Sarah began riding dressage at just 12 years old. As a teenager she spent many years as a working student at a large training and show barn, gaining a valuable base for her dressage education and important experience training, showing and teaching dressage.
Sarah attended clinics with top dressage instructors including Gerhard Politz, Debbie Bowman, Racheal Saavedra, Conrad Schumacher and Steffen Peters. She was one of the youngest participants in the USDF Instructor Certification Program and also participated in the Young Rider Program.
In 2004 she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Ag Economics and Business at Texas A&M University. While in College Station she continued to ride and began teaching and training independently. In 2005 the move was made to Virginia to attend Virginia Tech and pursue her Master’s in Animal Science, researching Equine Biomechanics.
At Virginia Tech, she was Assistant Manager at the school’s large Sporthorse breeding facility. Sarah was immersed in warmblood breeding, genetic evaluation, and young horse training. This provided exposure to some of the top breeding and training barns in United States and allowed networking with equine professionals all over the country. Sarah’s thesis research investigating conformation changes in growing foals, helped develop a keen eye for conformation as it relates to adult potential in foals as well as performance potential and soundness in adult riding horses. She also helped coach the Intercollegiate Dressage Team and assisted in developing and running the initial 2 years of the Sporthorse Breeding Undergraduate Internship at Virginia Tech. Sarah taught both Equine Management and Training courses.
After graduating from Virginia Tech Sarah moved to beautiful Central Virginia to become the head trainer and manager at a privately owned facility; Rhapsody Farm. During that time she had the opportunity to spend over a year working almost daily with Debbie Bowman; Grand Prix rider, USDF Certified Instructor Program Examiner, USET Rider and first U.S woman Bereiter (German licensed trainer). This was a fantastic opportunity that resulted in enormous growth in both Sarah’s practical dressage training skills and theoretical understanding of the discipline. Debbie’s classical system and care for the horses as individuals strongly influenced Sarah’s approach to horse training, management and development.
Sarah and Denali, 1999
Sarah and Furio working with Debbie Bowman, 2015
Meadowcreek Spring Social, 2012
Photo courtesy of The Photon Hunt
Shay and Cassie working hard on the farm
Back in Texas, Sarah spent 4 years utilizing her understanding of equine biomechanics and vastly improving her understanding of how to maintain sound athletes through a job at the Texas A&M Large Animal Hospital in the Equine Lameness department. Sarah was blessed to spend her time there working for one of the best equine veterinarians in the United States, AAEP Hall of Fame Member, and good friend and mentor, Dr. Kent Carter.
In 2012 she went back to teaching and training full time. Currently a USDF Bronze medalist, she hopes to complete both her Silver and Gold medals on self trained horses. Sarah’s focus is on the classical development of horses and riders. She prioritizes the health, happiness and longevity of each horse; allowing them to develop a solid correct foundation before moving up the levels. Always put the horse first!
Sarah couldn’t have done any of this without the love and support of her husband Shay Mariani, who can be seen helping around the farm every day. He loves the horses, working on the farm, and always keeps the mood light!