These people are called: owners.
The life of a professional horse-back-rider is not parallel to that of a professional football player. There isn’t the glitz and the glamour, or parties and bling. More like mud and sweat, blood and tears – and we just keep coming back for more.
You fall off, you get back on – doesn’t matter that you just fell into a ditch at the last show, there is the next one to prepare for – you have a sponsorship to uphold, and people to impress, but you are working with a variable object: a horse. A live animal.
So Molly is fortunate to have wonderful owners. Ones who understand horses, and understand that she, and they, are not always going to be perfect.
The Klavens are some of those amazing owners.
Nancy Klavens grew up obsessed with horses. As a child, she got her hands on every horse novel she could find from National Velvet to the Black Stallion. It is no wonder that her daughter, Alyssa, caught the bug.
The family has had horses for over 15 years. Alyssa says they started with a horse for her sister, then one for her, and then one for her mom.
While Alyssa’s sister found joy outside of the horse world, Alyssa knew it was where she wanted to be. Soon after she started taking lessons, Alyssa became enthralled with the sport of eventing.
She bought Puttin’ on the Ritz “Benny” in 2007 when he was just over a year old. Whereas her first horses were school-masters, her last three have been under the age of two as she has always enjoyed working with younger horses and watching them learn and grow.
Alyssa fell in love with Benny because he has a certain personality. She never wanted a boring horse and she definitely didn’t get one. She describes him as a horse you have to develop a bond and relationship with if you want to be successful. He can be the sweetest horse in the world but he also keeps you on your toes. When everything clicks, she says it is the most wonderful feeling in the world, especially because he doesn’t click with everyone.
Both Nancy and Alyssa always wanted to see Benny succeed, and recognized his true potential. Alyssa never saw him as a buy and re-sell project, she wanted to watch him grow and reach the top. However, being in college she realized she didn’t have as much time as it would require to train him.
She wound up leasing him for a while with the intention of selling him – hoping someone would bond with him and find the same potential that she always saw and believed in. However, many tried, and unfortunately failed.
A good neighbor of ours, Roddy Strang, recommended Alyssa bring Benny to Molly. Initially, Benny came to Havarah to sell – but it became very apparent to all of us that there was something in this horse. I don’t know what it was, he was just intriguing.
We were fortunate enough to have Benny come down to Aiken, SC with us, and it was there our thoughts were confirmed this horse proved to be a natural confident event horse.
So I guess the question still stands… why do owners front the bill and allow professional riders to ride their horses without much financial gain in return?
“Its been amazing to watch him compete!” Alyssa said. “I always felt like Benny’s abilities were limitless if you were willing to work with him, and its so wonderful to see him start reaching toward his potential. Every time I get to see him, whether at a lesson, hacking, or a competition, I can see how much he’s learned since the previous time. Even though I’m not the one riding him, I am so proud of what Molly has been able to accomplish with him.”
This is why horse people are a certain “breed”. Whether we are gutless, nuts, or just like to spend money – our horses are our children, our best friends, our partners in life, and to see them flourish is like a proud mother watching her child graduate kindergarten, enter middle school, graduate high school, and then enter the real world after college.
Most importantly, I think it’s really important to find the right owner-rider combination. Alyssa recognized early on that Molly and Benny established a great relationship, and this was important to her.
“Molly has a way of understanding the individual horse’s need and adjusting her riding style as needed. She has a rare combination of ability, patience, and the humility to understand that she never stops learning from others,” Alyssa said. I think one of the most important qualities in a trainer is the understanding that horses learn at their own pace. Molly never tries to push a horse past its ability just for the sake of a competition or a sale. I have never heard her label a horse as “bad”, rather she looks for the root of problems, whether its mental or physical. She is all about the horse’s needs. In addition, she is an integral part of these horses lives. Horses are not solely her “business”. Molly’s dedication goes past just riding each horse, she makes an effort to bond with each of them on the ground. In that way, she understands more about their individual personalities.”
Sorry for the long quote but I really couldn’t have said it better myself. Alyssa, Nancy, Molly and of course Mr. Benny, vibe well together, and this is what makes this relationship so much fun.
Alyssa and Nancy’s plans for Benny are really flexible at this point. Alyssa wouldn’t dream of changing anything as long as Benny is still happy with Molly and after years of trying to figure out what he wants to do in life, she’s just amazed to see him succeed.
Alyssa says that for so many years, people just labeled Benny as bad, and she would defend how sweet he could be. She is so happy to have found a place who recognizes and realizes not only his potential, but his potential sweetness. After all, he’s her 1,200 pound baby (aren’t they all!).
We love Benny for who he his and are excited for his international level debut which we are sure he has the potential for!