It takes an all-around horse to do everything this all-around horsewoman expects.
“I like to barrel race, ride in Western and English pleasure classes, jump over fences, drive horses, go fox hunting, play polo, trail riding, cross-country eventing, and just about everything else a person can do with a horse,” said Lauren Schiller of Manhattan.
“I am big on all of my horses being versatile, because a person can’t afford to have a different horse for everything I want to do,” she stated emphatically.
However, she does have three horses, a breeding stock Paint, a Quarter Horse and a Morgan, and they’re all-around horses. “I’ve worked with a lot of horses, I like all horses, and there are good ones of every breed,” Lauren continued.
Yet, there is an admitted prejudice for Morgan horses, although the breed isn’t as common in cow country of Kansas, nor as well recognized as stock horse breeds.
“My mom had me on a Morgan gelding called Rebel when I was two-weeks-old, and I’ve been riding ever since,” Lauren said.
Raised in Connecticut, Lauren was riding by herself on Rebel when she was 18-months-old.
“Rebel was 15.2-hand liver chestnut Mom bought as a yearling in 1985,” Lauren said. “My horse interests came from my mom. She’s always been involved with horses, and still is today an important part of everything I do with horses.”
As a five-year-old, Lauren began barrel racing on Rebel, in the Connecticut Gymkhana (horseshow) Association. “I even beat some of the older riders, which kept me wanting more, and I ended up with yearend circuit awards,” she said. “I’ve always loved to barrel race and still do as much as I can find the time.”
As a seven-year-old, Lauren “expanded” to Western pleasure classes and was reserve champion yearend division winner, soon also adding English riding to her Morgan horseback repertoire.
During primary years, Lauren continued showing, collecting barrel racing and both Western and English awards in the tristate region circuit including Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.
Although Morgan horses are often perceived “just” as “saddle seat” and driving horses, they can excel in all performance events.
“I have been barrel racing on my Morgans all of my life, and won lots of money, competing again Quarter Horses, most generally considered the best barrel racing horses,” Lauren pointed out.
Likely appropriate for layperson clarification, “saddle seat” is a style of English riding designed to show off trotting action of a horse.
“Eventing” is competition where a single horse and rider combination competes against other teams across the three disciplines of “dressage,” cross-country jumping and show jumping.
“Dressage” is a highly skilled form of riding performed in exhibition and competition, as well as an “art” sometimes pursued solely for the sake of mastery.
Furthermore, the Morgan horse is one of the earliest horse breeds developed in the United States, tracing back to the foundation sire Justin Morgan, named after his owner Justin Morgan, a Massachusetts horse breeder in the late 1700s.
A compact, refined breed, Morgan horses served many roles in 19th-century American history, being used as coach horses, harness racing, Cavalry horses, and development of several breeds including Quarter Horses. There are about 200,000 Morgan horses worldwide.
When she was 11-years-old, Lauren got her very own horse, a sorrel breeding stock Paint named Sweetie, and that filly was the challenge the always-outgoing, very energetic, then-quite-young horsewoman craved.
“Sweetie was just 18-months-old, but she’d been abused and was scared of everything,” Lauren said. “It took six months before I could get her to trust me.”
Lauren trained Sweetie entirely by herself and was competing successfully, collecting show awards when the mare was a three-year-old. “I was barrel racing on Sweetie when she turned five,” Lauren said.
Sweetie is versatile. “I showed her in pleasure riding classes and won the versatility championship two years,” said Lauren, who continued a tristate rodeo barrel racing threat as well.
“I became acquainted with the Master of the Hounds in a Connecticut club, by working with his Thoroughbred, and got to go fox hunting with him on Sweetie, and a friend of mine rode Rebel. I love fox hunting,” Lauren grinned.
As a teenager, Lauren became involved in showing draft horses, a Percheron. “I drove an 18.2-hand Percheron gelding called Buster in the regional competitions, and then placed sixth out of 18 at the World Percheron Congress in 2006,” Lauren reflected.
Big horse involvement was not limited to driving single and in-hand events, but Lauren also rode Percherons in English tack. “I got called back to the riding finals in a class of more than 20, which was pretty neat,” she said.
