High school senior Genay Starr Vaughn grew up riding in sunny California, where her mom, Michele Vaughn, is a dressage rider and trainer. “My mom started riding dressage when I was little which had a big influence on me. I started riding when I was four years old,” Genay said. “When Sacramento flooded my mom rescued a blind Mini stallion from someone’s garden shed and we named him Rescue. I used to ride him around bareback.”
Genay’s family owns Starr Vaughn Equestrian Center in Elk Grove, California, a premier boarding and event facility that offers everything from Pony Club rallies to hunter and jumper shows to USDF dressage shows. “I stopped doing Pony Club about four years ago because I no longer had a horse that I could jump cross country with,” Genay said, adding that she is now focused on dressage.
With her dressage career in front of her, Genay’s family began looking for a new horse and the 17-year-old rider became the proud owner of a gorgeous10-year-old Hanoverian stallion named Donarweiss. The beautiful black stallion spent the past six years under the tutelage of Hilltop Farm Trainer Chris Hickey. During that time he earned the title of 2004 USDF Horse of the Year for Three Year Old Colts & Geldings and was Champion of his 30-day Stallion Performance Test. He debuted at the Grand Prix level in 2011.
“Donarweiss is amazing and I love everything about him, especially his personality,” Genay said, adding that she believes she loves dressage because she is a perfectionist. “I love that in dressage you become one with the horse and that you never stop learning new things. I love how connected you become with your horse and how you begin to know every feeling and how they know exactly how you are feeling too. It’s almost like you and your horse are becoming one person.”
Genay said she is looking forward to developing her partnership with Donarweiss. “I love Donarweiss! He is one of the sweetest horses I have ever seen. I love that he is the perfect size for me and teaches me new things to use on my other horses. He tries his hardest for me every day and is so fun to ride.”
Genay has trained with her mother her entire life and says that they have a great relationship. “She really understands me, and my horses, and we have so much fun together. She is a great coach and I love having my mom as my coach. She knows me the better than anyone else. I also clinic with Jan Ebeling and he is a great teacher.”
Genay has her sights set on competing in the 2012 FEI North American Junior/Young Rider Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park with Donarweiss. She has experience at NAJYRC, as she was part of the 2010 silver medal team, a win she considers a highlight of her career. She also placed third two years in a row at the Collecting Gaits Farms/USEF Festival of Champions in Gladstone.
Growing up with a farm full of animals has had a big impact on Genay and she hopes to become a veterinarian. “I haven’t decided if I want to be a large animal or small animal vet yet. I grew up with a lot of different animals so it’s hard to pick. I would like to go to UC Davis because it is close to home and is one of the best veterinarian schools in the United States.”
While Genay is a typical teenager that likes to hang out with her friends and go to the movies in her free time, there is one thing she would change about her life if she could. “I would want to be taller since I am only 5’4”. It’s a much prettier picture when you ride and are tall,” she said. Thanks to her beautiful black stallion Donarweiss, and their promising future, the picture is still pretty nice.
-By Jan Westmark-Allen