By Meagan DeLisle
When people decide to put their riding dreams on the back burner, they often never make their way back to them, but that isn’t the case with Wendy Salomon. From humble beginnings on school ponies to building a flourishing business and nurturing those childhood dreams of riding in some of the country’s most well-known arenas, Wendy made a path for herself back to the show ring after decades out of the saddle.
With true perseverance in the difficult times and a dedication to the sport, she’s utilized her creativity and hard work to become successful in the field of education with a focus on equestrian students. She and her team from Signature Academics travel year-round to some of the most prestigious circuits to keep students on track in their educations, getting her horse fix in along the way.
Wendy’s passion for horses was kindled at a young age when her family moved to Tucson, Arizona, just down the road from a local riding stable. While her family wasn’t particularly horsey, her mother thought it’d be fun for Wendy and her sister to begin taking lessons at the neighborhood riding school, which is, she jokes, where it all started. Her horse show career began at local schooling shows on her little 15.1-hand Arabian/Connemara cross named Snow Goose.
Like many aspiring equestrians, Wendy had dreams about showing on a larger scale. “There was no internet, so I had to wait for the Miller’s catalog to show up at my door. I’d read about all of the big historic horse shows on the East Coast, like the National Horse Show or Devon. I thought that’d be the most amazing thing, but then realized as a kid living in Arizona, I’d have to run away from home as a teenager to be able to do that!” Wendy said.
At that point in her life, Wendy turned her focus toward academics and getting into the best college that she could. She was accepted to Brown University in Rhode Island, a pivotal moment in her life. It was then that she put the horses away, her riding came to a halt and she retired her sweet childhood horse to the Therapeutic Riding of Tucson program.
While at Brown, Wendy obtained her degree in art history. After graduating, she began working at an advertising agency in Chicago and later returned to school to get her MBA at Stanford. After working briefly for MTV in their marketing department, connections from Brown got her involved with a startup internet company called Link Share based out of New York, where she dedicated more than seven years of her life helping to grow the company.
Back in the Saddle
During her time at Link Share, she found herself working long hours, traveling for business and often six- to seven-day work weeks. Eventually she managed to find a little time to reintroduce riding in her life. After stumbling upon some contact information for a barn in New Jersey, known then as Overpeck, she gave them a call. “I was so sore after that first lesson,” she recalled as she talked about her journey back into the saddle. After 4 years of riding there, she found herself leasing a sweet Holsteiner hunter gelding named By George! who helped her check off many firsts in her life including Zone Finals, the Winter Equestrian Festival and the Hampton Classic. That lease was short-lived, however, as Wendy sealed their partnership by purchasing By George! after just six months.
In 2005, Link Share was sold to a larger company overseas and she knew it was time to make a change. “I just knew I couldn’t keep working like I had been,” she said. “I was tired, so I needed to find something to do, and I wanted horses to be in my life and I wanted to have a little more control over my schedule.”
Keeping those goals in mind, Wendy began seeking opportunities that would allow her the flexibility she desired and she found it in tutoring equestrian students.
Her Own Business
After several years tutoring young equestrians through another company, Wendy decided to found her own business, Signature Academics, in January 2014. “I’m thrilled to be able to support kids and families who value education — who want to learn and to succeed,” she said.
Signature Academics staffs tutors and teachers who are experts in their subjects and can help keep the busy junior rider on track, no matter where their travels take them. Teachers are based near Wellington and Ocala, where Signature Academics has locations in addition to New York City and Chicago. “One of the things I do feel is important, and what I feel we do as educators, is to show our students a variety of ways that they can keep horses in their lives, and that the important part is to get an education so that they have options.” One of those options that Wendy was able to offer was their partnership with Wellington Preparatory School that launched in January 2016. Through this venture, Signature Academics is able to offer one-on-one education through an accredited academy both full time and seasonally to their students who desire a quality college preparatory education but require some elasticity due to their show and training schedules.
Back in the Ring
As for her riding career, Wendy has capitalized on the afforded flexibility. She owns a hunter gelding by the name of Maître d’ who’s currently showing in the international hunter derbies with Amanda Steege. Wendy is also back in the ring with the lease of a beautiful gray jumper mare, Charlotte, who belongs to a former student of hers. Despite the first show feeling like she was in the Low Adult Olympics, she leased another jumper for 2017 — a redheaded mare named Fiery.
When asked about her riding goals for the near future, Wendy keeps it simple. “I just want to have a good time in the Low Adult Jumpers. My personal riding goals aren’t huge: just to have the horses in my life and have a nice time and get out there,” Wendy said, adding that she dreams of being 90 years old, sitting in a golf cart by the show ring, so former students can stop by to say hello.
Wendy has one piece of advice for all riders out there. “There are so many different ways we all get where we’re going in life, but it’s education that opens doors and presents options. If you’d told me while I was in college that I’d be doing academic tutoring and one-on-one school, I would’ve said ‘What?’ I guess because I live in the world of education, I know that you have to get the education to have the options to do what you want to do in life.”
It’s clear that Wendy is a wonderful example of the truth in her own advice. Today she is living her equestrian dream and helping the next generation achieve theirs.