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Amanda Steege: See It, Achieve It


Walt Disney said, “If you can visualize it, if you can dream it, there’s some way to do it.” Professional hunter rider Amanda Steege of Ashmeadow Farm lives this quote as she steps into some of the most prestigious hunter rings up and down the East Coast. Steege, who was born into a professional equestrian family, studied Psychology at Boston College just in case the stars didn’t align for her to continue in the family profession. Today the 41-year-old professional uses both her knowledge of sports psychology and ingrained horse sense to run a successful hunter show barn out of locations in Califon, NJ and Ocala, FL.

Originally from Stow, MA, Steege grew up immersed in the daily activities at her parents', Mitch and Kathy Steege's, Red Acre Farm. Back then and still today, Kathy ran a lesson program out of the barn teaching 70 lessons per week, while Mitch focused on the more advanced show customers and traveled to rated hunter/jumper shows. “Growing up, we had stall cleaners and others who worked around the farm, but when Dad took customers to shows my sister Casey and I were the grooms,” explains Steege. “We were always very hands-on with the horses.”

Amanda Steege on horseback going over a jump

This early exposure to the business is what has helped shape the way Steege runs her Ashmeadow Farm today. “I learned everything about horses from riding horses, to how to take care of them, to living with them from my parents,” reveals Steege. “I saw a lot from early on and just absorbed it.” In fact, Steege says she learned more about the business and horses in general from her parents than she could even list. Through watching how her parents operated Red Acre Farm day in and day out, Steege saw what worked and what didn’t.

However, before Steege could step out on her own she needed to get her feet wet as a professional. After graduating from Boston College, Steege started working and riding for Mitch in 1998. At the time, Mitch was still doing the majority of the riding and showing of his customers’ horses. Alas, Steege became the self-described “low hunter queen” riding and showing horses for Mitch’s junior and amateur hunter customers before they arrived to show on the weekend. Amanda admits showing in the three-foot divisions was a great way to get experience showing horses for other people. “It was a big adjustment to ride for a paying customer,” says Steege.

Slowly Mitch backed down from showing and “promoted” Steege to being the primary showing professional. Her first taste of success as a professional, who developed a young horse from the start, came with Annie Connally’s Unseen. A junior hunter prospect bought by Connally in 1999, Unseen, worked his way through the Pre-Green, First Year and Second Year Green divisions with Steege. It would be during his Second Year Green in 2001 that Steege got her first major professional championship as the duo was champion at the Devon Horse Show.

Following this success, Steege started picking up her own customers separate from Red Acre Farm. At first she rented stalls from her parents and her customers not based in the Stow area would meet her at shows or occasionally travel to the farm to ride. “It was during these early days that my business by necessity became more of a full-care situation than my parents ever offered,” explains Steege. “My customers didn’t live nearby, so I became the one who was involved with the horse on a daily basis.” Although Ashmeadow eventually moved in 2002 to its current location in New Jersey, so Steege’s customers could be closer to their horses, that hasn’t change how hands-on she is with her business.

Steege believes being able to touch each horse under her care on a daily basis has definitely helped her to be successful. Although she has others who work at the farm, much like back in the day at Red Acre Farm, she is the main rider and person looking at the horses every day. Along with Tim Dolovich, her boyfriend and barn manager, Steege checks on her charges during night check every night they are home in New Jersey. “Tim and I can just sense if something is up with horses by the way they act,” explains Steege. “By being with them each day we quickly notice when something is amiss and are able to catch small issues before they get worse.”

It’s having this horse sense and close bond with her charges that has helped Steege win top ribbons up and down the East Coast. “I’m known for getting a lot out of the horses,” admits Steege. “The horses seem to try harder for me because we have spent so much time together and bonded.”

This bond doesn’t just help Steege get the most out of her equine customers; it enables her to better explain to her riders how each horse likes to be ridden. “It’s so important I ride the horses I coach on - so that when I’m on the ground training I can tell the riders ‘when the horse feels like this, you do this’,” says Steege. “I can’t imagine coaching without riding my customers’ horses, that would be hard.”

Not only can Steege help her riders get the best out of their horses, she can also help them get the best out of themselves through her sports psychology background. To this day Steege gets performance anxiety before she shows. “I’m not worried about something going wrong, I just want to go out there and do the best job I can,” concedes Steege. “I think knowing that I still deal with performance anxiety has helped me attract some nervous amateur riders, cause they know I understand people can get nervous.”

