Finding Purpose Through Equine Show-Jumping

My name is Cassidy Niblo, I am 29 years old and work in the equine show-jumping industry. I train horses and coach people on riding. I started riding when I was 5 years old just taking lessons a few times a week until I was 14 and found Enrite Farm. There I started riding every day and competing. I worked there at the end of high school and through college at the UCONN Stamford Campus to help with expenses. After graduating from UCONN I started working there full time and am still there today. 

I have been around horses for most of my life. They have helped me get through some of the toughest moments in my life; there is something therapeutic about working with, riding, and simply just being around these animals. There are actually some ongoing scientific studies on the healing effects horses can have on people. I have witnessed and experienced it first-hand. 

In middle and high school, I struggled majorly with anxiety. I give a lot of credit to horses and Enrite Farm with helping me get through those years. I have worked with and ridden too many horses to count over the years, creating many bonds and connections I will never forget. However, one in particular has made the most impact; his name was Monty. I first started riding Monty when I was around 14 or 15. He was a little bit trickier than the other horses I had ridden in the past and had a lot of anxiety. He would do what’s called “weaving” which is when a horse rocks and sways side to side, similar to a person pacing back and forth or shaking their leg when feeling anxious. There was something about him I was drawn to and could relate to. It wasn’t smooth sailing right away. There were many times I struggled with Monty, sometimes he would stop at jumps when he would get nervous and felt he couldn’t do it. I remember too on the ground wanting to brush him and spend time with him and thatsometimes didn’t go so well either. If you brushed too hard, he would pin his ears and pretend to try and bite you in warning. Other times if I had a bad day at school and was upset and wanted to pet him, he would just start weaving and turn away. While some horses will definitely be willing to sit there and let you feel comforted by their presence, Monty was more of a mirror – if I was upset, he became visibly upset. On the flip side, if I was happy, he was more than willing to let me hang out with him. I learned a lot from it for sure. If I wasn’t able to calm down in a healthy way, it wasn’t going to be a good ride that day. As we got to know each other more and became more trusting of each other, both of our confidences grew and the anxious days became less and less for the both of us. 

Pretty soon, we became close to unbeatable in the show ring. We competed in the jumpers; you jump over fences and whoever is the fastest without knocking any rails down wins. Monty was very fast and I knew him so well I was willing to try turning very tightly in an effort to cut down on time that others in my class would not. We had a connection that was very clear. Horses are your teammate, and sometimes just like with people, you don’t really click, and other times it seems like they know what you are thinking before you are even aware of it. That’s how it was with Monty and I. He had become a much more easy-going and competitive horse over the years of me riding him, and I like to think I improved in the same way. 

Contributed by Cassidy Niblo.

On May 1st 2018 we got the news that my sister Audrey Niblo had passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. It was later revealed to be due to an undiagnosed heart defect. The pain I felt after that is not something I would wish on anyone. I was in school at UCONN at the time and working at the barn. I remember going to the barn at night when no one was around with my friend and coworker Jenny. The horses were very healing. I would go into the stalls with some of them and just hug them. It’s a very hard thing to explain but it felt like we would connect and become one and they would share the pain with me. They wouldn’t take it away, but they would ease the load of it for just a moment. Even Monty who I thought might start weaving when I went to visit based on previous experiences was still. He seems to know that this was different and he needed to help me. My dad came to the barn laterthat week as well. We brushed Monty together and put his saddle on and got him tacked up before my ride. I was nervous he might pin his ears and try to bite as my dad did not have much experience with horses but Monty again knew to be still. He was helping ease and absorb some of our grief even if just for a moment. I went to a competition with Monty the week after Audrey died, thinking it would be something to keep me busy and a way to try and have some fun. I wasn’t all that practiced with everything going on and wasn’t really thinking clearly. Monty again seemed to know he needed to help me out a little that day. We ended up winning the class, and I credit that win to the bond we had. I had fun that day for the first time since my sister passed and for that reason that specific competition is one I will never forget. 

In January 2021, Monty passed away at the age of 27. The average lifespan of a horse is around 25-30 so he was considered a senior. I was still riding him a little bit at the time but no longer competing. He had begun showing signs of wanting to slow down in his work load about a year prior due to his age but was still happy to work here and there so I rode him for fun at home. The pain of losing him was second only to my sister. He wasn’t just my pet, he was my teammate and partner for over a decade. I once again turned to the rest of the horses in our barn for a little help. 

I have another horse now named King. King has a lot of athletic ability but is young and green (inexperienced and needing training) and has a bit of a stubborn streak. He is tricky but in different ways than Monty was. There are times I struggle with him and feel slightly frustrated but I think back to how it started with Monty and where we finished. I know with a little patience my partnership with King will grow into something great as well. Horses have helped shape me into the person I am today and I honestly don’t know where I would be without them.


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