Learning process is labor of love for working students

  • Posted: Thursday, November 22, 2012 11:50 p.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, November 22, 2012 11:55 p.m.

SPRINGFIELD--They come from different corners of the world, but they share the same passion for horses and the sport of eventing. Samantha DiMaria and Lindsey Brink are working students at Mollie Zobel Eventing, and their enthusiastic approach to learning, and strong work ethic are a welcome addition at Rocky Swamp Farm. DiMaria is a New Jerseyite and Brink hails from South Africa, but they share a common objective to become the best horsemen possible.

DiMaria, now 21, started riding at age 7, and began working at a barn at age 12, and although she was a pre-veterinary student, it wasn’t until she went to work for Tracy Wagner’s Haderway Stables that the idea of becoming a professional entered the horseman’s mind. DiMaria had been doing hunter/jumpers when she met Wagner, who had a trainer in training program.

“Instead of taking regular lessons, you’d go and work and actually get project horses,” said DiMaria.

A rider that had previously gone through Wagner’s program began working for upper level eventer and future Olympian Boyd Martin. A suggestion by eventer Sarah Gumbiner would change the direction of DiMaria’s life. Gumbiner had become involved with eventing, and the sport piqued DiMaria’s curiosity.

“She (Gumbiner) made me go to an event in Buck’s County,” said DiMaria, who started eventing when she was 18-years-old. “She said, ‘I’m going there with Boyd, and I’m taking some of our horses. You should enter Dedee.’ Dedee was the horse that I was riding.”

DiMaria readily admits she didn’t have any idea of what she was getting herself into, but her adventurous spirit played a large role in accepting the challenge.

“I got eliminated, but I loved it,” said DiMaria. “We didn’t have a clue out there. It was a recognized event, and we went beginner novice. We were thrown into it. Sarah was there, and she was laughing the whole time because she used to ride Dedee.”

However, that initial experience was all it took to get DiMaria hooked on the sport.

Wagner encouraged DiMaria to pursue her dreams, and the New Jerseyite would turn to the Internet, finding Zobel online. DiMaria is a country girl at heart, and after relocating to South Carolina, she couldn’t be any happier.

“She (Wagner) said, ‘You’re ready to go. I taught you what I could teach you.’ I love it here (at Rocky Swamp Farm).”

Stadium jumping and cross country seem to come more naturally to DiMaria, but she has been putting forth an earnest effort to improve her flatwork, and spent a summer with a dressage trainer. DiMaria came to Rocky Swamp Farm this past June, and has been working three times a week with upper level dressage rider Elly Schobel.

“Molly’s great, and now I have Elly too,” said DiMaria.

Hellcat’s Surprise, or Blossom as she’s known around the barn, is the horse DiMaria recently took novice level. The rider/horse combination are directing their energies toward training level, and are aiming to compete at a full three-day event horse trials featuring the classic format.

And as comfortable as it’s been for DiMaria in her new surroundings, Lindsey Brink has had to make a number of adjustments to life in the United States after relocating from South Africa. The 19-year-old experienced a bit of culture shock, and faced the additional challenge of trying to understand a myriad of accents in a new country.

The horseman doesn’t have much in the way of competition experience, having only done a few jumper shows in South Africa. Brink started riding at the age of nine, and her first lesson consisted of her riding bareback on the beach.

“I didn’t have any experience with dressage, and when I came here, it was a bit of a challenge in getting me to do a sitting trot,” said Brink, who didn’t have the opportunity to work with any professionals in South Africa. “I definitely got thrown into the deep end, and I’m glad it happened that way because I think I’ve made a lot of progress.”

Brink competed in her first horse trials earlier this month at Jumping Branch Farm, on Elly Schobel’s black mare The Diva. She had previoulsy participated in two combined training and schooling shows, a jumper show, and had schooled cross country, but had never gone cross country at a horse trials.

“Sam and Mollie were like, ‘Cross country is the best thing ever,’” said Brink. “I didn’t know what to expect, and after the second jump, I was like, ‘This is fun. Let’s go.’ I really enjoyed it.”

And although Brink is most comfortable with the show jumping phase of eventing, she’s evolving as a horseman as a result of the education process that has been part of her experience at Rocky Swamp Farm. Brink’s improved position, control, better understanding of a horse’s mechanics, riding and general horse knowledge, have all been a result of her working with Zobel, Schobel and the other members of the MZE team, she said.

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