Plus, Lauren’s driven Percheron teams, unicorn (one in front of a team) and four-up. “That’s a handful,” she admitted.
While in high school, Lauren had the opportunity to further her horse opportunities playing arena polo mounted on University of Connecticut horses.
Coming to Kansas State University to continue her education, Lauren studied animal science in the pre-veterinary medicine curriculum with a minor in equine studies.
“One of the many highlights of that time was traveling to Europe to study the equine industry overseas,” she noted.
Of course, Lauren brought Sweetie along to college and boarded her at Timber Creek Stables, until the KSU Women’s Equestrian Team began stalling and working out there.
Then, Lauren moved to Dry Creek Equestrian Center, west of Manhattan, where she keeps her horses today.
Show competition continued for Lauren as she showed Sweetie to be the yearend champion in the Kansas Hunter Jumper Association.
While taking classes in the K-State Horse Unit at K-State in 2009, Lauren, an honor student serving several university leadership positions, just couldn’t resist buying a sorrel weanling Quarter Horse colt she calls Romeo.
“He’s Zip Chocolate Chip bred, and I’ve done all of the training on Romeo, too,” she said. “Despite more than his share of injuries, Romeo is an outstanding performer with points in the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) in hunter under saddle.”
Proving his versatility, Romeo, a gelding, has also competed “and done well” in AQHA Western pleasure, hunter pleasure, and hunter over fences, as well as in horsemanship and trail classes at open shows.
Romeo was shown this year in his first competitive trail ride. “It was an event sanctioned by the American Competitive Trail Horse Association, based in Texas, and Romeo ended up highpoint winner of the entire competition,” Lauren said.
“I plan to show Romeo to get points in AQHA pleasure hunter classes this year,” the versatility-rider added.
. It was a sad day for Lauren and her mother when their pride-and-joy Morgan, Rebel, passed away in 2011, when he was 28-years-old.
“Our mind-set of natural versatility came from Rebel, a Morgan, the horse I was raised on. So, my mother and I couldn’t stand to be without a Morgan horse in our lives,” Lauren admitted.
“Mom purchased a two-year-old Morgan bay gelding called ‘CB’ from Kansas Bluestem Morgans at Westmoreland,” Lauren said. “I did all of the training on CB.”
Collecting local awards in Western and English pleasure classes initially, CB was cautious about the jumping event at first.
“He was afraid of the fences, so I directed his attention to jumping, and CB, now 15-3 hands, really started liking it. He’s now a very good jumper,” Lauren credited.
CB was yearend champion in two divisions of the Kansas Hunter Jumper Association.
In the American Morgan Horse Association, CB was the top ranked hunter/jumper for the year 2015, and ranked seventh in eventing.
“CB epitomizes the term versatility with his success in Western, English, driving, trails, jumping, pattern classes, trail, in-hand, and everything,” Lauren said.
No matter what, to have a versatile horse requires training, and Lauren is emphatic in her techniques.
“I train reining maneuvers to all my horses, for versatility and supplementation,” she said. “I’ve competed in cattle classes, cutting, penning and roping at the Ultimate Horseman’s Challenge Association competitions with all three of my horses, and placed in the yearend top ten twice.”
“I love all horses, but obviously Morgans are extra special for their heart, versatility and temperament,” Lauren said.
Additionally, Lauren was emphatic in crediting her mom’s involvement with the horses.
“Mom (Julie Dennis) moved to Manhattan a couple of years ago, too, so she’s a big help caring for the horses,” Lauren said. “Mom doesn’t compete, but gives advice, and is good support conditioning the horses.”
An administration assistant for Riley County, Lauren gives riding horse lessons to students of all ages. “I really enjoy helping others learn more about care and handling of horses, riding, and showing, and anticipate doing more,” she said.
Training her own horses, Lauren has done some horse training for clients, and would like to expand that professionally as well.
In the meantime, there’s always a busy schedule, training, fitting, showing, and competitions of just about every discipline, for Lauren Schiller, and her most versatile horses.