
“I definitely like being on my own, doing things my way,” she explained. “I’m a bit of a wildcard. I don’t do things the way other trainers do. For example, I’ll move kids up according to their ability, not just by their age. More talented riders can advance much more rapidly. That mirrors my life experience. It’s my way of recognizing that in others, the way it helped me, and giving back.”
Brandy’s goal is to offer clients a family-oriented barn where they can achieve their goals, whatever those happen to be.
“If someone wants to show, I’ll take them there. If they just want to ride for pleasure, that’s fine as well,” she said. “One thing I insist on is everyone tacks up and grooms their own horses. All aspects of horsemanship matter, and each person should take full responsibility for their horse.”
Her clients include adults and children of all levels. She gets seasonal clients during the winter, and even though she could rent out the whole barn for big bucks, she would never do that. “Seeing the kids accomplish things they never thought they could gives me such joy,” she said. “In this business, you see a lot of kids whose parents have the resources to highly fund them. But there are a lot of kids, just as passionate and talented, who don’t have that. I like being able to help everyone, regardless of their financial background. Talent, heart and a good work ethic can take you far.”
One example of Brandy’s willingness to help others move up is Marcus Au, her working student. Marcus started out at age 10 working at another barn in Sunshine Meadows, cleaning stalls in exchange for riding.
A year later, he found Brandy and started working for her. It is now five years later.
“She’s very knowledgeable,” he said. “She always finds horses for me to ride, which helps me learn and improve. She has taught me so much. And she helps me out, even with things I can’t quite afford. She always pushes me to do my best.”
Kim Randolph and her 9-year-old daughter Hannah keep Giddyin, their pony, at Brandy’s barn.
“Brandy always puts the kids first,” Kim said. “She wants them to learn and have fun. She has got a real connection with the kids. Hannah was very shy when she started there and wouldn’t speak up. Now, she has blossomed and isn’t afraid to talk. Brandy has a lot of patience. She helps the kids learn everything about horsemanship, well beyond riding. We really enjoy her.”
Beth Giddings keeps her chestnut Appendix mare, Birdie, at Brandy’s barn.
“When I got Birdie a year ago, she was only five years old and barely saddle broke,” Beth said. “Brandy rode her in the mornings, and my daughter Katie rode her in the afternoons. Within six months, Birdie turned into a beautiful hunter/jumper.”
Beth likes how flexible Brandy is.
“She knows how to reach each student,” she said. “When to push, when to step back. She reads each student and each horse. She also keeps us parents in the loop. If mom’s a little nervous about her daughter jumping, Brandy finds a way to go slow and steady. She’s also very safety conscious.”
In that way, Brandy is like another mother figure for the kids, Beth said.
“She cares about the entire person and their needs,” she said. “If someone’s not getting something, she’ll never say, ‘time’s up, we’ll try again next time.’ She stays there until they get it. Her motto, and all the kids have adopted it, is, ‘never give up!’”
For more information about Brandy Rivas and Equines and Equestrians Inc., call (954) 650-4324 or visit www.facebook.com/eandehorses.