By Alannah Castro
For 17-year-old Brooke Giacin, life is about embracing your passions, and her passion is the equitation ring. While she was born into a horsey family, her beginnings were decidedly Western. When first teaching Brooke how to ride, her mother, Page, wanted her to learn something simple with an easy pattern to memorize, and Western riding was abundant in their community of Southwest Ranches, Florida, so Brooke began her equestrian career turning and burning around a barrel pattern. However, a serendipitous meeting would lead to a career change early on for the young equestrian.
“My mom went to a baby shower, and she ran into someone who worked for Tiffany Morrissey, owner and head trainer at East Wind Farms, LLC, whom I ride with now,” Brooke said. “She told my mom, ‘Brooke should try jumping just for a little bit to see how she likes it and ride with Tiffany.’ My first lesson with her was at my house, and we went from there.”
All in Equitation
These days, Brooke is a regular at A-rated shows around the country, showing in all three rings: hunters, jumpers and, her favorite, equitation.
“I fell in love with the short stirrup equitation class,” Brooke said. “From there, I told my mom and Tiffany that I wanted to do the equitation. Equitation is a lot of time in the saddle, and a lot of time at the barn in general.”
The added time at the barn has created a special relationship between student and teacher, and Brooke now counts Tiffany as a member of the family. It’s her influence that has guided her to top finishes at Capitol Challenge and the Winter Equestrian Festival, among others.
“I would spend weekends and all day with Tiff and we would have lunch together,” Brooke said. “I would sleep over at her house during horse shows, and we became really close.”
Brooke’s main mount is a 10-year-old Irish Sporthorse named Shannaghmore, affectionately known around the barn as “Marty.” His playful personality is a perfect match for the vivacious young equestrian, and his versatility has proven to be invaluable. The duo’s strongest asset, however, is their partnership, made stronger by the fact that up until last year, Marty lived at Brooke’s house and she was his main caregiver.
“We went to the Pessoa Medals finals together,” Brooke said. “It was his first time going to an indoor, and my first time going to a Big Eq indoor. It was my first time doing the 3’6”. I didn’t realize schooling that morning at 5 a.m. how intimidating the ring was, but when everyone’s silent and all you hear is the electricity of the lights, it’s really nerve-wracking. Walking into that ring with him, it was kind of like, ‘Well, it’s just you and I.’”
This spring, Brooke took the reins on a new ride after searching for a jumper to add to her show string: Doo-Ri, a 2002 gelding by Acrobat owned by Andy Kocher, whom Tiffany organized the ride on. Riding hunters and jumpers has helped her continue to develop her equitation skills.
“Jumpers give you a sense of needing to use your aids and how to be speedy with finesse,” Brooke said. “When riding jumpers, sometimes your position can suffer, but Tiffany is strict on always being an equitation rider whether you’re doing the hunters, jumpers or equitation. The hunters have taught me to have a consistent rhythm all the way around the ring instead of just going to the line.”
When she’s not riding, Brooke is an avid photographer who’s started developing her portfolio by working with show photographers whenever she has the opportunity.
“I have to thank Catie Staszak. She’s been my mentor through everything,” Brooke said. “She got me every single job, and she’s helped me with anything from writing my school essays to helping me perfect editing on a photo. She’s like the big sister I never had, but now I do have.”
This past show season in Florida, Brooke worked with Anne Gittins and Kathy Russell, and in the past, she’s worked with ShowNet providing livestreams to viewers around the globe. For her, photography is a way to freeze special moments in time.
“I’ve always had a passion for photography and I feel like a picture says it all. You may not remember the horse show, but you always remember the picture,” Brooke said. “My little saying is, ‘Focus on the moment and capture it.’ Every year I make Tiffany an end-of-year book for her birthday, and I take pictures of everyone showing. She’ll have a collection when I go off to college.”
In college, Brooke plans on majoring in biology with a minor in photojournalism and hopes to ride for an NCEA team — a format she became familiar with while competing on an Interscholastic Equestrian Association team in middle school.
“I feel that broadening your horizons is the best way to go. When I go in the ring, I don’t care about my placing and my score,” Brooke said. “I care about laying down my best round and that Marty and I are going to have fun, getting every distance, staying straight, getting our leads, and using the end of the ring.”
Brooke’s passion for horses has always been at the forefront of her riding career, and she treasures the moments she’s shared with Marty and her past mounts.
“Even if I’m having a bad day or I chipped in a class and come out really upset, Marty has the softest nose, so I’ll give him a kiss on his nose and it’s all better,” Brooke said. “I always graze him, and even if I can’t take him out of the stall because I have to run, I hang out with him. I always bring my camera to the barn, and after riding him, I always take weird pictures of his face at different angles. I love giving him a bath because he loves drinking out of the hose. I just think he’s the cutest.”