By Dani Moritz-Long
Comedian Pam Stone has the secret to life: laughter. Whether on stage, writing her syndicated column or in the barn, Pam, who now lives in Landrum, South Carolina, has learned to embrace humor every step of the way.
So far this path has worked well for her. It’s led to her headlining in Las Vegas, performing at the White House, landing a role as Judy Watkins on the ABC sitcom Coach and hosting her own syndicated radio show. It’s also led to her success in the equestrian industry as a bronze and silver medalist because — thanks to her ability to laugh at the status quo — Pam knows you don’t need a million-dollar budget to compete successfully. With a good sense of humor and three solid gaits, Pam knows that you can turn any old pumpkin into a carriage — or rather, an unlikely prospect into a beautiful dressage horse.
Tasked with the project of producing an equine blog, Pam turned to her lifelong passion of rooting for the underdog. She decided to write a blog entitled The Cinderella Project in which she’d bring readers along on her journey to find, purchase, train and show a competitive dressage prospect for under $1,000 within one year.
Pam explained that she tends to root for the underdog because she’s always been a bit of an underdog herself. “I was an unpopular, super-tall, gawky kid surrounded in a neighborhood of wealthy kids whose parents bought them show horses and everything that goes along with it and that was very difficult at that age — to always feel on the outside looking in.”
What Pam didn’t know at the time was that everything that made life difficult during her childhood would pay off tenfold in her future. “It’s as if God said, ‘OK, here’s the reason I made you look like a teenage Ichabod Crane,’” she explained. “You’ll use that to make fun of yourself and become a stand-up comic, and then I’m going to give you a career and take you to California where you’ll finally be able to pursue your lifelong ambition of training with the best and getting the education you’ve always wanted.”
Run, Forrest, Run
After finding success as a comedian, Pam was able to train with dressage legends like Marie Meyers and Jan Ebeling.
After eight years of working with Marie, Pam went from crying all the way home after her first lesson to being a pro at making something out of horses nobody else wanted to touch.
Then came Forrest. After settling on The Cinderella Project for her new blog, Pam set out to find the perfect horse. After seeing a few prospects that weren’t quite what she was looking for, she found the horse she wanted — but so did a few dozen other people who saw his photo online. She took a leap of faith and bought Go Forrest Go as a 3-year-old sight unseen in December 2013 from Rerun Racehorse Rescue.
As it turns out, Forrest and Pam were a match made in heaven. Much like Forrest’s namesake and Pam herself, Forrest is an underdog. After a difficult delivery, he was born terribly crooked-legged and was unable to nurse. He became ill and began to go into organ failure. While most owners would’ve cut their losses, former owner Andy Aaron sent him to the Rhinebeck Vet Clinic in New York where Forrest wore braces to straighten and strengthen his front legs and, eventually, run.
While it took a little more than a wave of a wand and a catchy song, Pam turned Forrest into a quality dressage prospect. Although her initial timeline was prolonged due to the unhealthy angle of Forrest’s hooves, Pam finally put her foot in the stirrup in July.
“His mouth, like many other off-the-track Thoroughbreds, is a mixture of rubber and lead and I had taken careful time to introduce jaw flexions and lungeing in side reins to teach him the concept of straightness and connection,” she said. “So, despite the fact that for the first time in his life he had a 36” inseam on either side of his belly and a dressage saddle on his back, he progressed steadily and sanely with our brief three-times-a-week schedule as he was so young and ignorant.”
Today, he’s confirmed at Training Level and schooling First Level and nearly ready for his competitive debut. He’s living proof that you don’t need a million-dollar budget to compete. “It’s my hope that my journey with Forrest can inspire all of those without deep pockets, who feel like they’re just spinning their wheels and unable to chase their dream because they can’t get the impressive imported Warmblood,” Pam said.
At the end of the day, Pam’s best advice comes from her career in comedy:
“The best advice I ever got for my stand-up career, and it applies to dressage, was from Jay Leno. He said, ‘You know, you can’t control if you’re going to be famous. You can’t. All you can control is the quality of your craft and if you focus on that 24/7, you’ll get to the point where you become so good, you simply can’t be ignored.’”
She continued, “And if you look at those riders out there that we all admire, the Carl Hesters and Laura Graveses, the people who started out with absolutely nothing but a work ethic, you’ll get to the point where you become so good, you simply can’t be ignored.”
For more information, visit stonesthrowfarmdressage.com.