Meredith Herman: Translating Success as a Young Rider to Professional Accomplishments

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Meredith Herman: Translating Success as a Young Rider to Professional Accomplishments

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Mar. 19,2021
ProEquest

Meredith Herman of Burgundy Farms is a top Grand Prix rider and trainer of junior and young riders in the jumper and equitation divisions. Her career began as a young rider and she later translated her success into a resume filled with professional accomplishments.

She grew up riding just outside of San Francisco at Burgundy Farms which was then a small private barn. At that time almost all the "A" shows were in Southern California and her father vowed that if the opportunity ever came along he would build a show facility in the Bay area.  In 1997, after Meredith had already left for college and stopped competing, her father bought Riverside Equestrian Center, a large boarding facility 35 miles north of the city that had fallen into disrepair. The Herman family has spent the next 20 plus years rebuilding the facility and developing what is now called the Sonoma Horse Park into the premier equestrian facility in Northern California. The close proximity to San Francisco attracts many urban youth from the Bay area to come ride and has helped inspire and develop a generation of hunter/jumper riders from the Bay area.

Meredith and current top mount Quinka at Sunshine Series. Photo: Andrew Ryback.

Meredith and current top mount Quinka at Sunshine Series. Photo: Andrew Ryback.

Meredith took over as the head trainer at Burgundy Farms in 2000 and began focusing on training junior riders and competing at the Grand Prix level as well. There are currently 30 horses in training, most of her riders are youth and young adults, and all of her clients show.

Meredith rode in both the hunters and equitation growing up. At age 15, her peers were all talking about jumpers and qualifying and competing in the North American Young Riders Championship. Meredith decided to give her hunter and equitation horse to her sister, Ashley, and begged her parents to purchase a jumper.

The selection process for Young Riders is extremely competitive. However, Meredith had a solid foundation from her years in hunters and equitation and made the team in 1994, the first year she tried out. Unfortunately, her primary horse was injured and she ended up competing as the alternate on her other horse; however, her Zone X team won the gold medal.

Meredith with her Zone 10 young rider team. Photo courtesy of Meredith Herman.

Meredith with her Zone 10 young rider team. Photo courtesy of Meredith Herman.

Bonaparte and Little Tex were Meredith’s jumpers as a young rider. They finished as the Champion and Reserve for the Horse of the Year for Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association (PCHA) and Zone 10 in the Junior Jumper Division and as Circuit Champion and Reserve at the Desert Circuit during Meredith's last junior year. Little Tex was a tiny Thoroughbred that had been competed by West Coast Grand Prix riders Hap Hanson and the late Damian Gardner. Her family imported Bonaparte from Europe.

Competing at young riders on Little Tex in 1994. Photo courtesy of Meredith Herman.

Competing at young riders on Little Tex in 1994. Photo courtesy of Meredith Herman.

Moving up in the jumpers was not a big leap for Meredith because of her experience in hunters and equitation. She had competed already at indoors in the Junior Hunters and the Maclay and the USEF (Dover) Medal Finals. The foundation she built in understanding track and rhythm gave her a good idea of how to complete the course. Meredith also knew that on a good horse she could step right into the bigger jumpers. Still today most of the young riders all have solid equitation backgrounds as well that help them excel when they step into the jumper division.

“The sport was different when I was a young rider,” she says. “You jumped 1.10m or 1.40m – there wasn’t an opportunity to move up gradually. My first show on a jumper I did the Junior division. The first time I ever walked the junior jumper course at a show was in the desert on the old grass Grand Prix field at Indio. I recall looking at the course and all the jumps looked so huge. I must have uttered that thought out loud as I remember Susie Hutchinson turning to me and telling me not to worry and to just look up really high above the jumps. It’s good advice still today.”

 

Joining the Professional Ranks

Most of Meredith’s young rider team members are all still competing and relevant in the sport today. They have stayed with the showing and have built on those early experiences and successes. Meredith's personal experience at these events helps shape the careers of many of her students to this day. “There is a lot of heritage in this sport,” Meredith says. “The kids I’m teaching today want to do the exact same thing that I did 25-years ago. Their goals are the Maclay, the Young Riders; the same goals my friends and I had. It is really fun bringing students along on the journey that I was so privileged to have also had.”

First time with a student at Young Riders with Simonne Berg and mentor Judith Martin. Photo courtesy of Meredith Herman.

First time with a student at Young Riders with Simonne Berg and mentor Judith Martin. Photo courtesy of Meredith Herman.

Embracing a mindset of lifelong learning is important for all equestrians. One way to continue learning is by working with mentors. Judith Martin was one of Meredith’s early mentors. Judith was training Keri Potter, the top young rider on the west coast at that time when Meredith began riding with her. “Judith really believed in me as a rider, having her on the ground explaining things was invaluable. I still go back to Judy today. She went to Young Riders with me the first time I had a student qualify, even though she was in her late 70s then.”

All mentors need two key qualities. Meredith recommends that riders look for mentors with long-term experience because that experience is worth its weight in gold. Mentors must also have the riding and coaching experience at the level the rider is working towards.

“Richard Spooner was winning everything in California when I was a kid,” Meredith recalls. “I asked him to help me with my students this year. It has been the help of a lifetime. It really makes a difference having someone riding and competing those tracks there, giving a play-by-play of how they would ride it. It is amazing how much more we are getting out of our horses with his schooling and training at the shows.”

Richard Spooner has been helping the Burgundy Farm Team this year. Photo courtesy of Meredith Herman.

Richard Spooner has been helping the Burgundy Farm Team this year. Photo courtesy of Meredith Herman.

Advice for the Next Generation

Meredith stresses consistency above everything else. “You have to be able to jump solid, clean rounds consistently in this sport to stay at the top.” It’s a skill that Meredith has, and one that is evident in her mentors, other top professionals, and young riders in the sport. Success isn't built on one win; it’s staying on top show after show that counts.

Having the opportunity to compete at various National Championships, such as Pony Finals, Indoors, USEF and Maclay and the Young Rider's Championship gave Meredith the confidence to always think of herself as a good jockey. “My advice to parents, if they are questioning sending their child through the sport, is that if you can give your kid a shot to compete at a national level, for the rest of their life they can fall back on that sense of accomplishment. It’s harder to break through into the highest level of the sport as an adult. Those that experience these championships as young riders are set up to stay at the top of the sport and be top professional competitors. Experience at the top of the sport delivers a sense of belonging at the top of the sport.”

Her advice to young riders is to go watch the warm up ring and take the time to learn about the better riders in the area. “Watch the best people you can – that’s who you learn from. If they aren’t at your shows then watch them on YouTube. You need to get out of your own group and see what others are doing.”

Goals are a vital part of the process and the road to success. “It’s important to have a plan and be preparing for something big such as the Young Riders competition,” Meredith says, “Learn to stick to a plan and follow through. It’s not just about jumping sticks in the sandbox; there is always another show; however, there are only one or two events each year with the cache of Young Riders. It's important to carve a path to the highest level you can go as a rider.”

 

The processes and strategies that Meredith uses and shares with her riders ensure their consistent success at the highest levels of our sport. The dedication and drive to improve are mindsets that any rider can embrace as they grow and improve.

Visit Meredith Herman and Burgundy Farms at ProEquest.com 

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