To combat this nervousness Steege tries to teach her customers to turn their nervous excitement into positive energy. One technique she has passed along to her customers is visualization. Steege relies on visualization before walking into the ring at the bigger shows and prior to important classes.

Amanda Steege in the Middlebburg Classic Horse Show Winner's Circle

When using visualization, Steege will go study the course diagram and then find a quiet place to watch the round in her head. “For whatever reason the first time I watch it, I picture it going badly so I keep rewinding it until it goes well,” shares Steege. After she watches it go well she will focus on parts of the course where she knows she will need to pay extra attention and the flatwork between the jumps. It’s during this phase that she plays her round in her head again and pays extra attention to what her leg is doing and where her body is each step. After she runs through the “detailed” version Steege is ready to walk into the ring and tackle the course. “When I walk into the ring I automatically ride the course like I watched it in my head, almost like there is muscle memory helping me ride each step,” explains Steege.

“My dad says the day I’m not nervous walking into the ring is the day to quit because my heart will no longer be in it,” confesses Steege. Mitch would know as he has been there with her from her first days on ponies to her greatest days as a professional. Although they may have separate businesses, father and daughter still get the opportunity to work together at shows throughout the year. Each winter Mitch and Amanda work together in Ocala, as he brings his students with him and she rides and shows their horses.

Mitch is still Steege’s ground person both at Ocala and at the big shows like Devon, indoors and International Derby Finals. “Dad still helps me a lot,” remarks Steege. “He helps me school the horses at the shows as my ground person and is my jump crew.” As Steege focuses on participating in the World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR) Finals, International Derby Finals, Green Incentive Finals, Devon and Indoors, Mitch better start packing his bags so he can once again go along for the ride.

With a passion for developing young horses and working with amateur riders, Steege uses the WCHR, Green Incentive and International Hunter Derby Programs to help determine the Ashmeadow show schedule. “I love working with young horses and gearing them towards the Green Incentive Program finals,” shares Steege. Last year not only did she take three horses to the Green Incentive finals in Lexington, KY, but all of three of them made it to the final round. “I hope to continue to have people trust me to bring along young horses,” admits Steege. With results like last year’s that doesn’t look to be a problem.

While in Kentucky this year, Steege also hopes to compete in the International Derby Finals. With top 25 placings at finals the past several years; Steege wants to keep moving up in the standings in 2017 and beyond. “One day I would love to win the International Hunter Derby Finals,” admits Steege.

One program Steege has already experienced repeated success in is the WCHR program. The top Northeast Regional Professional rider the past five years, Steege hopes to make this year six. She also hopes to once again claim a spot in the WCHR Professional Rider Challenge class at Capital Challenge this fall. “I’ve been lucky enough to do the challenge class twice and was Reserve Champion the first time I did it,” says Steege. “Being Reserve Champion of the finals in 2013 was a huge accomplishment for me personally.” In addition to her own success, Steege’s customers have had their time in the WCHR spotlight. In 2015, both Kimberly Maloomian and Lisa Arena won their respective WCHR Challenge classes at Capital Challenge.

Steege and Delovich trust Southern States® to help fuel their horses for continued success. An equine science major in college, Delovich is responsible for developing the nutrition program for the horses in Ashmeadow Farm care. Delovich worked hand-in-hand with the Southern States feed representative to ensure the horses were getting the right feed for their needs. As a whole, the barn feeds Triple Crown® Complete, Triple Crown Senior, Triple Crown 30% Performance Pelleted Supplement and Legends® GastroTech Supplement.

Delovich really likes the idea of a complete feed that includes prebiotics, probiotics and vitamins. Steege explains, “Since we started feeding Triple Crown we’ve been able to cut down on some of the supplements we used because they were already included in the feed.” Being beet pulp based, low in starch and sugar is also a benefit Delovich recognizes.

From a rider and caretaker’s point of view, Steege loves how the horses look and feel on the Triple Crown feeds. Not only are their coats great, but body condition is good amongst all the Ashmeadow horses. In addition to the horses looking good, Steege loves how palatable the feed is. “Our horses love to eat their Triple Crown feed, we haven’t had anyone not want to eat it,” shares Steege.

As Steege continues to build bonds with her horses and guide her riders to successes of their own, Southern States is proud to be a part of their winning equation.


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