Courtesy of Maryann Shilo
Plenty of students at Seabury Hall keep a special place in their hearts for various recreational activities, ranging from sports to art to games. For Seabury senior Maryann Shilo, it is her loving relationship with horses that brings her joy. Shilo has cheerfully shared her passion for horseback riding with the community for the past three years since she entered Seabury as a sophomore.
When and how did you get into horseback riding?
I have been riding consistently since I was six years old. My mom rode horses throughout her youth and my uncle had horses, who I got to visit as a child. When I was really little, I would read horse books, and I even collected toy horses. My parents saw the interest so they encouraged me to start taking lessons. A few years later, my mom got her own horse, so I got to ride and help take care of him.
What type(s) of riding do you prefer or specialize in?
I grew up riding Western. Think cowboy boots, rodeo, et cetera. I did mostly trail riding for fun, but I also loved barrel racing and roping. Then when I moved to Maui at age 15 and started riding at a new stable. I actually went out on a limb and decided to try riding English. It was super different, but it’s been an awesome experience. My new love is jumping!
How often do you ride?
With high school, I ride twice a week, but when I was younger and had more time, I would ride three or four times a week.
Do you ever travel for riding and/or enter competitions?
Back when I was competing avidly, we would travel about an hour to the show grounds every month. And sometimes we would trailer our horses to trail ride in new places. But more recently, I just take lessons at home.
Who do you feel has helped you the most in your efforts to learn how to ride horses?
The first person who comes to mind is my mom. She saw my passion and made it possible for me to pursue it. She has put a lot of money, time, and support towards horseback riding for me and I’m so grateful for that. My current trainer, Rachelle MacKenzie at True North Equestrian Center in Kula, has also helped immeasurably in helping me build confidence.
What is your horse’s name?
The horse I ride most often at the barn on Maui is Kai. He’s a big chestnut Appendix Quarter Horse. My mom has a Paint horse named Pearl, so I get to ride her when I go home to California. She’s planning to pass Pearl on to me once I’m out of high school!
How would you describe your relationship with your horse?
It’s hard to describe what it feels like to put your trust in a several thousand pound animal with a mind of its own. After a while together, your horse trusts you too and it becomes a partnership of sorts. Horseback riding truly is a team sport, if you think about it.
What is your favorite part about riding and why?
My favorite part of riding is that it shows me how capable I am of anything I set my mind to. My short stature can pose a challenge in some other sports but in horseback riding, none of that matters. Working with horses teaches responsibility and dedication. It gives me something to be focused on and has helped me become stronger, both physically and in terms of character.
What are some of the biggest riding-related challenges you have encountered, and how did you overcome them?
In horseback riding, it’s inevitable that you’ll have your confidence shaken every once in a while. The first few times I fell off a horse, I wasn’t sure I could (or wanted to) get back on. Sometimes I have a frustrating day when my horse and I just can’t seem to communicate right. I have a lot of blue ribbons from horse shows, but I also had plenty times when I completely blew it and lost. I’ve wanted to give up. But the only way to get through it really is to dust yourself off and climb back into the saddle. The tough days make the great ones even sweeter!
As a Seabury student, managing academics and extracurriculars can be challenging. How are you able to find a good balance between school and horseback riding?
I love this question! Sometimes I will go straight from school to the barn. I work really hard to get all of my schoolwork done during my free blocks. Of course, school is priority. Something I have learned is to just leave all my stress from the school day at the gate because if I don’t, it will affect my riding. For the most part, school and horseback riding really don’t get in the way of each other.
Do you plan to continue riding when you’re off at college next year or sometime after that?
I absolutely want to continue riding in college and beyond. I hope there is no time in my life when I am not around horses in one form or another. My mom plans to pass her horse on to me next year, so I am excited for the opportunity work with her a ton and teach her to jump!
What advice do you have for anyone who may want to try horseback riding?
It’s not always easy. You’re going to be sore, especially at first. You’re going to hit the ground on occasion. But stick it out because those moments will make you tough and when you connect with a horse, you’ll realize it’s worth it. Being an equestrian is not about competition – it’s about growing as a rider and having fun!